Snooker: Davis and Co fall short of clean break

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SNOOKER'S OLD guard just clung on to power yesterday, ensuring that an uneasy peace at best will break out within the sport, even if there is an end to the current in-fighting.

Former world champions, Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor, and Jason Ferguson, who wished to overthrow the current chairman, Rex Williams, were elected on to the board of the governing body at the World Professional Billiards Association's annual meeting yesterday, but will be in a minority.

The vote by the 77 eligible members in a Birmingham hotel also formally elected co-opted directors Ray Reardon and Jim McMahon which ensures Williams will have a four-three advantage in the board room. The dissenters have gained influence but not power.

After the five-hour meeting both sides called for a settlement of differences which centred on snooker's inability to secure sponsors even though the sport commands high television figures. Terry Griffiths, who withdrew his candidature midway through the afternoon, said: "I didn't want to be part of a split board. I didn't think that was the best thing for the members or for me."

Taylor added: "We don't need all this haggling and fighting because it's not healthy... Now that Steve, Jason and myself are on the board we can take the game forward. Snooker's a great product. It appeals to all ages."

Williams, whose own position of chairman was not up for re-election but who could have been ousted if another rebel had been voted in, was also placatory. "Everybody should be pleased with the outcome. There will be no problems created by me but I don't know what problems might be created by those with self-interests. I was disappointed Terry withdrew his name because he would have given us a better balanced board. Now we have got to try and get some unity into the game. There is no animosity between myself, Steve and Dennis."

Snooker, politically never the most benign of environments, has been racked with division since Jim McKenzie, the chief executive, was removed from office a year ago. He is suing the WPBSA for breach of contract, a case that will be heard in the High Court on 11 January, but he is by no means the only casualty of the civil war that has erupted since. The tournament director, Ann Yates, who had worked in the sport since 1976, and Bruce Beckett, head of media relations, left the governing body during the summer after clashing with Williams while the sport's Independent on Sunday correspondent, Clive Everton, has had his life membership of the WPBSA revoked and been denied normal press facilities at tournaments. Further trouble could be ahead, too, because Sindhu Pulsirivong, president of the Thai Snooker and Billiards Association, has threatened to prevent tournaments taking part in Thailand if Williams remains in power.