A NEW COMPANY has been formed to promote women’s snooker under the direction of World Snooker.
World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Limited (WLBS) says it “will be actively promoting Ladies Snooker not only in the UK but also worldwide. Our philosophy is to encourage participation from the grass roots through to elite competition.”
The WLBS board is made up of:
Mandy Fisher - President
Sharon Kaur - Vice President and Sports Development Director
Vicky Shirley - Company Secretary
Diana Schuler - Marketing Director
Clive Brown – Finance Director/Tournament Director
Nigel Mawer - Discipline and Governance
Jason Ferguson - Advisor to the Board
Mandy Fisher’s presence as president is a good start because nobody has witnessed the shifting sands of the women’s game at closer quarters than Mandy, a player herself and someone who has devoted great time to trying to gain ladies snooker more recognition.
It has been a battle. Allison Fisher beat several top ranked male players in her day but realised there was a much better living to be made on the American pool circuit, where she enjoyed success as ‘The Duchess of Doom.’
Karen Corr and Kelly Fisher, two more women’s world champions, followed her across the pond. Reanne Evans did not and has for the last decade been the queen of the ladies game, winning ten world titles, although missing out earlier this year when Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee took the spoils.
There is no men’s tour, just the professional tour. In years past, when the game was open, women played on it but the current circuit is made up entirely of men.
Evans has had some good results and ran Ken Doherty very close in the first round of qualifying for the World Championship but the base of female participation is relatively low.
Driving up standards depends on driving up participation levels but for this to happen girls have to see women’s snooker on television. 25 years ago, Barry Hearn got some of the Women’s World Championship on satellite TV but when the top players left to play pool, interest stalled.
In 1997, the WPBSA took the women’s game under its wing and staged its major finals at main tour venues during tournaments such as the UK Championship, Welsh Open and World Championship.
Tickets were free but the finals weren’t always well advertised and therefore not exactly sell-outs. The last women’s final at the Crucible infamously saw the two finalists arrive in time to play only to find the balls locked in a cupboard, resulting in a hunt for someone with a key.
Ferguson is someone committed to grass roots snooker so this tie-up, while not revolutionising women’s snooker, should at least give it a shove in the right direction.
This is becoming a more important issue generally. The International Olympic Committee look more kindly on sports with proven track records in catering for both sexes while the BBC already televise parts of the women’s world darts and bowls championships.
“During 2015/16 we have 5 tournaments running including the World Championships,” say WLBS. “Our aim is to have a minimum of 6 UK based tournaments a year and a standardised ranking system which would incorporate events held worldwide, allowing ladies to move up the rankings with increased participation at events.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.