Snooker is smothered in the crowded world of elite sport. It requires immense skill, yet snooker has not broken into wider sports betting conversation like golf, another slow-paced, precision-based sport.
There are reasons for snooker being no more than a live betting afterthought for most sports fans.
Part of the challenge in the 2020s is competing with the instant-highlight nature of everything from popular culture to viral clips, even before we get to the heavy hits of the NFL, dunks of the NBA or can’t-avoid-it nature of the Premier League.
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Snooker isn’t alone in its desire to improve, or at least become more marketable. Shot-clock discussion has been a long-running topic.
New formats have been implemented to spice things up. But, like Test cricket, golf and other sports, the very essence of snooker is going to put off some. That is natural, of course.
Still, there is a reasonable argument to be made that the best British snooker players should be much bigger names than they are right now.
Aside from Ronnie O’Sullivan, how many snooker players are known by the wider community of casual sports fans? Maybe a handful.
Small Audience Worldwide
A limited interest in the UK speaks to how overlooked snooker is. This is predominantly a British-played sport with just four world champions from outside Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.
The 2022 World Championship final peaked at an audience of over four million, the highest mark for eight years. O’Sullivan’s presence in the final is the core factor here.
Like Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton or Simone Biles, O’Sullivan transcends the sport. His interviews power the social output of snooker channels, and his personality is well-known by those who have no more than a passing interest in the baize.
Snooker would get more recognition with a more diverse player pool, and that was evident in the 2016 final when Ding Junhui faced Mark Selby. Over 200 million reportedly tuned in in China.
The UK-centric core of snooker doesn’t help with trying to lure in neutrals.
Part-time tennis predictions fans can get behind the Brits at Wimbledon. The Ashes turns the spotlight onto cricket. The Six Nations engages casual rugby followers in a tidal wave of patriotism.
Even football benefits from an uptick in interest around major tournaments. There is no comparable occasion in snooker.
Skill Hard To Portray On TV
As with other slower sports, the lure of snooker is the strategy and skill of those at the top.
While a cautious passage of safety shots can be understood through insightful commentary and a TV screen, the actual difficulty of what the players are trying to do does not come across.
Screwing the ball back to set up the pink is made to look so easy. Tucking the white on the cushion and blocking any potential pots seems like a routine shot.
Of course, these are often straight-forward for the professionals, but the sheer size of a snooker table and the immense ability required to execute even the standard shots is not obvious when watching on TV.
The sport looks too easy. Snooker isn’t laden with drama. To appreciate it, watchers need to be able to get a grasp of how incredibly skilful these people are.
That isn’t easy, or even possible, through television. The best way to understand how hard this sport is: Give it a go yourself. That seemingly regulation black into the corner pocket won’t seem so straight-forward.
Snooker might never get the recognition it deserves. But it doesn’t take seismic changes for the sport to grow.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*