For many sports, speed is a worry. Snooker is no different, as sluggish players and lengthy frames are often used as a point of concern for the sport, an issue that can deter fans.
The dazzling 147 breaks of Ronnie O’Sullivan shine so brightly because of the rhythm with which he plays, the tempo of his game is captivating.
Shot Clock Snooker:
The same, of course, cannot be said for many of The Rocket’s contemporaries. Average snooker shot times are occasionally shown by broadcasters, and it can make for ugly reading.
Some players will agonise over what is a relatively straight forward break, or ponder every feasible outcome of a shot for a minute or more. Such situations are obviously a problem - the snooker shot timer is a major talking point in the sport.
Those who follow the sport devoutly, who know more about snooker than the casual fan, will be fine with those grinding frames, with players taking their time to avoid an error. For others, the pace of play can make them switch off.
Pace Of Play
Football’s VAR is criticised for interrupting the pace of play, slow over rates in Test cricket are bemoaned. Snooker’s fixation with a shot time limit is not an alien debate, it’s a commonplace grievance in sport.
It has become cliché to claim people’s attention spans have shortened. The argument that people demand instant action with limited waiting around is flawed in part, but it’s a particularly puzzling approach to snooker.
This isn’t a sport for highlight after highlight, it’s a laidback rather than edge-of-your-seat watch.
Ronnie O'Sullivan has now made 986 century breaks in professional snooker.— 888sport (@888sport) December 9, 2018
NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX.#UKChampionship pic.twitter.com/xncVsZOu10
Maybe people in power in snooker want to change that balance. Maybe making the sport more attacking alters how it is perceived.
The broader pace of play conversation can become an obsession. A desire to speed things along can be good in small doses, but overdoing it is a gamble. The introduction of a snooker shot clock at every event would be too much.
It can undermine the foundations of what the sport is, and take away so much of what makes it popular. Faster is not always better.
Growing An Audience
While plenty enjoy snooker betting online, there’s obviously room for the sport to grow.
Snooker is searching for popularity, searching for fan bases outside of the select countries that currently dominate the sport.
Of course, much of the drive for expansion is financial. The ability to grow increases the money in the sport, and the majority currently involved would benefit.
Snooker is trying to break out of its current boundaries and discover new audiences. Is the current situation about marketing and exposure? Or is there an underlying problem with the product?
A desperation for new fans can force sports to change. Snooker’s rumination of a shot timer is a perfect example of a sport looking for new fans without considering the impact on its current followers.
The downsides to a timer are easy to overlook, and there’s no question it would be a negative introduction in the mind of many snooker purists.
Hurrying frames along can be done without something as draconian as a timer.
The onus is on referees to reasonably push players towards a shot when the time is right, but to exercise their own judgement to retain the fascinating safety exchanges that prove a test of patience as much as skill.
Snooker Shot Time Limit - No Go?
Sports get embroiled in trying to change what they are. The desire for new fans makes governing bodies jittery, over eager to make fundamental alterations to the way the game is played.
Snooker isn’t exactly a sport of ground-breaking change. It’s rich in tradition, a sport that remains much the same as the days of Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor.
A permanent shot timer would be an historic decision, a move that could influence the game in unforeseen ways.
Pace of play is ultimately an issue for referees to deal with. The inflexibility of a shot timer cannot account for circumstance in the frame or match; it will rush players into mistakes at times.
Referees can push frames along if they give players a nudge here and there without undermining the deep tactical battles that can build tension.
How would a shot timer impact World Snooker Championship betting? Do defensive players get taken out of the game? Does it become more of a battle of long-range potters? A shot timer risks minimising variety.
Some of that variety might be tedious at times, but contrasting styles is a bedrock principle of what makes all sport enjoyable, and that’s absolutely the case in snooker.
Maybe certain competitions want to mix it up with a timer, but snooker would be worse off it became commonplace.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo*