Snooker: Griffiths plays the peacemaker in divided game
Sunday 01 March 1998
Director of coaching for the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association was an ideal niche for him when he retired from the circuit two years ago after 17 years ranked in the elite top 16. His resignation from the post last Monday, with a pounds 50,000 year left on his contract, was an attempt to prevent the WBPSA destroying itself from within.
On Friday, the 50-year-old former world champion brokered a truce in the civil war which had been raging since the governing body's chairman, Rex Williams, had gained the support of two boardroom colleagues, Jim Meadowcroft and Bob Close, to bring about the summary dismissal of the chief executive, Jim McKenzie, against the wishes of the three other board members.
Aghast at the decision, Ian Doyle, manager of Stephen Hendry, the world No 1, Ken Doherty, the world champion, Ronnie O'Sullivan, the UK champion, and 10 other leading players, said that he would use the voting strength this confers to remove Williams, Meadowcroft and Close at an EGM but this was quickly represented by Williams as an attempt by Doyle to control the game.
Four months of internecine strife have encompassed an acrimonious AGM on 19 December at which Williams controversially ousted two of his boardroom opponents, Mark Wildman and Jim Chambers, but thanks to the diplomacy of Griffiths the EGM, scheduled for next Wednesday, will not take place. Griffiths would not have resigned as director of coaching had he been happy with the current administration but he was mindful of the dangers of destabilisation. This Wednesday was no time for a shoot-out because an alternative government could not immediately be put in place.
Popular and trusted, Griffiths last week gathered enough proxies among players with voting rights - anyone ranked in the top 40 during the last two seasons - to hold the balance of power. Enlisting the support of two friends of long standing, Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor, these three former world champions met Doyle and Williams on Friday, threatening each with support for the other unless truce terms were agreed. There would be no EGM; the WPBSA's ban on Doyle attending tournaments would be rescinded; Hendry would not be hauled before the disciplinary committee for his reaction to McKenzie's dismissal: "Snooker is poisoned from top to bottom."
More significantly, Griffiths, the WPBSA secretary Martyn Blake, and Doyle's No 2 John Gilmour will join an independent lawyer on a constitutional review panel which will recommend a players' board for playing matters and an executive board, recruited from the commercial world and the professions, for business affairs. This will penetrate to the root of many of the WPBSA's problems: a board of players and ex- players dealing with matters beyond their experience.
A chief executive and appropriate management structure will be put in place though questions on a possible role for McKenzie have been ducked by all sides on the grounds that his action against the WPBSA for breach of contract is grinding its way through the legal system. Williams and the current board remain but the truce agreement provides for the recommendations of the review panel to be binding on all disputants. A redefining of roles will follow.
Griffiths was pleased with his peace-making but realistic: "There's a long way to go yet."
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