Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis offer contrasts with Alex Higgins' treatment by snooker authorities

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Ronnie O'Sullivan looks dejected after a missed shot against Mark Selby during the final of the Dafabet World Snooker Championships at The Crucible, Sheffield
Ronnie O'Sullivan looks dejected after a missed shot against Mark Selby during the final of the Dafabet World Snooker Championships at The Crucible, Sheffield

Snooker chiefs are bending over backwards to prolong the professional careers of Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis. And there is a deep irony in that.

Alex Higgins, who arguably did more than either player to popularise snooker, was virtually hounded out of the game in the twilight of his career.

Admittedly the Ulster legend's rap sheet was a long one with a list of clashes – both verbal and physical – with players and officials as well as scrapes away from the game.

But as well as several lengthy bans, Higgins was stripped of ranking points which saw him tumble down the world rankings, effectively ending his competitive career.

Snooker has moved on since then and is now under the control of Barry Hearn, who has offered Hendry and Davis a place on the professional Tour next season despite neither player having earned it. And perhaps Higgins would be treated differently by the game's present-day authorities.

Higgins won world titles in 1972 and 1982 and the Hurricane was a diminishing force approaching the 1990s. But he could still have made a good living as a professional for many years, given the chance to do so.

While other established players were able to use their ranking points as a cushion for many years, remaining in the upper echelons of the game, Higgins was at the bottom of the heap with little chance of making it through the raft of qualifying rounds.

Higgins was no angel but there seemed a certain cruelty in the way snooker was taken away from the Hurricane in the days when, in all honesty, he was no more than a gentle breeze.

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