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Ssb - no blue chip sponsor for world championship

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  • Ssb - no blue chip sponsor for world championship

    Monday’s announcement of a new World Championship sponsor will expose how far snooker has to go to convince the business and sponsorship worlds that it is worthy of serious investment by blue chip companies.

    World Snooker instituted a sealed bids process for interested backers for the game’s premier event last September but I understand this has failed to find a sponsor willing to invest at the level the governing body was hoping for.

    Instead, a one year, stop-gap sponsor will back this year’s World Championship and the quest for a blue chip sponsor for 2014 will continue.

    Though any sponsor in tough economic times should be welcomed, this is a setback for World Snooker and, in particular, for Barry Hearn, who believes the championship is worth much more than Betfred were paying for it for the last four years.

    I agree with him, but the business world does not. This is less a reflection on his negotiating skills than the perception of snooker.

    The facts don’t seem to matter: 17 days of live BBC coverage in the UK, extensive live coverage in 60 European countries on Eurosport, an audience of over 100 million in China and streamed coverage in various other parts of the world plus all the other media exposure the tournament will generate.

    The global reach of snooker has never been so broad but the sport still suffers from a cultural snobbery which seems to ignore all of this and the viewing figures it obtains.

    CEOs of major companies prefer golf and tennis. They think the audiences for these sports have more money.

    People with money also watch snooker but perhaps our game’s biggest problem is that the audience is so broad that sponsors don’t know who they should be targeting.

    However, snooker hasn’t helped itself. By continually advocating downmarket formats and tournaments – Power Snooker, the Shootout etc – the sport is doing little to appeal to blue chip sponsors.

    How many players have suggested snooker should become more like darts? They’re wrong. If the sport wants upmarket sponsors it should move upmarket. If it wants to remain the domain of beer, fags and bookies sponsors, with a level of prize money which, though good, will never hit the heights of some other sports, then it should carry on as it is – just don’t complain about it.

    There’s nothing wrong with being a working class sport. Snooker has come from honest roots and is widely accessible as a participation activity and professional sport to be watched either live or on television.

    Its players are ordinary men who can be easily identified with. The game has many variables and delivers high drama and entertainment.

    Snooker doesn't have to apologise for what it is but it needs to take steps to persuade people what it could be.

    If the snooker world wants to compete globally with other major sports then it needs to understand what high end sponsors want and the image that needs to go with it.

    We need players appearing in GQ magazine, not Loaded. We need events which cater to families, not mobs of drunks. We need players embracing the places they play, not slating them.

    Hearn is big enough and successful enough to take this setback on the chin and will be putting the hours and the airmiles into unearthing a long term, prestigious partner for the World Championship from next year on.

    But this is a task which has proved harder than he thought and underlines the fact that snooker is not at the top of the list of sports major companies want to give their money to.

    In the meantime, of course, none of this will stop anyone enjoying the actual tournament.