THE Woollastons laid down a pretty strong claim for being declared snooker’s No1 family at the BetVictor Welsh Open in Cardiff.

Tatiana refereed eight matches including her first on TV at a major ranking tournament while husband Ben produced his best ever performance at a ranking event.

And the picture was completed on the day of the final as their young son Edward, together with Ben’s mum Joy, joined the party after being driven down to Wales from Leicester by Mark Selby. There’s a bit of name-dropping Woollaston junior can do in the future.

Tatiana, 28, originally hails from the boat-building city of Pinsk in Belarus, and moved to the capital Minsk where she first became involved in refereeing at a local level. As she became involved with World Snooker she met Ben at the Paul Hunter Classic in Furth in 2010. The pair were married the following year.

As Ben moves up the rankings so Tatiana’s stock is also rising and she may well be thrown into the tense hothouse of the World Championship qualifiers in May as the next step in he progression.”

She said: “It is the first time I have refereed TV matches in a main ranking tournament, previously I had done European Tour and PTC events in Germany, Belgium, Poland and Romania – this is different, a big step up for a referee.

“But even if the profile and the importance are higher, it shouldn’t make any difference. You use your knowledge, training and experience to do the best match.

 “During the Ali Carter v Matt Selt match Ben was actually playing in the arena a couple of tables down, but you have to be disciplined in that situation and have eyes only for your table and your players. It is difficult in one way but obviously the main thing is to be professional at all times.

“I am not allowed to referee Ben, there wasn’t even a formal discussion about it but I think it was just obvious and common sense to everyone. And I wouldn’t want to.

“But in any other situation it shouldn’t matter that I am Ben’s wife if I am doing a good job. I get a lot of great feedback from players, I don’t know if they are being polite to me because I am Ben’s wife but they are normally pretty straightforward and honest. They might just crack a few jokes and say Ben is a lucky man having a referee for his wife!

“As for the rest of the season I will be doing the Gydnia Open in Poland and hopefully the World

“I never played but watched snooker on Eurosport in Belarus, then I moved to Minsk where there were clubs and tables and asked to train to be a referee. We still go to a particular club in Minsk now, Ben coaches some of the kids from time to time.

“So I refereed locally, then did the European Amateur Championships in St Petersburg in 2008, and then invited to do the Paul Hunter Classic, a first World Snooker event in 2010 – also where I met Ben. I think it was love at first sight – from his side, anyway! And as I started to do more events we got married in 2011, and I moved to the UK and we live in Glenfield outside Leicester.

“I would love to referee more but I have a full-time job at the moment working in customer services in the international department of Next at their HQ in Leicester. I speak Russian and that is very useful for the company as the brand is very big in Russia.

“It does make it more difficult to referee because I can’t get holidays whenever I want to travel, and we get maybe a month’s notice from World Snooker which often is not enough time to get holiday.

“But I cannot give up the full-time job at the moment and we are very grateful to Ben’s mum who looks after our son Edward a lot for us, she is very supportive and without her we couldn’t do what we do. Everyone knows how costly nurseries and nannies can be.”

Ben admits he always hopes no controversial incidents crop up when watching Tatiana at work – but knows she is more than capable of dealing with them if they should arise.

He said: “First and foremost it’s just nice that in a week like this one she is here and at the tournament with me, because often that wouldn’t be the case for a normal wife or girlfriend.

“I have watched her refereeing a bit this week but to be honest I get more nervous watching her referee than I do about myself playing.

“Luckily she seemed to do very well when I was watching. I know she is very good and I don’t expect any issues in her games, but you just want it to go well for her.”


Photograph courtesy of World Snooker