Snooker: The cue crusader who is Scene and heard but never ignored

Clive Everton has railed against authority but his boyish enthusiasm for the game remains
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The Independent Online

At his office near Halesowen, on the periphery of Birmingham, Clive Everton prepares the next issue of his magazine, Snooker Scene, a periodical which leaves neither perceived wrong unexamined – forensically so, as many of those whose wrath he has incurred would testify – nor any rightful cause unsupported in the sport. Hence, on this particular day, his mind happens to be attuned to Steve Davis and the case for an honour beyond the OBE the six-times world champion possesses.

Everton, whose rich tones grace the BBC's snooker coverage and whose journalism also appears on these pages, plans to run a reader's letter in the next issue which asks rhetorically: "Surely there's a case for Steve Davis to be knighted?" The commentator concurs. "That would be great for the sport, and not inappropriate in terms of what he's achieved," Everton says, still exuding, at 70, his enthusiasm for the game that first enraptured him as a schoolboy. "Steve Davis has been a great ambassador for the sport. It would give snooker a dignity and a positive image."

In truth, such qualities are not ones generally synonymous with professional snooker, as Everton concedes throughout the pages of his fascinating book entitled Black Farce and Cue Ball Wizards*; not only because some of its players have, over the years, been guaranteed to sate the red-top appetite for tales of sex, drugs and alcohol, but also because its administration has been too frequently exposed as flawed. In that exposure, Everton has played a highly significant and controversial part.

It troubles him that though "snooker will survive because it's a strong game", it has palpably failed to evolve profitably from the golden years of the 1980s and '90s. "Absolutely no provision was made for the end of tobacco sponsorship, which was signposted seven years in advance," he says. "We now have only seven world-ranking tournaments, plus the Masters. The knock-on effect is that the game's public profile is just about zero between those tournaments.

"The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association [the governing body] missed a terrific chance in 2002, when an offer from Altium, backed by Warburg Pincus [a City finance house] proposed nine world-ranking tournaments, plus the Masters, plus two big invitation events. The people at the centre of the governing body would not be involved, and they worked to defeat it. In the ensuing five years, that has caused the players to lose just over £9.5 million in prize money. It was a chance for a new start and a better financialfuture. But it was defeated by self-interest and stupidity."

Such sentiments are generated by his love for the game. "I've played a role in getting rid of some pretty pernicious regimes," he says of the WPBSA and certain chairmen and board members. "Their usual trick is to try to get the BBC to sack me, in an attempt to harm my credibility. Only once did it come close to that, in 1985. A BBC executive producer was persuaded to sack me. But my agent got on to Jonathan Martin [then head of sport], and I was reinstated."

Given his trenchant comment and unrelenting scrutiny, perhaps his tome should be entitled Cue the Crusader? "I've always had a passion for the game and I wanted to be a voice for reform. But as soon as you try to do that, people try and nail you," he says, alluding to the WPBSA's attempt to discipline him in 2005 over observations he made in Snooker Scene. Everton actually resigned, "but they still attempted to come after me for costs. They're determined to squash me and put me out of business." Not much chance of that, confronted by a character who is angered by "abuses of power" in any walk of life. "Mind you, it's a bit lonely sometimes."

* Published by Mainstream, £17.99