Snooker: Davis fights `boardroom amateurs'

Former world champion seeks solution to a power struggle. By Guy Hodgson
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STEVE DAVIS is a reluctant revolutionary. The administration of snooker, he says, is boring and ought to be left to professionals, yet for much of 1998 he has been at loggerheads with the sport's governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. Events can make firebrands out of anybody.

In June, Davis, along with fellow former world champions, Terry Griffiths and Dennis Taylor, unsuccessfully tried to oust the current WPBSA board with a vote of no confidence and now he and they are preparing for change from within by getting elected on to the executive. The atmosphere, he says, "has not been pleasant".

Davis has been provoked into action because he believes snooker has become too big to be handled by former players. "My chief problem is that we have had amateurs in the boardroom who have made decisions which make them look like incompetents," he said. "Which is unfair because all the people who have been on the board for generations have had the game's interest at heart. But if they appear that way your problems start."

Snooker has many grievances at the moment but the one most pertinent hits the pocket. This has manifested itself most notably in the lack of sponsors for tournaments and a drop in prize-money. Get those right and the rest might, just might, clear themselves up.

"Sponsorship is a funny thing and sports go in and out of fashion," Davis said, "but I think snooker's here to stay and I think we are failing to get our foot in the door of bigger companies. We haven't got the right chief executive who can talk to these people at the proper level. Snooker players pot balls, they spend their lives training to do that, it's unfair to expect them to do more. They are not good in the boardroom or as salesmen. We have never given people from business a proper chance of having an interest in our game and it has to be tried."

Davis can at least see some light in the interim report published last week by the WPBSA's constitutional review committee which proposes wholesale changes to the game's government structure, setting up businesses to run snooker and billiards that will report to a reconstructed board. "If those proposals were given a chance they could be the answer because the board as we know it would relinquish power any- way," he said.

"I don't know if the report will be accepted, but it could be a way forward as it will cut through the problems that have upset the players: the them- and-us situation and the lack of business acumen. At the same time, control will be retained by the players. Hopefully the board will think that way, too."

The WPBSA and their chairman, Rex Williams, preferred not to discuss the current situation. "No interviews or comments will be made by the association regarding any political matters in our sport while the Liverpool Victoria UK Championship is taking place," a statement read, "in order that our sponsors, players and the public can enjoy this prestigious tournament without any external distractions.

"Should anyone else associated with our sport wish to risk losing a loyal and valued sponsor by making political comments at this time there is nothing we can do to stop them. Though this, of course, would be absurd and reckless and is something that would be pointed out to our members."