BBC BLOGS - Ben Dirs
« Previous | Main | Next »

Snooker boss Hearn flexes his cane

Post categories:

Ben Dirs | 07:30 UK time, Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Think of Barry Hearn as a schoolteacher – Mr Hearn, if you will. In one class, he has his darts boys: willing to learn, always open to new ideas, you might call them Mr Hearn’s swots. In the other class, he has his snooker boys: every bit as bright as the other lot, but a bit of a pain in the Crucibles.

And so, on day three of the World Championship in Sheffield, Mr Hearn was forced to read his snooker boys the riot act. First, he had one of his star pupils – two-time winner Mark Williams – bad-mouthing his hosts; second, he had the naughtiest boy in class – Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen – accusing one of the new kids of cheating, before suggesting some of his mates were at it as well.

While Hearn has too much front about him to ever look hurt, some of his language betrayed his true feelings.

“I want everyone to understand it is a very good time to be a snooker player,” said Hearn. “Not a good time to be an idiot."

“Everything is going our way. We’re doing everything we can to make this game great again and then the ground gets taken from under us. Prize money has more than doubled in two years [Hearn took over as chairman of World Snooker in 2010] and that comes at a price, and that price is professionalism.”

Barry Hearn and Steve Davis from 1984, the year Davis won his third World Championship

Hearn clearly knows what he is doing, which makes the behaviour of a few of his charges even more perplexing. One of the main architects of snooker’s golden era in the 1980s, this is a man who made his protege Steve Davis so famous he had two singles in the top-10 simultaneously. And the whole point of Davis, remember, was that he was supposed to be boring.

If his work in snooker was startling, his darts revolution has been a minor miracle.

Since taking over as chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation in 2001, he has transformed what was once a pub pastime into nothing short of a juggernaut: the second-most watched sport on satellite television, playing to packed auditoriums, with millions up for grabs.

Yet his reworking of snooker has met with plenty of whinging. Allen – him again – said the “whole tradition of the sport was going to pot” following the introduction of shorter matches at the UK Championship.

Reigning world champion John Higgins complained about the air miles involved in competing in snooker’s revamped calendar. Yet, interestingly, not about the money.

“The opportunity is there [in snooker], go and take it,” said Hearn. “They’ve got to go to work. I don’t want to hear players going on about how tired they are – millions out there would like to be tired going to work but can’t get a job. And be supportive of those who support us, it’s not a lot to ask.

“I’ve had 30 wonderful years in sport and I’ve never seen anything like darts. And it’s all down to the players - they’re fantastic to work with, real pros. Darts has been one of the great success stories in sport.”

Little wonder, then, that Hearn described Williams’s outburst as “absolute lunacy”, while suggesting the £1,000 fine meted out to Allen – him again – for his criticism of China during the Haikou World Open in March was not enough.

With five ranking events in China next season, Allen’s unflattering comments about the country and its players could not have come at a worse time, which is why Hearn will presumably see to it that the Antrim antagonist is hit with a hefty punishment, which could stretch to a ban from the game.

“I was looking at some of the comments on the internet and 95% of them are quite angry,” Chinese journalist Victoria Shi told me.

“They were calling him a bad loser, asking why he accused the other Chinese players of cheating and why he always criticises China. If he doesn’t want to come to China, don’t come. Nobody’s making him.”

Which pretty much sums up Hearn’s attitude: if you are willing to put in the effort, we can conquer the world together and reap the financial rewards. If not, you may as well get off now and let someone who shares my vision get on.

"We’ve got a great breed of new talent looking at these players as role models and what sort of message are they sending out?” said Hearn.

“But I haven’t had a lot of problems with new players - they’re concentrating on playing snooker.”
When asked whether Allen’s handlers were partly to blame for his behaviour, Hearn pointed out he managed six-time Crucible runner-up Jimmy White for 10 years and “didn’t know where he was most of the time”. Chances are he was round his great mate - Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood's - house, snooker was that rock ’n’ roll back then.

Mark Allen might think his outbursts are a little bit rock ’n’ roll, which would have been fine in another age.

But the days of mucking about are over: time to knuckle down and concentrate on snooker. Or risk the cane of Mr Hearn.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Yeah, Mr Hearn, sir - but it's no fun watching 'yes boys', the toffs, the 'A' stream.

    Remember how Ronnie O was once such a 'bad boy?'

    Remember all the antics of Alex and the class of Class of '72?

    Plenty of tearaways and 'naughty boys' there. Plenty of boys who 'upset' things, bucked the trend, larked around, and sometimes were even told off or punished - but we all loved them and kept coming back for more.

    We need 'big mouth' Allen just as much as Pretty Boy Trump or waterworks Higgins (and don't forget even John was suspended last term) coz without a bit of colour and excitement (and consequently loads of stuff in the press) we don't have half as much fun or anything like the numbers turning up to our Parents' Evenings at Sheffield or anywhere else.

    Time was people used to take scrapping boys down to the gym to go three rounds together.

    Maybe Mr Hearn needs to look at who pays his wages before he gets out the big stick and spoils everything.

  • Comment number 2.

    @1 Dreadful english but sort of get your jist.

    And totally disagree with you.

    Yeah you can act the bad boy if you want but it comes at a hefty price. Also what do you mean by 'bad boy'. I infer it to mean getting angry on the snooker table or getting wasted off it. Not accusing a fello pro of cheating or telling the world China stinks.

    Allen is an idiot and has no idea how lucky he is. He's a very average snooker player who is earning far more than greats like Alex Higgins or Jimmy White could ever have earned in their hayday!!

    The guy is a moron and should be banned for a few months

  • Comment number 3.

    Hearn's clearly out to preserve both snooker's saleable image in the biggest market to emerge this century - China - and his own supercharged rewards for running it. I believe it's called 'enlightened self-interest' :-).

    It makes sense to have a strong hand on the tiller - the competition for airtime and audiences is fierce - and if the players are stupid enough to sabotage their own potential income with ill-thought out comments they deserve a wake-up call.

    However - if the games ethos of fair play is being challenged then perhaps that needs to be investigated, and if Mark Williams doesn't like playing in Sheffield perhaps he should be entitled to say so without worrying about a fine

  • Comment number 4.

    To #1 - yes you're right except you're mentioning a time when snooker was one of the most watched sports around. Players could get away with that and it was seen as a bit of fun. Take the example of footballers now, they get away with a lot because they're seen as massive stars, like Higgins et al were years ago. Right now snooker isn't a big sport and hasn't beeen for years so any outbursts like that from Allen give the general impression that he's nothing more than a bit of a whinger.

    I agree every sport needs the off the cuff remarks and some personality and if this was the only thing he'd come out with then fair enough. But this is starting to become a habit with him. Just like a lot of fans are fed up with Ronnie's "shall I or shan't I quit" people are wearing thin of Allen's moans. Get on and play the game, if you don't like the way snooker's going get another job like the rest of us. People are trying to make your sport great again, either back that and give it your all or move on.

  • Comment number 5.

    I like Allen, to ban him would be ludicrous. Higgins deserved his ban, Allen needs a quiet word from his manager about how he expresses himself, that's all.

  • Comment number 6.

    @2 (wirral18): Micky's English is much better than yours, judging by your post.

    Spelling errors: english* (English), jist* (gist), fello* (fellow), hayday* (heyday). I haven't even mentioned the grammatical, punctuation and semantic errors.

    Don't criticise other people's English unless you can string a sentence together yourself. Even then, nobody likes a pedant. I generally try to avoid correcting people's English, especially online, but your ignorance particularly annoyed me.

    -------------------------------------

    I think it's fair enough for Allen to question Hearn's policies, such as shortening the format at the UK Championship, but accusing his opponent of cheating in a post-match press conference is not the right way to go about things. I would put it down to a heat-of-the-moment comment after losing the last frame in that manner, but he seems to be developing a reputation for speaking before thinking.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think him closing his Twitter account is a good start. In my opinion China is the key to saving the sport, can provide more investment than any other country and more events. The last thing Allen should be doing is upsetting the cash cow.

  • Comment number 8.

    i really think Mark Allen needs to get some perspective on where his career is at, so far this year he's been knocked out of the PTC at the quarters, round 1 of the Masters, round 2 of the German masters, round 1 of the Chinese open and now round 1 of the world championships. If your not winning matches and tournaments your views carry less and less weight and you start to come across as desperate.

    Mark Allen strikes me as someone who loves the attention he generates and if he cant do it with decent snooker then he has to do it with his mouth. but without the wins people will stop listening to the noises he makes.

  • Comment number 9.

    Always good to hear interesting, honest remarks by the players but Allen's comments were a bit over the top and offensive to a nation I think. Any criticism China feel will hopefully be softened by William's preference that the WC be held in China instead of Sheffield, which is an honest, interesting comment that should not offend anyone or be censured.

  • Comment number 10.

    Allen's remarks are moronic and infantile - particularly the remarks about China. Don't believe a ban is just however, a fine would be fitting punishment in this case in my opinion.

    Allen's 'cheat' comments were idiotic because he talked about the spirit of snooker and sense of fair play...by accusing his opponent and others of being cheats. I'm not sure of the remedy to his generally ill-conceived comments. Maybe just time, he will surely grow up with time?

    Don't think Williams did anything wrong though - surely entitled to his opinion regarding the Crucible?

  • Comment number 11.

    It's more a problem of the way Twitter and Facebook have allowed us to air our grievances. Mark Allen, in China and at the Crucible, should have followed the proper complaints procedure. If he was unhappy with conditions in China, surely there would have been a tour official who could have tried to address those issues? If the thought his opponent had cheated then he should have told the referee.

    At the press conference after he lost he was sat iPhone in hand just raring to get on Twitter to tell the world how cheated he was. Fair enough if he was playing the local leagues, but this guy is supposed to be a Professional, and that doesn't just mean being good at snooker and getting paid for it, it means respecting his employers and acting responsibly.

  • Comment number 12.

    This article is completely bias. Nobody at the BBC is challenging Barry Hearn. This report by Ben Dir's reads like a press release. It was clearly a push shot by Cao Yupeng and in the spirit of the game he should have admitted it was a foul. Loss of integrity is a heavy price to pay for extra prize money. How long before people are calling for television replays to assist the referee in snooker? The assumption that the game needs to be modernised should be challenged. The game was growing in places like China long before 'the saviour' Barry Hearn came along. He is simply an opportunist who has foreseen the future growth of the game. The sooner 'journalists' like Ben Dirs start doing their job and challenging he who runs the game, the healthier snooker will be.

  • Comment number 13.

    When it comes to money, they didn't complain.
    Barry Hearn is trying to make snooker popular again while also reaching out to global audiences. Yes it involved air miles, but to attract a global market, playing every tournament in the UK doesn't make sense.

    I am hoping Mark Allen gets his visa declined to enter China due to derogatory remarks made to a country of 1.3 billion people and it's snooker players. With 5 tournaments there and snooker being his livelihood. I wonder what foul mouth rant is next

  • Comment number 14.

    If Allen and Williams don't like China or Sheffield the solution is quite simple - DON'T GO!! However, I suspect their convictions aren't great enough that they can't be bought by a little money and their is a name for people who sell their principles for money....

  • Comment number 15.

    @wirral 18 thanks for the lesson in English! the thing that stinks is this,Allen has called it as he sees it! but because china is potentially the future of snooker,he is being made an example of! This in the days of match fixing being brushed under the green baise,the level of hypocrisy is halarious!

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm hoping that someone may be able to provide some clarity for me regarding the comparison between Hearn's achievements with Darts and Snooker. From what i could see from a brief scan of the internet there are nowhere near as many international Darts events as there are for Snooker. I imagine that this makes a huge difference to the relative happiness and 'tiredness' of an average Darts/Snooker player. I think it makes a very big difference when you're travelling worldwide to maintain your ranking position. Going off the locations of the PDC tournaments, Darts appears to be more of a UK-centric sport, despite the fact that there are probably far more non-UK participants in the latter stages of tournaments compared to Snooker.

  • Comment number 17.

    8. At 09:28 24th Apr 2012, howard hassen wrote:
    "i really think Mark Allen needs to get some perspective on where his career is at, so far this year he's been knocked out of the PTC at the quarters, round 1 of the Masters, round 2 of the German masters, round 1 of the Chinese open and now round 1 of the world championships. If your not winning matches and tournaments your views carry less and less weight and you start to come across as desperate."

    Er, he also reached the final of the UK Championship and WON the World Open. So much for not winning matches. Terrible selective evidence from you, there - I dare even say that your views carry no weight and you came across as desperate! XD

    You can all take the moral high ground over Allen but don't you DARE do so without also placing the same amount of scrutiny on Mark Williams. What he said was no less offensive, and was even less justifiable given that he hadn't just suffered an unexpected upset loss after the cue-ball rolled into the pocket when you thought you'd got yourself back into the match. Try looking at the situation as a whole instead of lazily pinning it down to 'same old Allen'. I agree that he's acting a bit childish at times, but compared to a two-time world champion saying that the venue for the tournament is a 'sh**hole' the day before the championship begins? THAT is unprofessional, and he should have known better.

    Either way, it should not be allowed to distract from what has so far been an excellent tournament.

  • Comment number 18.

    The more money the bigger the stakes. This win at all cost has corrupted football to its core so every player on the pitch is looking to con the referee to benefot his own team.

    Do I think Mark Allen is a mouth piece yes. But is he also right to point out when a there is a foul and it is not called, of course. Just because theres loads of money involved now doesnt mean players should lose that respect for each other and the tradtion of the game and not call a foul on themselves. Just because the ref doesn't catch it doesn't mean the player should think he's got away with one and play on.

  • Comment number 19.

    17. At 10:05 24th Apr 2012, Perpetual Sigh wrote:
    " I dare even say that your views carry no weight and you came across as desperate!"

    wow, that's quite a response, your either a huge Mark Allen fan or a family member. either way you seem blinded by the fact that the guys reckless with his mouth, to the point of damaging the game. Calling a player a cheat is bad enough, to then accuse a nation of 1.3 billion people of being cheats is atrocious, especially when (like it or not) this is the nation that is going to be the driving force for the game over the next ten years in terms of prize money / expansion.

    I'm not absolving Mark Williams of any blame, his comments were damaging and i dont see how making those comments just before the start of the event did him any favors. the crowd certainly wont be behind him and he wont be looking to bump into any crucible officials while he's there.

    The only reason i focused on Allen was that he has previous with this and he's either too stupid or too arrogant to learn from his mistakes.

  • Comment number 20.

    Kennedy - In the interests of "doing my job as a journalist", I actually spoke to Clive Everton yesterday about Yupeng's "push shot" and, having watched it many times in slow-motion, he concluded it wasn't a push shot at all. "A few of us have had the opportunity to look at the shot at leaisure and we don't think there was any foul shot played," said Clive. "Terry Griffiths [on the telly] made a snap decision..."

  • Comment number 21.

    in keeping with the spirit of this discussion - Ben, it's *leisure not *leaisure. hehe
    and i think a fitting punishment for Allen would be to move the tournament to China - and as someone said before, if he doesn't like China or thinks Chinese players in general cheat, then no one is forcing him to go there.

  • Comment number 22.

    Sometimes players should complain - Roy Keane springs to mind. and Zola Budd for some reason - not sure why - I know she had no shoes but I&m sure there are plenty of other examples. anyway, have any of you ever been to China?

  • Comment number 23.

    Push shot or not, Allen should be beating players like Yupeng every day of the week.
    His reaction was simply down to his frustration.
    I like Allen as a player, but it seems to be every tournament he plays in you're talking about what he's down off the table/said as opposed to his performances on it.

    I also think the 'bad boys' of snooker tag is a little warped, given how gentlemanly the game is overall. If Allen's got it into his head that he needs to be seen as being the most outspoken player on the tour because of the reputation he's building for himself, he's only going to distract himself from the game.

  • Comment number 24.

    Regarding Allen. He's an idiot. The referee does the job indicated by his name. To accuse another player of "cheating" when it's down to the ref to make any decisions regarding that is nonsensical. Snooker being the game it is I'm pretty convinced the chinese player wasn't aware he'd fouled even if he had. Off the table conduct even got fined "back in the day" to some extent.

    Regarding Williams. He should be able to criticise a venue if he likes but it seems a very odd thing to do...

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    The shot wasn't a push shot. The referee didn't call a foul, the match scorer didn't call a foul, and Allen didn't make any complaint to the referee about it at the time. That should have been the end of the matter. For him to then accuse his opponent of deliberately cheating and go on to cast aspersions on all Chinese players through his post match comments are not the actions of a misunderstood bad-boy but, frankly, of a spoiled and immature child who needs to grow up.

    Allen is a good player. He could even become a great player. He brings something to the table in his manner, his approach, and his willingness to have a bit of fun during the match. I like him. But until he understands that what he says in public must be reasonable then he will continue to land himself in hot water through no-one's fault but his own.

  • Comment number 27.

    Snooker, like golf, prides itself on the integrity of its players - If you knowingly foul then you call it straight-away. That's drilled into everyone who plays the game in this country from an early age.

    I'm sure Allen's comments about Chinese players aren't purely based on that one incident so that raises the question 'Have they been taught the same ethos while they've been learning the game in China?'.

    Perhaps their players take a similar view as players in other sports like tennis, football, rugby, boxing etc
    i.e. Its up to the ref to make a decision and if he doesn't see one of my fouls then so be it.

  • Comment number 28.

    Wirral18 - I wouldn't complain about other people's 'dreadful English' when you can't spell a simple word like heyday correctly!

  • Comment number 29.

    Ben - That was a clear push shot in my opinion. Regardless of whether it was or not, I still think you are crawling up to Barry Hearn with this piece. Maybe the snooker players would be mouthing off less if the media did a better job in questioning the decisions that are causing disquiet? There seems to be an assumption at the BBC that Barry Hearn can do no wrong and that can only be bad for the game.

  • Comment number 30.

    Barry Hearn's role is to get the snooker players more money, more coverage worldwide and make the game of snooker more watched.

    Having looked at Cricket & Darts then it was obvious that there had to be some shorter matches and one-frame tournaments to go alongside the long framed prestigious titles.

    The difference is that Darts is UK-centric but also very much in closer European countries like Germany and Holland, whereas the emerging global market for snooker is China.

    Allen was peeved and he said what he said - free speech and all - the authorities will decide if he over stepped the mark and will punish him accordingly. If he hates China he shouldn't go and miss out on money and ranking points - it is up to him to plan his life.

    If he thought it was a push shot he should have said so at the time - not do a David Haye and moan about it afterwards.

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't normally comment, but Allen's comments were seriously out of order, bordering on racism. Mark Williams probably didn't deserve a punishment for his opinion on the Crucible, but Allen's comments on the Chinese players definitely did, whether or not Yupeng had actually played a push shot.

    As for Barry Hearn, perhaps he's a little too businessmanlike, but I can't really comment negatively given the way he's managed to stop what seemed like a terminal decline since the turn of the millennium. Why the apparently personal dislike of Barry Hearn, Kennedy?

  • Comment number 32.

    Mark Allen appears to be trying to bite the hand that feeds him. Lunacy.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think Mr Hearn is completely out of line. In any other sport, if a bad decision is made, or the players/manager disagree with a decision then they are allowed to say so. Whilst you should not be allowed to question the integrity of the referee, that is not what has happened here, Allen is questioning the player; what seems to be forgotten here is that no one is saying that Mark Allen is wrong; presumably most think it was a push. As anyone who has played snooker, or as a comparable catching a low cricket shot, as the player, you know.

    As for Mark Williams, why can't he say he doesn't like the venue. Perhaps the word hate was a little strong, but it is a fair opinion and for years ther has been the suggestion the venue should be changed; presumably for good reason.

    The problem here is that Barry Hearn was sold the rights to the tour and therefore thinks he owns the game of snooker. He doesn't, he owns this tour, but ultimately the game of snooker is much wider.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good blog Ben. I think Hearns inpact on the game is great. He has created a season that can be understood in terms of what games matter, there are regular tournaments, and he has spread them all around the world.

    At one point snooker was down to just a couple of ranking tournaments with the odd exhibition match that people had either never heard of or didn't cared about.

    He has already done it with darts and maybe he could be involved in more sports. I am reminded about a previous blog on the state of boxing - too many pointless fights and a champion system that nobody understands.

    Golf and Tennis players have even more demanding schedules but understand you have travel where the money is and where the fans are. Snooker players need to embrace this.

  • Comment number 35.

    Jobby24 - I don't dislike Barry Hearn. I have never met the guy. I just don't think the media is challenging him enough over the changes he is making to snooker.

  • Comment number 36.

    # 33

    He owns the rights to the Tour and every player who wants to play on the tour signs a contract which includes how they have to behave if they want to be a part of the tour. If Mark Allen does not want to play by the rules he has signed up for then he is going to get punished as per the terms of what he has signed. If he wants to set up his own Tour then he can do that and see how well he does.

    And there is a HUGE difference between disagreeing with a decision and what Mark Allen said. To intimate all Chinese players are cheats is extremely unprofessional and bordering on racism.

    He could easily have said " I am not happy with the decision of the referee not to call a push shot and I will be raising my complaints in a formal manner with the governing body of snooker."

    He didn't, so Barry Hearn is absolutely within his rights to give him a stern punishment.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hearne is probably doing a good job to make snooker a financial success. I'm sure he's a grteat businessman. but not everything is about the money - particularly sport. it's not just Allen complaining about him. Allen is one of the best players on the circuit - players like him and Ronnie and Higgins (Alex) ARE the sport. Snooker is an awesome game and will be a global success with or without Barry Hearne

  • Comment number 38.

    i like to no does hearne go to every match around the world darts and snooker and does he pay for all the trips out of his own pocket like the players do and also does he watch the matches so if a player does make a foul and then does not admit is was a foul they could be found guilty of that because all these players that he says have to earn there place have to afford that amount of money yes there tired hearn maybe he should try it himself

  • Comment number 39.

    Allen's comments were fair enough (both on the push shot, and on China). Having played a bit of snooker myself that was a push shot, and having had half my family go to China several times, the vast majority of the country is as described by Allen! As were William's comments on the Crucible. Rubbish venues (which the Crucible is. Too small and out of date). The building has no feelings so no-one was hurt by those comments!

    As for Hearn, I don't like the professionalism coming into these games, darts and snooker (they're not sport! The changing of shoes rule comes into play! ;)!) it loses the character of those games and when you see how the youngsters in China are being taught the game, it's no surprise. Darts players are more and more becoming characterless and the same is happening to snooker. When Peter Ebdon is classed as a character the rest of the field must be a bit short in that area!

    I worry about snooker. Having grown up watching 80s snooker (and darts) the professionalism and business-like nature of these sports will kill them off! Sad but true!

  • Comment number 40.

    Sorry BBC, but since when have darts and snooker been classified as sports? Neither Fat, sweating lager louts in offensive polyester tops flinging darts nor chavs in awful parodies of dinner suits poking bits of wood at balls in front of drink fuelled audiences has nothing to do with sport. They are neither noble, uplifting or inspiring. They are just pub games elevated to "sports" because Grandstand can't afford to cover any proper sports.

  • Comment number 41.

    I have watched and played snooker for many years, although i'm much better watching, and am in two minds about the state of the game at the moment, i agree that Allen was bang out of order for his comments about his opponent, and his countrymen, and should of raised it at the time with the ref, but to give Williams any kind of sanction for stating that he hates a venue is ridiculous, also i am very mindful of the fact, that Hearn has stated it is up to individual players to honour the behavioural code written in their contracts, so i'm in favour of snooker being in an ascendancy, but not if it makes all of the characters that snooker has, become like robots, all towing the party line being in fear of saying anything that could, be construed as them bringing the game into disrepute, there are limits to what you can and cannot say, some overstep the mark, some don't, but please lets not clamp down so much that snooker becomes utterly bland again.

  • Comment number 42.

    Why not have girls in bikinis as referees? and instead of kicks have random balls explode? or some kind of powerplay - play some rocky music (like the eye of the tiger) and the player at the table has to pot 5 balls in 30 seconds or else he (or she - let girls play) has to play blindfolded for the rest of that frame

  • Comment number 43.

    What an idiot Hearn is to try and take complete charge over all sports he's involved in. What is wrong with freedom of speech in this country! Make me sick people trying to keep things hush hush all the time and not allowed opinions. Alex Higgins was always blowing and yet he was loved within the game, double standards if you ask me. Darts is going out of control, just watch the premier league and whats all the busty birds about? It does nothing to the sport only degrade it to school kid level. Mr hearn cares only about one thing and that's is how big he can grow his bank balance at any cost. Sport would be better off with him out of the way as he's a control freak!

  • Comment number 44.

    Next he will have naked darts and snooker if it means more money in the game and his own bank balance!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    All Mark Williams said was he didn't like the venue. Some footballers don't like playing at Wembley, I bet there are rugby union players who don't like playing at Twickenham. It's not like Williams has threatened to organise a player's strike over it. As he said himself, it's only a personal opinion. If he gets punished for that then Barry Hearn needs to take a long hard look at himself and decide whether or not he's taking himself far more seriously than is healthy. Allen, yes: throw the book at him, accusing three players of cheating without thus far, the evidence to back it up is crazy.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hearn is a superb moneymaker and a dictator. He doesn't care that he tramples all over free speech in order to achieve his ends. Tell him to spend more time on Leyton Orient

  • Comment number 47.

    I think it is important that we get to see these Snooker players show character. In darts the sport has grown so rapidly due to the fact the crowd can get involved and be vocal, most don't go to watch darts, most go for a good drink, and to get on TV and scream all they want and abuse players as they come on to the ockey.

    Look at Nicholson a bad boy of darts, he says what he wants, and gets away with it because peoplel ike this sell out arenas. Apart from of course Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and those big hitters.

    Mark Allen could be a great thing for Snooker but not if everything he says is punished with fines. It would be good if Mark Allen was allowed to embrace this bad boy of snooker. As he comes in crowd boos him, when he misses the crowd get behind the opponent. Let him speak his mind, because I bet if he continues his anomosity towards China the chinese people will buy tickets in hope that he loses.

    Yes Barry Hearn needs to keep order but his main aim is to globalise the sport, he needs people like Mark Allen on his side to get him there. People are getting to soft these days. Mark Williams says he doesn't like the crucible and they cry like girls. If they don't want to host the event due to the fact Mark has said this, fine find a bigger arena that want the tournament. I can't imagine the Crucible pulling out mind in all honesty.

    So both Mark's keep it up!! Your doing what people want!! I am right behind you!!!

  • Comment number 48.

    44.
    At 14:41 24th Apr 2012, SOXI69 wrote:


    Next he will have naked darts and snooker if it means more money in the game and his own bank balance!!!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    Haven't we already had topless darts (in space?)......

  • Comment number 49.

    I could totally understand people for being annoyed at a Allen for being a sore loser by accusing his opponent of cheating in a turning point frame. But Allen is not accusing his opponent of cheating, he is pointing out that his opponent DID cheat. Even softly spoken Welshman, Terry Griffiths thinks so. How many times have we seen a player accidentally touch the white with the cue tip and call a foul on himself in years past? Too many to count. Why should we give Chinese players a break because they are the next big thing? No they should learn humility like the rest and admit to fouling even if the ref doesn't see it.

  • Comment number 50.

    Ben Fitzpatrick - Yeh, but not everyone thinks he did cheat. Clive Everton - remember him? He's been in the game about 100 years - said he, and other ex-pros viewed the shot "at leisure" and concluded Griffiths was wrong. Also, having looked at the shot myself, Allen's assertion that Cao looked at the ref straight after the shot was wrong.

    As for Barry Hearn, the reason I'm not taking him to task is because I believe what he's doing is right. He took a sport that was on its uppers and is in the process of turning it round. To make it a viable business, he will have to take snooker to new lands, tweek formats and upset a few people in the process.

    Hearn recognises that the future of snooker lies beyond what you might call 'snooker people'. The future of snooker is people who might have no interest in the game at the moment. If you've got a failing shop, the few customers you have cease to be all-important. The important people are those that aren't coming into the shop for whatever reason. That's just basic business sense.

  • Comment number 51.

    Problem is Allen is correct, anyone who's played the game knows that, when playing a shot, you are aware when you have pushed or hit twice or feathered a shot. If you don't call a foul and wait for the ref to call it you are going against all the principles that snooker players have put down over the many years before Mr Hearn got involved. Technically it's the ref's job to call it but, as I said, the player can feel a foul so should call it and obviously it's not happening in a number of cases recently.

  • Comment number 52.

    ben- I do wish to upset your mother but I am from the age when england were world cup holders, celtic european champions, football clubs were run properly and professionally by shopkeepers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers! Today we have to pay the new gods of sport to watch it live on tv (Call me daves aussie mate). Theres too much money in sport thats why sportsmen whine cos its not soft toilet paper. Oh for the days when winning meant something today they just turn up and the cheques in the post, money has killed sport its too influencial.

  • Comment number 53.

    I agree that Allen's cheat comment was pushing it. I don't understand the link between 'good behaviour' and TV audiences. Surely, having a mix of characters is what makes sport interesting. Individual sports, especially need characters - i include the likes of Steve Davis, Bobby Charlton, Bjorn Borg, alongside Alex Higgins, George Best, John McEnroe. Did people really turn off the TV because of Cantona, McEnroe, or A Higgins?

  • Comment number 54.

    @wirral18 #2

    What do you mean Mark Allen is an average snooker player? He is ranked 11th. I do not know if you know what that means, but it means he is ranked the 11th best Snooker player in the world at this present moment in time! Since when has that ever been described as average? You wouldn't say the 11th best Footballer or Rugby player in the world was average.

    And of course he earns more now than Jimmy White or Alex Higgins did in their day. Ever heard of something called growth and inflation? Probably not.

    I am delighted that Mark Allen has spoken his mind. Snooker is a fantastic sport that often gets labelled as 'dull', 'tedious', 'boring' etc. Players shouldn't be fined or suspended or banned for speaking their minds!

    Also, if you actually saw the interview, Allen did say that Cao played better! That does not make him a bad loser.

    Oh and by the way............................... it was a foul shot!!

  • Comment number 55.

    before anyone gets annoyed with bad spelling/grammar,i don't care how i write it or how you read it,the point will be clear regardless..these are men playing a sport,NOT children in a classroom. you won't see a snooker player act like a football player... ie violently. everyone is allowed an opinion,mark allen didn't like a city in china,nothing racial,a personal opinion of a place...also saw a shot different to the ref. mark williams doesn't like crucible,so what...it seems barry needs to grow up somewhat,he doesn't pay the players a wage,they earn prize money by winning,a fine for swearing is quite acceptable,but trying to restrict there opinions is utterly ridiculous. snooker is the best sport on the planet for me and i don't get to see enough,not everyone can pay to watch. there are so many qualifying stages that would be as entertaining to watch as the main event. that for me would be what i would like to see changed,leave the players be,they are gentlemen as they are..

  • Comment number 56.

    Watching the coverage, it was obviously a foul.
    If Mr Hearn wants to be Headmaster he should encourage the players to be gentlemanly rather than calling for a 3 line whip.
    Clearly snooker is not a free sport as it is a question do as I say or else - I control the game. Play by my rules or else.
    To mix metafores - its harly cricket

  • Comment number 57.

    Cao had not played a foul(push or double hit) shot against Allen, here is why...
    Cao played his shot at a elevated angle at the cue ball, causing it to jump and strike the slightly angled object ball and pocketed it. The jumping action changed the point of contact, thereby increased the 3-dimensional angle between the two balls, caused the then in-the-air cue ball to bounce sideways off the object red ball. In this way, the cue ball could not have been in the way of the cue's short follow-through nor was it possible to have pushed the shot.
    Clearly, the HD TV replay is showing me just that!

  • Comment number 58.

    #12

    I agree, the BBC have been giving Hearn some over the top positive publicity when it comes to snooker. It started even before Hearn became the sole controller of the game. See this fawning interview with Mr Hearn, this interviewer was embarrassing!
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/snooker/8607633.stm

  • Comment number 59.

    33.
    At 13:15 24th Apr 2012, Mark McMillan wrote:

    I think Mr Hearn is completely out of line. In any other sport, if a bad decision is made, or the players/manager disagree with a decision then they are allowed to say so.

    ----------

    Try telling that to the players & managers punished by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute by criticizing refereeing decisions.

  • Comment number 60.

    Let's be honest Allen was right about Barry Hearn when he criticised him earlier as BH hasn't done a lot for the game. It does also seem to be the way that BH and the WPBSA seem to threatening a lot of players with fines and/or bans just lately for speaking out which asks the question why are players so dissafected and are the governing body losing control. I think there is a lot of resentment for the way Chinese players are being 'manufactured' and given preferential treatment. All the WPBSA want is to create a Chinese world champion so they can make money for themselves in China as they see the UK market as dead, but the emergence of players like Luca Brecel show that in fact promoting more in Europe is the way to go forward.

  • Comment number 61.

    I have to say I find all this anti-Hearn stuff really quite baffling. The facts are, before Hearn took over, players, ex-players and very respected snooker people (Clive Everton among them) were queuing up to tell anyone that cared to listen that their sport was on its uppers. Events were dwindling, prize money had stagnated, the game was struggling to attract sponsors and John Higgins even complained a few years ago he felt like a "part-time player".

    Hearn comes along, implements a world tour (funnily enough, no-one complains about having a world tour in golf or tennis), ups the prize money, attempts to make the game more appealing to 'non-snooker' people, and people start moaning that "he's only in it for himself". Therefore, TT_Swindlehurst, how can you say he "hasn't done a lot for the game"? Chinese players aren't being "manufactured" - there are 2,000 snooker halls in Beijing - 2,000! How many snooker clubs are there in Sheffield? I honestly think some people would prefer it if snooker died rather than modernised. Funny really - when I write about boxing, people accuse me of being negative. I sound a positive note about snooker and people dig me out for sucking up to Barry Hearn!

  • Comment number 62.

    I like excitement, this incident was.
    Judd trump may be quiet but the last few balls in his session yesterday were awesome to watch.
    On the other hand I couldn't bear to watch ronnie's match because ebdon is soooo boring.
    If people are not even allowed to voice how they feel a match went then you may as well have robots playing.

    Besides the point of the match quality, barry ohearn, or the amount of matches etc etc
    We want to see more snooker, and if players want to voice their opinions then they should be allowed. If they are good enough to compete and do the world tour matches and make big tournaments they're opinions and voices should not hinder them in any way.

    Freedom of speech being stifled in any way in any form of sport (or anything) is always a bad thing. If mark isn't allowed to voice his opinion, then why should anyone listen to mr o' hearns?

  • Comment number 63.

    People have very short memories Ben.

    Before Hearn took over snooker was on its last legs. Hardly any tournaments (down to as low as 6 ranking tournaments) and some of these weren't even sponsored.

    The game was crying out for more tournaments, particularly in its developing markets, and more sponsors. The old regime didn't seem willing or able to do this.

    Along comes Hearn introducing more tournaments, more sponsors, more money etc but still some people aren't happy.

  • Comment number 64.

    Snooker basically had two choices: expand or die. Popularity in China is an opportunity that most sports can only dream of. To not make the most of that billion plus expanding market would be suicidally stupid.

    And I think we must make a distinction here between being a bit of a character (Ronnie throwing in some left-handed shots, the late great Paul Hunter's flamboyance) against Allan and Williams who have only came out as critical of aspects of the sport. There must be a formal and professional channel for them to raise these concerns with Hearn rather than whinge in the public arena to make a headline or two.

    Snooker is going the right way, and the internationalisation of the sport is key. It needs its Cao Yufengs and Luca Brecels right now. They should be given every chance to prosper. Another problem in snooker's current image is that it's a closed shop; the same dozen or so players come back and compete year after year and spend forever at the top of the game, given an impression that it isn't competitive enough. New blood is essential to keep the game interesting and if the old heads decide they don't like it that way and find it quite comfy in the Top 16, well, tough.

    Things are going right, right enough for me to start watching again after a few years' hiatus.

  • Comment number 65.

    Post 39. TheNobleOne said "having had half my family go to China several times, the vast majority of the country is as described by Allen"

    Wow, you have personal experience of the "vast majority" of China! Well, fair enough then, can't argue with that. Mark Allen is obviously right then so what is all the fuss about?

    By the way, what is a "vast majority"? 80%? 90%? Tell me, how long did it take you to traverse that proportion of China's 3.7 million square miles? Are you perhaps an immortal? Or extremely large? Or the fictional superhero Flash?

  • Comment number 66.

    bendirs wrote: "As for Barry Hearn, the reason I'm not taking him to task is because I believe what he's doing is right."

    I am not asking for you or any other journalists to go to war with Barry Hearn. What I am asking is that you challenge the decisions he is making on an individual basis. Personally, I think he is doing some good, some bad for the game. The point I am making is it is not a case of black and white. If you were a political journalist you might think the coalition government is generally good for Britain but that doesn't mean you wouldn't question individual policies or constructively criticise decisions.

    Kamana - That BBC interview with Hearn is typical if how unobjective the Corporation is with him. The line where the interviewer says, "Snooker goes with you or it dies on it's backside," is cringing. As if nobody else in the world is capable of modernising the game.

  • Comment number 67.

    For all the good work that Barry Hearn has done, the credibility of snooker was lost in my view when the board headed up by Hearn failed to deal decisively with the alleged John Higgins situation. If I were a sponsor I would have withdrawn support immediately. It all went very low key, mainly because Mr Hearn was trying to protect/save the game of snooker, but it doesn't make it ethical, at least not in my view.

    So all of these issues about Joe Allen speaking the truth (in his view) pales into insignificance against the really big issue which was conveniently swept under the carpet. Sorry, I have no respect for Mr Hearn and his team of followers because they turned a blind eye to something that appeared far more serious.

  • Comment number 68.

    Ben you said
    As for Barry Hearn, the reason I'm not taking him to task is because I believe what he's doing is right. He took a sport that was on its uppers and is in the process of turning it round. To make it a viable business, he will have to take snooker to new lands, tweek formats and upset a few people in the process.

    if so why hasn't Barry Hearn been succssful with Leyton Orient.?
    He will kill snooker and if he keeps on at the players then you can expect a breakaway snooker group, which will divide the money. Then watch Hearn walk away as he knows he won't have control.
    I'm afraid that those who say that you've sold your soul to Hearn are on the right track

  • Comment number 69.

    Ding just lost - sorry about that, Hearn!

  • Comment number 70.

    Fair enough for Allen to get some sort of punishment for his recent comments but why punish Mark Williams for just expressing his opinion that he doesn't like Sheffield??

    Hearns has done some good for the game but he is still cheesy eighties promotion man. Cringe-worthy example being having the players walk in with promotion girls at some tournaments

  • Comment number 71.

    In the past I have seen many players call a foul on themselves, Jimmy White especially, what an honest guy.
    My question is, was it a push shot?
    If it wasn’t, Allen's the idiot, if it was, Hearn is.
    Personally I don’t think any sportsman should use Twitter, but I don’t see anything wrong with Mark Williams having an opinion.

  • Comment number 72.

    Accusations of cheating are taken very seriously in every sport. If they have no basis, the false accuser, in this case Mark Allen, deserves punishment, especially when the comments betray more than a hint of xenophobia.

    However, by insisting that Mark Williams should be banned(!) for expressing his opinion on a theatre, Hearn has perfectly illustrated his natural autocratic tendencies. After all, the Crucible is not the "home" of the sport in the same way as Lord's, for instance. And even Lord's has had its fair share of criticism over the years. There's no guarantee the Crucible will keep the World Championship at the end of its contract. I'm sure there are some nice venues in Beijing, for instance.

    By providing such an uncritical platform for Barry Hearn's views, Ben Dirs has done a disservice to his own profession, too. Darts' 2nd place in satellite sports just goes to show what an undiscerning crowd Murdoch's thralls are. Barry Hearn is no hero. Schoolteacher? Dictator, more like.

  • Comment number 73.

    Dirs doesn't even understand why he's getting flak - that's how bad a 'journalist' he is. The BBC used to be a balanced and world-leading media

  • Comment number 74.

    misoramen - No, I honestly don't understand it, largely because not one person on here has been able to put into words exactly why Hearn is bad for the sport, there's just been various vague accusations. Anyone want to give it a go?

  • Comment number 75.

    @42 Big Break would still be on on a Saturday night if the game was played like that!

    @27 Certainly a interesting point if it's not something they have been bought up with in the way they play the game they won't be calling it, or is it an evolution of the game? Batsman used to walk when they nicked it in cricket not anymore.

  • Comment number 76.

    Where are the people advising Mark Allen? Surely, there should be someone on hand to tell him "Mark, you can't say that because you'll sound really stupid and a bit racist."

    The fact is that Allen lost this match by four frames and a 'foul' that may or may not have happened in the tenth frame of a best of 19 match is not an excuse for his complete lack of bottle. He probably spent the whole of the second session pondering this completely moronic excuse and thinking 'this will be controversial, I'll dial it back on the 'dead cats' thing and just call them all cheats instead'...

  • Comment number 77.

    It would be a bit extreme if Mark Williams were to be punished for his recent comments but it was slightly bad timing on his part to broadcast them just before the World Championship was due to start in Sheffield. One thing that no-one seems to have mentioned, including writers of these articles and news stories on this website is that on the BBC coverage this afternoon in a video with Mark Williams, he didn't completely criticise the Crucible. He said that he doesn't mind playing when it gets to the one table stage in the semis and the final, he just doesn't like it at the two table stage because it feels very claustrophobic, and I think these comments should also be taken into consideration before any rash decisions and punishments are made.

  • Comment number 78.

    At 16:38 25th Apr 2012, bendirs wrote:
    misoramen - No, I honestly don't understand it, largely because not one person on here has been able to put into words exactly why Hearn is bad for the sport, there's just been various vague accusations. Anyone want to give it a go?

    Ben – Barry Hearn needs to be questioned about the decisions he is making before anybody can make an informed judgement on whether or not he is having a positive or negative impact on the game. You and your colleagues at the BBC are not challenging him and that is not healthy. Here are some questions I'd like put to Hearn:

    1) You publicly backed the Association of Snooker Professionals (ASP) player's union when it was established in 2008 to give players a greater say in how the game is run. Why did you think the player's union was a good idea?

    2) When you gained control of World Snooker, you demanded and gained complete control over the running of the game. Does this mean the ASP has no input into how the game is run now?

    3) Both Mark Allen and John Higgins have publicly claimed you broke a promise made to players not to change any of the major tournaments (by shorting the length of matches at the UK Championships). Is it true you did not keep your word? If so, does this not make your position as World Snooker Chairman untenable?

    4) Before you became World Snooker Chairman you said in an interview with the BBC in January 2009 that you weren't sure if snooker was on a downward spiral, that it still did 'decent business' and that maybe snooker had reached it's level. Yet, in April 2010 you agreed with an interviewer who put it to you that snooker would probably die on it's backside if it didn't embrace your vision. How did the health of the game change so dramatically in the time between those interviews?

    5) You also said in that January 2009 interview that you weren't interested in running snooker because it would be impossible to recreate the success the sport enjoyed in the 1980's and you didn't have the time. What made you change your mind?

    6) The top 64 players in the world voted you in as World Snooker Chairman by a slim majority (35 votes to 29) in 2010. Will you be up for re-election at any point?

    7) You now have a controlling interest in snooker. What will happen if a significant number of people become unhappy with the way you are running the game?

    8) Many of the top players have looked jaded at this year's World Championships and the standard during the early part of the tournament has been ordinary compared to previous years. Do you think some of the players are suffering from the demands of the tournament schedule you've introduced?

    9) Is there not a danger the players will lose their spark and and enthusiasm for the game travelling round the world almost continuously chasing ranking points and prize money?

    10) Ronnie O'Sullivan almost had to qualify for the World Championships after coming mightily close to dropping out of the top 16 earlier in the season. It is clear O'Sullivan has struggled to cope with the demands of the new snooker calendar, at one point he even said he felt he was being “blackmailed” by the snooker authorities when you made ranking points available for smaller tournaments. In response you said snooker could cope without him. Isn't there something wrong with the way you are running the game when you are failing to protect its outstanding talent?

  • Comment number 79.

    This might be too late, but can Ben please explain to me how Mr Hearn has improved the game? More tournaments? Is that it? I don't see the BBC or any other major broadcaster picking up anymore coverage, in fact if it wasn't for the BBC website you wouldn't even know the World Championship was happening.

    Have the shorter games increased audiences? Did the 'Snooker Shoot-out' do anything for the sport? There might be more money available, but Hearn certainly hasn't increases the value of the sport. The players put more tournament hours in with the possibility of earning more money - hardly ground breaking.

    The reason snooker isn't as 'popular' as it once was is because there are more TV channels and more sport available to watch. When Taylor beat Davis the TV audience was massive, but what was on at the same time? What kind of exposure did the BBC give the game? The 'decline' in snooker is not down to the product, it's down to the way the BBC has diluted it's coverage.

  • Comment number 80.

    Mark Allen's comments were completely out of order and he deserves censuring. However, somebody mentioned earlier that John Higgins was suspended from the game for 6 months.........

    Yes he was. The 6 months of the year when virtually no snooker is played anyway. I thought at the time (and my snooker-playing friends all concurred) that it was a complete whitewash. I still think that. It seems to have been swept under the carpet.

    There are cricketers in jail for trying to defraud bookies.

    Allen was voicing an opinion (badly and ill-advisedly). Higgins broke the law.

    Lets have some consistency.

  • Comment number 81.

    I don't know about all this money stuff, apart from spending whatever meagre amounts I have left over after the bookie and two breweries that sponsor snooker have taken their share. I don't know what goes on behind the scenes or the pressures that exist between all the protagonists. In fact this is possibly the most 'snooker-wise' ill founded post ever submitted in the history of the game.

    But I'm pretty sure that Cao Yupeng cheated, and if that is not eradicated from the game by those in a position to do so then their monetary resurrection may be short-lived.

    Football gets away with cheating and manipulation because of the acceptance by the tribes that go to war. Snooker mustn't go down that path.

    Censure Allen by all means for his impolitic outburst, but punish the cheats even more-so.

    Sadly Barry Hearn will probably be blinded to any of that by the glint from his Ming dynasty gold cufflinks. He needs to remember that he needs people to play as well as people to pay, and when power becomes disproportionately weighted with the administrators it doesn't take long for a faction at the top (of any enterprise) to say....'we're off'! Then watch the crowds follow them.

    Mind you I don't know anything about snooker, or cricket, or for that matter growing orchids or cucumbers. However I am an expert on making toasted cheese and reciting the Catholic liturgy in Latin!

  • Comment number 82.

    I may have been a bit harsh on you there Ben Dirs - you're not SO bad. Anyway, Barry Hearn is a businessman and businessmen are bad

  • Comment number 83.

    No such thing as bad publicity. I'm sure Barry Hearn is secretly lapping it up.

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.