This article is not really about research and/or scheduling but as I have an interest in snooker, I thought that I would publish it.
A stately, gentleman’s club past-time has become a big noise, with big pockets. Snooker’s world championships celebrates its 90th anniversary and its 40th appearance at Sheffield’s iconic Crucible Theatre this year, an event which offers a chance to chart the sport’s intriguing evolution.
The tournament’s permanent move to the Crucible in 1977 marked the start of what is now seen as the modern era of the game. It also ended a nomadic period in which it had made stops at Nottingham, Chesterfield, Kettering, Blackpool, and even Jersey and South Africa. Since then, we have witnessed the creation of dominant stars: Ray Reardon in the 1970s; Steve Davis in the 1980s; Stephen Hendry in the 1990s. New icons of the game have made their names at the Crucible too. Players like two-time world champion Alex Higgins, five times winner, Ronnie O’Sullivan and the eternal runner-up Jimmy White who appeared in six finals — five of them consecutively — but was never crowned champion.
Perhaps most memorably, at the height of snooker’s popularity in 1985, the extravagantly bespectacled Northern Irishman Dennis Taylor came back from 8-0 down to win on the final black ball. You might also have caught O’Sullivan’s 5m 20s maximum break 20 years ago.
Back in 1977, the winner got £6,000, out of a total prize fund of £17,000. In 2000 this had risen to £240,000, with a total prize fund of £1,460,000. This year the winner will walk away with £375,000, from an overall prize fund of £1,750,000.
The highest break prize is another indicator that shows the rise in the prize fund. It was £500 in 1977 and this year it will £20,000.
Qualification to the World Championships is automatic for the top 16 ranked players, the other sixteen are decided by a qualifying tournament, which takes places in the two weeks preceding the televised tournament wild at the Crucible. This may seem a little unfair, particularly if you are ranked 17 and have to go through the qualifying stages.
It is also interesting to look at the prize money won by some players who are multiple world champions. It is another way of seeing how the prize money has risen:
– Ray Reardon: 6 times (1970 [£1,225], 1973 [£1,500], 1974 [£2,000], 1975 [$AUD 7,500], 1976 [£6,000], 1978 [£7,500]): TOTAL: £22,725
– Steve Davis: 6 times (1981 [£20,000], 1983 [£30,000], 1984 [£44,000], 1987 [£80,000], 1988 [£95,000], 1989 [£105,000]): TOTAL: £374,000
– John Higgins: 4 times (1998 [£220,000], 2007 [£220,000], 2009 [£250,000], 2011 [£250,000]): TOTAL: £940,000
– Stephen Hendry: 7 times (1990 [£120,000], 1992 [£150,000], 1993 [£175,000], 1994 [£180,000], 1995 [£190,000], 1996 [£200,000], 1999 [£230,000]): TOTAL: £1,245,000
– Ronnie O’Sullivan: 5 times (2001 [£260,000], 2004 [£250,000], 2008 [£250,000], 2012 [£250,000], 2013 [£250,000]): TOTAL: £1,260,000
Ray Reardon and Ronnie O’Sullivan are at the start and end of the period under study. Reardon won a total of £22,725. At the time Ray Reardon won his last title, his total winnings would be worth about £120,000 . Ronnie O’Sullivan, despite having one less title, won about 10 times that amount in prize money, demonstrating how the prize money has risen in real terms.
The rise of the Far East
Given the prize money available, and the celebratory status that can come come with being a top snooker player, it is not surprising that the the game has become increasingly popular over the past 40 years. A lot of this is down to [Barry Hearn](http://www.bbc.com/sport/snooker/25108165), who revitalised the sport and has been instrumental in promoting the sport in other countries such as China and India. He recently [said](http://www.bbc.com/sport/snooker/39448934) “China will become the snooker superpower within the next decade.”
In 1977, the last 16 players were from the following countries:
– England: 8
– Wales: 2
– Northern Ireland: 2
– Republic of Ireland: 1
– Australia: 1
– Canada: 1
– South Africa: 1
Last year the last 32 were made up as follows:
– England: 18
– Scotland: 5
– Wales: 3
– Northern Ireland: 1
– China: 3
– Hong Kong: 1
– Australia: 1
Snooker is still dominated by the the UK, particularly those from England, but the it can only be a matter of time before a player from the Far East wins the World Championship. China, in particular, has seen a [dramatic increase](http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32429022) the number of players, the number of tournaments that it hosts and the popularity amongst supporters.
The 16 automatic entry to the World Championship will have three Far East players; Ding Junhui — China (ranked 4), Marco Fu — Hong Kong (ranked 9) and Liang Wenbo — China (ranked 13). Perhaps, this year, will be the one where the Far East makes the big breakthrough that is surely only a matter of time and somebody from China or Hong Kong lifts the trophy on the 1st May.