Ladies' snooker: the new maidens of the green baize

It's big in the Far East, but it still has a long way to go here. Chloe Hamilton went to Sheffield to meet some potting pioneers...

Cue sports like snooker and pool are commonly associated with beer swilling, peanut crunching, pub dwelling men. As Michaela Tabb, who is herself a professional snooker and pool referee, puts it: “It was always the gentlemen who went into the billiard room while the ladies went and drank cups of tea.”

But yesterday marked the very first Ladies Day at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield’s Crucible, with world-class female players taking to the arena to prove they are just as talented as the men. They even invited me to join in, despite having never played the game before.

Crouching down, chalked cue in hand, heart racing, my eyes fixed on the red ball ahead of me, it was hard not to feel intimidated. Yet much to my relief the ball slips into the pocket, disappearing with a reassuring thunk. Unfortunately, my moment of glory was short lived and I failed to pot anything in the next few shots.

Deciding to chalk this one up to experience, I retreated to the sidelines and watched while nine-time world champion Reanne Evans, 27, took over, effortlessly potting the coloured balls while the crowd clapped politely.

Reanne was introduced to the sport by her brother. “One day I just picked up his cue. It came naturally to me,” she says. “I play against the men to try to convince women that its alright for them to play this game. And obviously I want to beat them!”

It was at The Crucible that the famous 1985 black-ball final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor was played out into the early hours of a Monday morning, watched by a record television audience of 18.5 million. There can be little doubt that the vast majority of those late-night viewers were men – almost since it was invented snooker’s green baize has been a largely male domain.

The sport is popular with women in Thailand and China. But although snooker is long past its mid-Eighties zenith, and female participation is growing, there are still fewer female British players than male. So why are British women not as keen to get involved in this ball game?

“There are still clubs and pubs out there that don’t let women play snooker,” says Reanne. “With that attitude, no wonder women don’t want to play.” Women players are also required to wear the same waistcoat and a bow tie as the men, which Reanne thinks might put them off.

“I think that definitely needs to change. Then it will attract more lady players,” she says. “Who knows, we might win a few more matches if we had a skirt on!”

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) needs more female players if it wants to fulfil its aspirations of making snooker an Olympic sport. One way they are doing this is by introducing it to children at school.

“I feel there’s been a lack of opportunity for girls to play snooker over the years,” says WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson. “If we can introduce our sport to both men and women at a young age, we’ll see an increase in girls who continue to play.”

Ms Tabb, who now referees snooker matches, began playing pool professionally when she was 23. She was contacted in 2001 by World Snooker, which was seeking to change the profile of referees. “They wanted some younger ones, some international ones and some lady ones,” she says.

There’s no denying that there’s still a long way to go before the men’s and women’s games are equal. Yesterday, the ladies were separated from the “real” championship, where the men were playing. Their table was set up in the city’s Winter Garden, a shopping centre-cum-glasshouse, and the female players were gawped at by passers-by who seemed to enjoy the novelty.

One man winked at his friend and muttered: “These ladies are certainly drawing in the crowds.” If that’s the attitude of spectators, the sport would appear to have a long way to go.

In the frame: Three British women leading the way

Maria Catalano, 31, from Dudley, west Midlands, is currently ranked world No 1. She won the British Open in 2008 and is the cousin of the current men’s World Snooker Champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Emma Bonney, 36, from Portsmouth, Hampshire, is the world’s No 2 and has won the World Ladies Billiards Championship seven times.

Reanne Evans, 27, also from Dudley, is the world No 3 and the reigning World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Champion. She won her ninth consecutive title earlier this month.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading indepen...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Systems Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre Scho...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'