Hearn sets sights on Berlin rankings event
New snooker chief Barry Hearn has already made a big impact since taking charge of the sport: introducing entrance music to revitalise its appeal to the masses just one of his early marks on the game.
The 61-year-old, who also chairs the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), has now revealed that his next big plan is to introduce a rankings event to Berlin by February 2011 – moving a step closer to cracking the European market.
Although German promoters Dragonstars have insisted that suggestions a deal has been signed are premature, they have confirmed that negotiations have begun.
Before any deal is signed, though, there are rumours that the venue could even be changed to Munich. The popularity of the sport in Germany is the key factor why Hearn is determined to introduce a ranking event to the country, and the snooker chief is keen to select the most appropriate destination.
Currently there are no German players on the pro tour, but the non-ranking Paul Hunter Classic held in Furth, is always a big hit with the Germans, attracting large crowds as well as the sport’s top players.
“The basis of the game is good,” Hearn told the BBC after Sunday’s Masters final.
“It just needs a few simple things to freshen it up. Europe is right up there at the forefront of my plans.”
This year’s Masters has captured the imagination of the public – both those inside Wembley Arena and those watching on television. And although a few snooker purists may have been sceptical of Hearn’s initial impact with regards to the entrance music, it’s hard to deny that it didn’t raise a lot more smiles, while letting the players’ personalities shine through a little more in the process.
The surge in popularity with the darts over recent years is largely down to Hearn’s influence, and the likes of world No. 1 Ronnie O’Sullivan are now expecting snooker to follow suit and to subsequently flourish under his management.
Hearn only became chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association last month, but has already lightened up the sport during his first major tournament in charge. And the Masters final between O’Sullivan and Selby was evidence that the added entrance music takes nothing away from the quality of the matches.
While a deal is struck out to introduce a rankings event to Germany, another more unconventional plan for an intriguing single-frame tournament has also been drawn-up.
The idea is that the sport’s top 64 players will all compete in a one-frame shoot-out, and the winner will receive a cheque for £32,000. With 12 minutes per frame and a 20-second shot clock, it’s an entirely different premise to every other snooker tournament around at the moment, although snooker fans will remember the hugely popular Pot Black which ran throughout the 1970s and 80s.
The equivalent of a penalty shoot-out in football, there would be no margin for error and a true test of a players resolve in unfamiliar circumstances.
Despite concerns of the sport gradually moving away from its traditional roots, the sport needs to evolve to ensure it doesn’t die – and this is why Hearn has been appointed. In less than two months, the snooker chief has revitalised elements of the game, and in general the supporters have responded very positively.
Expanding the sport’s profile across Europe can only be a good thing for the game, too, and snooker fans appear to have every reason to be optimistic for the near future.