Baize of Glory
New snooker chief Barry Hearn reveals his plans for bringing back the glory days on the baize.
By Paul Higham
Last Updated: 11/03/10 2:43pm
New snooker chief Barry Hearn has revealed to skysports.com about his plans for turning the sport around and bringing back the glory days on the baize by taking it global.
Hearn made the draw for the Betfred.com World Championship in London and promised to take the sport to a new level - just as he has done with darts which now packs out arenas up and down the country in the Premier League.
A love of snooker is in Hearn's blood, as he was first involved in the game back in 1974, and he is now working hard to bring it out of the doldrums and first it back to prominence around the world.
"It's a big job," Hearn told skysports.com "It's exciting, as I get a bit older I look for things that give me an extra spur. Everything with me is business, but my business is my pleasure so it's difficult to disassociate the two.
"I'm lucky because I tend to just put things on TV that are my hobbies and people throw money at me, so it's a very good job to have!
"It's a crucial stage we're at in snooker's revitalisation, and the World Championships is the beginning of where we want to go on from, it's just the start of the story.
"It's an enthralling two-week soap opera, there's some new characters coming up that will astound you and some old favourites that in your heart you will want to win, it's got all the ingredients of captivating the nation for a couple of weeks like it has been doing for years."
There will be changes at the Crucible this year, but it will not be the razzamatazz of the darts, and more will be done off the table to improve the overall experience.
"We're going to do a lot more interaction between the players and the crowds, but more probably off the table," added Hearn. "You've got a product like the World Championships that doesn't need changing but we need to improve the experience of the people who pay to buy a ticket.
"But it's not going to be sex, drugs and rock and roll or like darts with entrances and that, as this is our blue riband event and we don't want to change it.
"The changes will come elsewhere, we'll have a whole new calendar by the time the World Championships start with a lot more events, a lot more prize money, and we're going to shock the world.
"We're talking to Sky at the moment about a really crazy, rock and roll, event that will be part of the new way of going forward.
"We'll keep the World Championships and UK the same, but the Grand Prix will change and be renamed the World Open, but the other new events have got to have a shorter format and have to appeal to a younger audience.
"We need a bit more action on the table and a lot more demand for people to come and watch live sport, I want to get these arenas full up, we know how to do it, we've shown we can do it and we're going to do it with snooker."
The stuffy waistcoats and long, drawn out matches will be ditched in all but the top two events, with the aim to make each trip to the snooker a different experience.
"We'll be ditching the waistcoats for some events, but the main thing is I want each event to look different so there'll be a lot of different formats and different looks," said Hearn.
"The Premier League on Sky is the big marquee event throughout the world - and there you can see the difference with the World Championship being the best of 19 frames and upwards while the Premier League is a great tournament around the world and its one night crash, bang, wallop, all over experience, and it has a whole new younger audience."
Snooker is already huge in the Far East, and along with expanding the number of tournaments out there, Hearn also believes there is an untapped love of snooker in Europe.
"I've just come back from Singapore, there's a couple of tournaments out there already in China and I'm sure there'll be a couple more, such is the popularity of the sport out there," he added.
"We're going to invest in countries in Europe, and Eastern Europe, there'll be a new tournament in Germany and possibly more as the game is growing out there. It's such an exciting time in snooker and with all the players pulling in the same direction we can bring back the glory days."