Snooker: Davis takes hard task on board

Clive Everton studies snooker's options after a turbulent week
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A VOTE of confidence in the chairmanship of Rex Williams or a victory for procedure over principle? Either way, Wednesday's annual meeting of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association still left the game split in a manner which is going to take more than Williams's simple call for "unity" to resolve.

As last week's Independent on Sunday envisaged, the challenge of Terry Griffiths, the leader of the opposition, did not leave the starting blocks. The establishment already had four men on the board of seven before Dennis Taylor, Steve Davis and Jason Ferguson were elected. With 14 candidates for five vacancies, the defending board ruled that each would be considered singly in an order of its own choosing.

Since Williams himself and his colleague Bob Close do not have to stand for re-election until next year, the establishment were assured of a majority as soon as Ray Reardon, 37-34, and Jim McMahon, 38-34, were re-elected.

Griffiths immediately withdrew his candidacy, although several establishment supporters have signified a strong desire to see him elected. "I don't want to be part of a split board," said the 1979 world champion.

Griffiths belongs to the least-said-soonest-mended school of quotesmiths but, having resigned his pounds 60,000-a-year consultancy as the WPBSA's director of coaching in February because he felt he could not work with certain key figures in the hierarchy, it can be inferred that he was no keener to work with them from a minority position on the board.

Reardon, the chairman of the coaching committee, was six times world champion in the 1970s. His striking television personality helped sell snooker to a mass audience and his professionalism was admired even by those who point out that, like virtually every board member of the last 20 years, he has no significant business experience.

But even so, a few anti- establishment players in an electorate comprising the top 64 in the world rankings for the past two years plus the board itself, were reluctant to vote against him in much the same way that McMahon, a gruff Glaswegian driving instructor who for three years managed his nephew Alan McManus, pulled in votes from the otherwise broadly anti- establishment Scots.

David Taylor and Jim Meadowcroft, the other two sitting members, lost their seats, 43-30 and 40-32 respectively but, with Griffiths withdrawing, the proceedings ended in anti- climax. Dennis Taylor, the 1985 world champion, was elected 39-33 and Steve Davis, six times world champion in the 1980s, and Jason Ferguson, the world No 35 from Mansfield, by an overwhelming show of hands.

No one knows how many votes Mark Wildman, Mark Johnston-Allan, Griffiths or Jim Chambers would have polled. For the first time, the Electoral Reform Society observed the count but in future should surely both distribute and receive all votes in order to institute a secret ballot. This would reduce the unseemly scrambling for proxies on both sides.

Davis has been saddened by the poverty of ambition showed by some players: "It's amazing to me that anyone in the top 64 could be influenced to vote for the board through getting pounds 1,000 a season to wear the the WPBSA logo." He dismisses the establishment's persistent cry that Ian Doyle, the game's leading manager, wants to take over as "a joke" .

"So many players have got `Doyleitis', they're prepared to harm their own futures. Unless we try a different route, we'll never know what could be achieved. This is the only way we can break the cycle of players being in charge when they are not qualified."

How will such sentiments be received at the new board's first meeting?