VERA SELBY, the first ever women’s world champion, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Selby, 85, (no relation to Mark) is a well known figure within cue sports in the north of England and beyond. She won the women’s World Championship in its inaugural year, 1976, and regained it in 1981.
In addition, Selby won the British billiards title nine times, has been a referee and examiner and had a brief career as a BBC television commentator in the early 1980s. She also appeared on the popular TV quiz show Countdown.
Something of a trailblazer for women in cue sports, she was once turned away by a doorman when she turned up with her playing partner, Ray Lennox, for a North East Championship semi-final at a working men’s club. When the secretary of the club was informed he agreed to make an exception, knowing Vera Selby’s reputation as a player.
Interviewed recently by the Northern Echo, she said: “I’m tired of reading of people in their 50s and 60s acting and talking like they’re old. It’s about keeping active. I’d be bored to tears if I sat in the house all day.”
All of snooker’s living multi-world champions have an honour of some kind with one glaring exception – Ronnie O’Sullivan. It may be felt that O’Sullivan’s often colourful past somehow precludes him from an honour but in terms of sporting achievement he is an outstanding case. Also, there have been plenty of people from the entertainment industry with somewhat dodgy pasts who have been honoured, not to mention politicians and donors to political parties.
Another good case for an honour is World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, who built up his Matchroom organisation from humble beginnings in the back room of a snooker club to become a great British sporting success story.
And few have done more to evangelise snooker’s cause than Clive Everton over the course of five decades as a journalist, commentator, player and editor.
Of course, many people believe the honours system is fundamentally flawed but, if there is to be one, snooker should get as fair a shake as any other sport.