Ronnie O’Sullivan’s semi-final victory over Barry Hawkins with a session to spare at this year’s World Championship handed tournament director Mike Ganley the extra headache of trying to sort out at relatively short notice an exhibition worth of the £45 ticket price for a disappointed sell-out audience.
This is not always as easy as it sounds even with a host of current and former greats in the building, since many were contractually obliged to fulfil commitments with the BBC and even those that weren’t might have had things arranged on a rare afternoon off.
In the end Ganley did very well to cajole seven-time champion Hendry into taking part, up against the 1997 winner Ken Doherty who was released by his broadcaster employers. Dennis Taylor, the 1985 champion who had by all accounts not brought his cue with him, was the MC and gag-meister for the occasion which seemed to go down pretty well in the circumstances.
The episode did though once again raise the issue of what should happen in this situation, despite the fact that currently the World Snooker T&Cs on the Crucible tickets make clear that no refunds would be guaranteed, and players appear circumstances permitting (including finishing early). Complaints from disappointed fans on social media were not hard to find.
In cricket, if you buy a ticket for a Test match on days one to four of a scheduled five, there is a standard ECB refund policy on a sliding percentage scale should there be play lost to bad weather or finishes early, based on the number of overs seen. This can be a full refund if 10 or fewer overs are seen.
The policy does not however cover Day Five, which is the closest equivalent to a snooker final session of four given the match could also be over for non-weather reasons. Individual venues can make the call for the final day in cricket. In the third Test against Australia at Lord’s last year, which England won on day four (and doesn’t that seem a long time ago), full refunds were issued for day five by Lord’s.
Paying roughly £45 including fees for the final session of a semi-final is a risk, because the nature of snooker is that what did happen, can happen. But then it is a risk buying a cricket ticket for an outdoor event in this country, and the policy can differ.
On a personal note, I think punters ought to be offered the choice. Many, having paid for travel and hotels, would probably watch the exhibition anyway.