Belfast Telegraph

Short, sharp and to the point - that brings in the cash for snooker

By Frank Brownlow

Mark Allen needs to get real — the days of wall-to-wall coverage of lengthy snooker matches are long since over.

Therefore, the UK Championship being cut from the best of 17 frames to best of 11 came as no great surprise.

The World Championship towers above all the other tournaments in terms of prestige, with the UK Championship and the Masters trailing in its wake.

Outside of those three events, the rest are pretty much small beer.

The televised stages of the World Championship start at best of 19 frames — it’s a tried and tested formula in a tournament with history and tradition.

But even in established events like the UK Championship and the Masters, the best way to pull in the viewers and pack out the venues is to make the matches short and sharp, so generating drama and excitement.

Every match in these shorter formats is played to a finish there and then — and that is what people want in this day and age.

The World Championship is snooker’s version of Test cricket. The final is the best of 35 frames played across four sessions over two days.

That format produced one of sport’s great moments when Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis on the deciding black at the end of almost 15 hours of snooker in the 1985 final.

Taylor’s fellow Ulsterman Allen has accused World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn of trying to steer the sport in the same direction as darts.

Hearn has revolutionised darts in recent years with plenty of glitz and rowdy crowds.

He has already experimented with snooker in a similar way, a one-frame version of the sport played against a backdrop of music and a crowd enjoying a few beers.

The UK Championship is still essentially the same as it always was, with a few minor adjustments making it more television-friendly.

Snooker is essentially a sport driven by television. And without TV, snooker will basically go back to being played in private clubs for side bets. Television brings in the sponsors, whose backing means top players can afford to live lavish lifestyles.

The winner of the UK Championship will pocket a cheque for £100,000 come Sunday night. This year’s world champion collected a cool £250,000. Plus endorsements.

Allen would be as well to remember that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Belfast Telegraph

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