Snooker has captured the hearts of the British public for generations, and yet there are still questions to be answered as to how the sport will survive in the years to come. Ronnie O’Sullivan has been the heart and soul of snooker for the best part of twenty years, but even he has threatened to retire from the sport on several occasions.
He won the hearts of the Crucible Theatre at only 19 years of age, when he won his first World Championship title and has always been the first player to be questioned about an issue surrounding the sport. When asked about the state of the game in 2009 he said, “It just feels boring,”
The Rocket’s mental health issues have been well-documented within the public eye in previous years, and after consulting Sports Psychologist Dr Steve Peters as well as a stint in rehab, the now world number 14 appears to be on the mend.
Reporting mental health within the media is never easy, but other snooker players have accused O’ Sullivan of ‘enjoying the attention’ that he gets, and that he always makes himself out to be the victim. After his first-round victory against Gary Wilson at this year’s World Championship, O’ Sullivan attacked snooker authorities and said he will not be ‘bullied’ by them.
When O’ Sullivan does eventually retire, he will be solemnly missed by everyone involved with the sport. The most worrying thing is finding someone to fill his void as the main event, so to speak. Judd Trump’s attacking brand of snooker is a sight to be seen and he has the potential to fill Ronnie’s shoes in the years ahead.
Snooker needs more top-level players from abroad
Snooker cannot continue to thrive without new, up and coming young talent and there is a serious lack of diversity among the game’s elite players. Ding Junhui and Marco Fu are idolised in Asia, and regularly draw in large crowds at tournaments held within the continent. Statistics show that 23 of the 32 players that featured in the 2017 World Championship were from Great Britain & Ireland, which is an alarming stat. Darts has had an upturn in players from Holland because of Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen, something snooker could similarly benefit from Belgian prospect Luca Brecel, for example.
The World Snooker Championship should be hosted elsewhere
2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the World Championship being held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, and despite an awful lot of praise from the British media there is still an ongoing argument that the venue should be changed. The number of tournaments that take place across Asia has gradually increased in recent years, and given the amount of support and popularity of the sport within the continent, there is a strong belief that the World Championship is the next big step for Asian snooker. The Crucible holds an incredible legacy within the sport, but moving abroad would increase the publicity and audience for snooker generally, particularly given that the Sheffield venue only has a capacity of 980.
Prize money for players should be increased
Players within the game have been complaining about the lack of prize money awarded in tournament play for several years, but the nature of a typical calendar season is beginning to take its toll on a few players on the circuit. The sport was badly affected financially in 2005 due to the change in laws relating to advertising cigarettes, and has only began to re-stabilise in the last few years. Ronnie O’ Sullivan’s infamous 147 break against Mick Price in 1997 earned him £165,000, and the Rocket has snubbed the chance of scoring the maximum break on several occasions since then due to a lack of prize money. Snooker is seen by many as a working-class sport, that is watched by the older generation. This perception holds back companies with a large financial capacity to fund and greaten the prize money that is already on offer at present.