Snooker: Snookered by authority

Clive Everton explains the implications of a ban imposed on him by the WPBSA
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The Independent Online
IT IS NOT going to be easy covering the Grand Prix in the light of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association banning me from all areas of Preston Guildhall other than "the BBC TV commentary box when I am on air". As Martyn Blake, the WPBSA secretary, put it: "This covers all other areas at WPBSA tournament venues including the auditorium and the press room."

This interferes with my contractual obligations to BBC radio, the Guardian and this newspaper. Covering an event without access to TV monitors and official score sheets poses all sorts of inconveniences.

About 10 days ago, I got wind that the WPBSA Board might do this. I was invited to attend a board meeting last Monday to discuss what they claim were serious allegations against me in their in-house publication In The Frame but I replied that it contained serious libels and inaccuracies which I would analyse at a time and in a manner of my choosing.

Their invitation to appear in the lions' den seemed odd considering they have no disciplinary jurisdiction over me. Readers may remember the constitutional technicality whereby I was deprived of WPBSA playing and other membership rights: less than six months after honorary membership was conferred I was told that this was renewable annually by the board. Had I continued to pay my membership fees, I could not have been expelled without charge or trial.

The banning letter was dated Wednesday 14 October but was handed to me only at 7pm on Friday when I arrived at the Guildhall. The timing made an immediate response through lawyers or other means at the end of a working week more difficult.

Blake and the WPBSA's head of media relations, Brian Radford, had met with BBC TV earlier but it seems the BBC were reluctant to co-operate in any action which might be interpreted as a governing body exercising right of veto on a commentator for an event for which they had paid rights fees.

The present WPBSA regime has not liked several critical articles in Snooker Scene, which I have edited for 27 years, although they have never claimed, let alone proved, a material inaccuracy in them.

However, the In The Frame article about me contains extraordinary distortions, mostly difficult to summarise for those not involved in snooker minutiae but including an unfounded allegation that I leaked confidential information when I was briefly a WPBSA board member seven - yes, seven - years ago.

I have instructed Rhory Robertson to issue a writ for libel on my behalf. He is already representing Jim McKenzie, briefly the WPBSA chief executive, whose summary dismissal on 1 December provoked the civil war which has engulfed snooker to this day. The High Court action is due to be heard on 11 January.

Robertson is also representing Mirror Group Newspapers in the libel action brought by WPBSA when the Mirror claimed a cover-up in the disclosure of the results of an internal inquiry into allegedly excessive expense claims.