Belfast Telegraph

Ballcrusher was just as popular as the players

Len Ganley was a larger than life character who played his part in making snooker one of the most popular television sports in the great era of the green baize in the 1980s.

The committed teetotaller was nicknamed Ballcrusher Len after a drinks advertisement with former world champions Terry Griffiths and John Spencer, when the Ulsterman supposedly did the impossible and crushed a snooker ball with his bare hands.

Len, who deliberately always referred to himself as Leonard when he phoned me, was by far the most popular referee at a time when they were as well-known to the millions of televiewers as the players.

He travelled to many parts of the world spreading the snooker gospel and counted himself lucky to be one of those fortunate people who earned their crust by doing a job they loved.

He refereed four world finals during the 80s and early 90s, one of his favourites being the 1990 decider when Stephen Hendry made history as the youngest ever winner at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Retired since 2002, he still made his annual pilgrimage to the world championship finals, where he pestered all and sundry to write their names on a £20 note as they donated cash to help buy electric wheelchairs for disabled children.

He reckoned he had raised millions for the cause over three decades.

At The Crucible back in April he said that, having just celebrated his 68th birthday in the last week of this year's world championship, it was to be his last visit to Sheffield.

Many were sceptical but, sadly, it has proved so.

Belfast Telegraph

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