Blackball elections

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The Independent Online
While the year's green-table hostilities come to an end with today's final of the German Open, a lively off-table engagement lies ahead on Thursday at the annual meeting of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association Limited.

Few who saw Stephen Hendry's 10-9 win over John Higgins in the UK final a fortnight ago can doubt the quality of entertainment snooker can still offer. However, the day-to-day running of the game is mired in acrimony. Ian Doyle, the game's leading manager, Peter Dyke, representing sponsor Embassy, and Jim McKenzie, the managing director of the table-maker Riley's, are voicing their disquiet at the board's recent conduct.

Next Thursday's is no ordinary ballot. Four members of the beleaguered board do not need to offer themselves for re-election this year: Geoff Foulds, who became chairman after the resignation of John Spencer last month, Terry Griffiths, Jim Chambers and Sindhu Pulsirivong, the Bangkok businessman. The opposition fire is therefore concentrated on the retiring board member Bill Oliver, a former middle-ranking pro.There are five other candidates.

Appropriately to snooker, there is maximum scope for blackballing. Voters may tick "yes" or "no" boxes against each candidate, empowering them to reject them all. The board has decreed that candidates are to be considered individually so that if the board reaches its maximum strength of seven before all candidates have been voted upon, so be it.

This has aroused the wrath of Ian Doyle, who manages Hendry and 10 other players - out of an electorate of 48 - with voting rights. He opposes the re-election of Oliver and supports the candidature of the former chairman, Rex Williams.

The WPBSA stated that the order in which the new candidates are to be considered - Jim Meadowcroft, Tony Knowles, Bob Close, Malcolm Thorne and Williams - was determined by a draw.

"It's damned bad luck that Rex Williams has been drawn last," said Doyle. "It's outrageous to have a voting system which does not give all candidates simultaneous consideration."

The board has announced rules prohibiting players from airing complaints in the media and stating that they would be held responsible for statements made by their managers or agents.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, who beat Hendry 5-2 in the quarter-finals of the German Open in Osnabruck, made back-to-back centuries, 102 and 121, to take a 4-0 lead over Nigel Bond in their semi-final and completed a 6-1 victory with a total clearance of 142. In today's final O'Sullivan plays Canada's Alain Robidoux, a 6-4 winner over Scotland's world No 2, Higgins.