Snooker: Conspiracy theory of an unpopular regime

Ian Doyle, the snooker manager, responds to criticism from chairman of the WPBSA, Rex Williams
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The Independent Online
REX WILLIAMS'S article in last week's Independent on Sunday was long on innuendo, insinuation and rhetoric, but short on specifics. If he has been "horrified by the way in which Doyle has persistently tried to influence our affairs", he should quote examples or remain silent.

What exactly was "the direction in which [Williams] was being asked to go which would be detrimental to the game"? In the absence of any clarification would readers of his article have assumed that I was up to something discreditable? Or would the more discerning of them have dismissed this as unsubstantiated eyewash?

Williams, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, states that at the AGM two board members whom I was supporting did not achieve re-election. What he does not say is that lawyers acting for Mark Wildman and Jim Chambers were granted an injunction in the High Court nullifying this outcome and prohibiting the Williams board either from making co-options or entering into contracts.

Contrary to previous custom and practice, without prior notice and on an extremely flimsy pretext, Williams had disqualified the votes of Wildman and Chambers. This left Wildman defeated 25-23 and the Chambers vote at 24-24 with Williams using his casting vote to oust Chambers. From Williams' point of view the AGM may have "run without a hitch" but, again contrary to custom and practice, he ruled without notice that no proxy holder would be allowed to ask questions on any matter including the accounts.

He rightly supposed that he would otherwise have been "given a rough time" as very few players have the temerity or appreciation of WPBSA business to ask searching questions. Their interests have tended to be represented on these occasions by their managements but these voices were on this occasion undemocratically stifled.

I am sorry that Williams finds it distasteful that I should manage 14 of the WPBSA's 50 full voting members. However, does part of the answer lie in other managements not delivering to their clients the range of services and contracts that mine does?Williams did not mention this distaste a year ago when my votes were instrumental in disposing of an administration whose gross mismanagement he agreed at the time was bringing snooker to its knees.

Williams does not mention either that my support of him and boardroom colleagues of his selection including Wildman and Chambers was conditional on the association's day- to-day business being run by a chief executive within a proper manage- ment structure. Jim McKenzie, the chief executive Williams welcomed so enthusiastically in July, was making a solid start until Williams began to feel that he was not getting his desired share of the limelight.

Suddenly, Williams became obsessed with the conspiracy theory which led him to accuse McKenzie of working to "a secret agenda with other connected persons". He instigated McKenzie's summary dismissal and pushed it through with three of the six Board members against it. McKenzie is now suing the association for breach of contract and if there is a libel action to follow, the WPBSA constitution provides for Williams to defend it with the players' money. Williams complains that "confidential information was leaking out of the WPBSA office" - just the sort of thing that does tend to happen from within unpopular regimes.

However, Williams would certainly have my support in ascertaining how the WPBSA letter of 2 January, threatening to ban Stephen Hendry - indeed, all my players - if I made remarks the Board did not like, come to be reproduced in the News of the World before Stephen knew of it.

Snooker is a wonderful product which has, by and large, been badly managed over two decades. I have had two terms on the board which were the most frustrating periods of my business life. How can you conduct a business with people who have had no experience of running a company?

My desire is to see an independent board of businessmen from the professions and commerce to head up a managing board, with a chief executive and a management structure responsible to the Board. A players' board would be a side issue to take care of all playing matters. Snooker could then look forward to a prosperous future.

If Williams' "special resolution for 1998 is to bring unity and integrity back in to professional snooker", he could make a start by resigning the chairmanship before he is ousted on a no-confidence vote, as he was in 1987.