It may not have made too many big headlines, but Inside Snooker was interested to see the link-up between Shaun Murphy and the ISM global sports management company.
The Cheshire-based organisation was founded by former pro golfer Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler and handles the careers of some huge names, notably in that sport and cricket.
No one can know how long this link will last but it looks a solid one, and there is little doubt that the deal puts Murphy into a snooker category almost on his own in terms of future opportunities, profile and sponsorship streams.
Murphy is a very talented snooker player with already considerable achievements to his name, notably a world title, and the other two ‘Majors’ making up the Triple Crown, the UK Championship and the Masters.
Should he have won more? Probably, but there may well be more to come, as Murphy is back regularly competing at the business end after some lean years of near-misses and endless semi-final losses.
Murphy said: “I couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity of working together with ISM. Within five minutes of sitting down to chat with the company’s founder Chubby Chandler I was really keen for us to team up. Chubby’s passion for sport, not least snooker, really impressed me.
“I believe ISM’s extensive knowledge of sports management and range of contacts will be a massive ‘plus’ for me. I’m also hoping he can fix me up with the odd nice game of golf or two in the future!”
Chandler said: “It’s really exciting to be involved in a new sport and to start with one of the very best. Shaun’s record speaks for itself. He’s also a great guy and we can’t wait to start working with him.”
But why is it Murphy who has earned the right to become ISM’s first major snooker client, alongside golfers Danny Willett, Louis Oosthuizen, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood – and cricketers Stuart Broad, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Michael Vaughan?
You’d struggle to claim that Murphy, good as he is, is head-and-shoulders the best player out there on tour, or that he is the biggest box office attraction in the game.
And yet it is Murphy that has been handed the keys to that most precious of doors, a potential route to a far more mainstream profile outside the snooker bubble, and all the positive spin-offs that could herald – and these are not just financial and sponsorship spin-offs.
Many would claim Ronnie O’Sullivan was by a distance the best player and biggest box office star, and yet this kind of fully professional arrangement has not always suited the Rocket in the past.
Perhaps having mellowed in his 40s, O’Sullivan is currently with a management set-up that encourages his work with Eurosport, and also opens doors to current projects like the History UK USA ‘Rocket Ronnie’s American Hustle’ road-trip, getting up close and personal with the world of snooker’s distant cousin pool.
However this has come relatively late in his career – and Murphy is now well placed to be able to accept similar offers should they come along.
This might surprise some people but if I was ISM and 'Chubby', who loves his snooker and visits the Crucible at World Championship time, I too would have picked Murphy of the current crop.
Why? After all he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and has had the odd run-in with other players.
Well, he is a contender for starters. He has won big titles, and should win more. And he plays in the vast majority of events. And he plays a brand of snooker that is good to watch. He is reliable, turning up when he says he will. And he is also good with the media, not inhibited from speaking his mind and criticising the authorities where appropriate but always mindful of his duty as an ambassador to the sport.
And it is worth making the point not least to some elements of the WPBSA disciplinary committee that ‘being an ambassador for the sport’ does not mean always being nice about official cloths, tables and balls – but a wider appreciation of the need to make yourself available, and get a minority sport as much coverage as possible.
Murphy will take snooker to new territories and do all the PR donkey work that some other players try and get out of, and if there are players out there wondering just how he has got this deal, then that – along with the help of his PR man Tony Rushmer, a former golf journalist – is how.
And his reward should be a better lifestyle, he will hope greater on-table success, benefiting from a huge range of contacts, steady sponsorship, and presumably as much leisure and pro-am golf as he wants.
Django Fung manages Neil Robertson and Judd Trump, who should be two very marketable properties in the bigger sporting pond outside snooker, and is not without contacts and experience.
Ding Junhui is commercially in a different league to most of the rest including Ronnie with his arrangements and endorsements in China, but even his career might be conducted better in terms of accessing the broadest possible number of people through all mediums.
John Higgins has the 28 ranking titles, but it is possible his standing outside snooker as well as within took a knock with the fallout from the ill-fated 2010 trip to Kiev and subsequent six-month ban for failing to report an approach, even though he saw a more serious charge relating to match-fixing dropped and thrown out, leaving him clear of any association in that regard.
Higgins has also at times adopted an aggressive and unhelpful approach with elements of the media as evidenced by a fine in the summer of 2015 for multiple breaches of the rules, which may not have helped him cash in to the maximum on his considerable achievements.
And Mark Selby, the current world champion and world No1, does okay – but could almost certainly do even better when it comes to generating the maximum reward from his talent and titles.
Murphy’s new arrangement looks to be a good one, and if snooker is to successfully ditch the occasional accusations of being inward-looking and small-time, this may be the way forward for the top players.
And it is presumably a deal that would meet with the full approval of supremo Barry Hearn, who has long coveted the way golf does its business, and the sponsorship dollars out there on the big golf tours.