Snooker: Has it gone to pot?

by Robert Tait

IN THE UK in decades past, snooker was a big deal. In the present day, has it all gone to pot?

Ask a snooker fanatic to pick a most remembered highlight; you would wager a large portion plumping for the famed 1985 World Championship final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor, with Taylor the victor.

A May 2017 BBC Sport poll asked readers to vote for their favourite World Championship moment with 55% of the votes cast for this final.

With an estimated 18.5 million viewers on BBC2 (a record that still stands for the channel), a near quarter of the population watched this match with all eyes on the now legendary final black ball.

Since this glorious moment, Snooker has certainly skyrocketed and entered a new stratosphere with the emergence of viewers from China and other eastern Asian countries.

Thanks largely to Ding Junhui, China has become a colossal majority in viewership for the sport.

Not since the days of Thailand’s James Wattana has an Asian player garnered so much national hysteria.

This was showcased when Ding Junhui made the final of the 2016 World Championship, the first time an Asian player has managed this feat.

A tweet from World Snooker in April 2016 reported that 27.1% of the Chinese population watched the semi-final win against Alan McManus, which is 340 million viewers.

In an interview with Desmond Kane of Eurosport, also in April 2016, Ding Junhui said, “They will be going crazy back home for this”. “Around 100m people will be watching me, and this is the smallest figure probably”.

With Ding Junhui currently third in the World Snooker rankings, the attraction for Snooker is only going to thrive.

The power of sport evokes so much in humans.

Having a national celebrity regarded as one of the current best players will always increase numbers of participants and, in the case of Ding Junhui, has inspired a new generation of Asian players to pick up a cue and try their hand on the baize.

The current top 100 ranked snooker players now have 22 Asian players with a large percentage hailing from China.

China, historically, have not excelled in sport but are now rapidly catching up with the Western world having viewing figures regularly in the millions will only push the country in to the higher echelons of sporting prowess.

With the global population ever increasing, a prediction must be made to suggest that viewing figures for Snooker will only ever incline.

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