You can't play snooker without balls: Steve Davis saying women can't compete with men at the top has sent critics potty

It is the type of claim to drive the mildest mannered folk potty and send ripples across the smoothest of green baize surfaces. The fact it came from a master of the art only made it worse. The normally hushed reverence that surrounds the sport of snooker erupted into a fierce row last night after six-times world snooker champion Steve Davis said women lacked the "single-minded obsessive type of brain" to compete with men at the highest level of the sport.

Davis said he could not envisage a woman competing in the final stages of the World Snooker Championship, even though it is open to female players. He was backed by the world's leading women snooker players last night, but Sally Gunnell, the Olympic 400-metre hurdles gold medallist, said it was not the case that women lacked single-minded determination to compete at the top flight of any sport.

Davis, who will be a BBC pundit in today's World Championship final, told the BBC World Service's Sports Hour: "The male of the species has got a single-minded, obsessional type of brain that I don't think so many females have."

Women lacked "that single-minded determination in something that must be said is a complete waste of time – trying to put snooker balls into pockets with a pointed stick".

Maria Catalano, the world number one female snooker player, told The Independent on Sunday: "I do agree with Steve – I don't think women will ever compete with men at the top level. I believe that male and female species are wired mentally different. A woman's brain is better at multi-tasking. I believe a man is more single-minded, so has a stronger concentration on one thing at a time."

Reanne Evans, the women's world number three, who has a seven-year-old daughter, also agreed with Davis, telling the BBC: "I think women find it difficult just to concentrate on snooker. I've got my little girl and you're always thinking about them. The men's game has the backing behind them that they can afford to have a part-time job, or no job, and just practise and work at the snooker, whereas there's no money in the women's game whatsoever."

Gunnell told The IoS: "Paula Radcliffe, who had children as well as running – was somebody who could do both at the highest level. To achieve at any high level in any sport you've got to be completely focused and dedicated, you live and breathe every moment of what you're doing and a number of women have proved that they can do that."

Tracey Crouch, Conservative member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: "Women players do need to have lots of different priorities, such as childcare, but I don't think he was right to suggest that as a consequence they cannot compete at the highest level."

Ruth Holdaway, head of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, said: "Comments such as Steve Davis's are extremely unhelpful and serve only to engender a continued sense that snooker remains behind closed doors for women and girls."

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there