It came a little out of the blue in the post-match Mark Allen/Michael White press conference when the Northern Irishman revealed how much he had been stung by comments made in a TV feature showed on BBC Wales earlier that day, in which a panel of Steve Davis, Ken Doherty and Shaun Murphy analysed strengths and weaknesses of the leading players. This BBC feature was in fact first shown at the Masters in January.

Davis started off by saying: “Mark Allen…not being disrespectful, but not necessarily Premiership, more Championship material”, and it appeared that it was this that had wound up Allen the most. Doherty was overall more complimentary but also labelled Allen “inconsistent” and pointed to Allen’s positional play and focus as issues.

Allen does seem the type of personality though that could turn this to his advantage. If such criticism makes a player go away and work even harder at their perceived weaknesses, it can do them a favour. He told Terry Griffiths how wound up he was before the White clash, and took it out on his young Welsh opponent.

Of course, Stuart Bingham was famously motivated and driven to succeed after a certain player accused him of having no bottle before an Australian Open quarter-final. It pushed him on, saw him collect titles and ultimately a brilliant world championship win beating three tournament favourites in a row in Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy. The originator of the “no bottle” remarks? You’ve remembered it – Mark Allen.


Ding Junhui arrived in Cardiff out of form, but sporting a new bright red waistcoat. When it came to trying to engineer a change of fortunes, it looked like it was down to a straight choice between this and entering the arena with a lucky cat for the 11-time ranking event winner from China.

The 28-year-old Ding joined the huge Chinese community around the world in celebrating the nation’s New Year earlier in February, with 2016 marking the Year of the Monkey. And one tradition widely observed for the bringing of good luck is the wearing of red clothes. It got him to the quarter-final, but evidently it takes more than a sartorial tweak to stop a rampant Neil Robertson. Ding’s snazzy garment might have been the secret weapon behind a sixth career 147 maximum break in frame six, but it could not halt the Australian’s charge.


Cardiff boasts a huge student population of many tens of thousands, and a good percentage of those are from China. The arrival of Ding Junhui in the city was quickly picked up on by Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo, and widely trailed and promoted in advance. The result was a strong turnout of extra fans supporting the 28-year-old at the Motorpoint Arena.

Some of those that pitched up were devoted snooker fans, and had either attended or would have liked to have attended tournaments in their home country. But as so often before, the issue of ticket prices for events in China reared its head. These fans reckoned they would have had to pay £50 or more for certain matches in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu or Daqing, and so by comparison the bargain £8 many paid in Cardiff represented excellent value. Some said it was cheaper to fork out a return train fare from Manchester and buy a ticket than it would have been to see Ding back home, where they rated him as one of the top five sportsmen.

Ding did his ambassadorial bit to make it a truly special occasion for his supporters, hanging around after matches to sign autographs and pose for pictures.



Inside Snooker likes a proper old-school bit of PR, and Charlie McCann of Welsh Open sponsors BetVictor provided it in the aftermath of the Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘146’ incident.

As a journalist you get bombarded with press releases of all types, and to be perfectly frank most of them are pretty uninspiring, badly written with little humour and unlikely ever to make it into a national newspaper. There are exceptions, Betfred are also strong in this area.

When O’Sullivan made the already infamous decision to snub the chance of making a 14th 147 maximum break in Cardiff for financial reasons, it was in a trice a much bigger story than if he had potted a 14th black and cleared up.

This can be a time for cool heads, both in the media and certainly for an event sponsor handed an unexpected boon and quickly deciding how to make the most of it.

As in this case if the sponsor is a bookmaker it is your event, if there is capital to be made you want it to be you that makes it (rivals will steal your show if you are too slow).

McCann’s experience told him that this was a story that would totally polarise the snooker, sporting and wider public and therefore could go huge. So how best to exploit the situation, in the best possible sense?

The key for bookies in their field is to appear generous while actually wanting to take all your money, it is a neat trick if you can pull it off. And McCann quickly decided with howls of disapproval starting to build over the Rocket’s action that there was a way of both appeasing punters who may have backed there to be a 147 in the match or tournament, and gain wider exposure.

He quickly put out a release saying: “Ronnie obviously has an issue over the £10,000 offered for a 147 break but we don’t think our customers who backed a maximum break in the tournament, or the handful who backed the Rocket for a 147 in the match should be out of pocket; we have paid out accordingly.”

Speed is important, and as a result this well-judged statement made it into several national newspapers in stories that ranged from back pages to news sections.

Simple like most of the best ideas, effective, hitting the right mark and tone and a good job well done (with presumably some happy bosses). And that was just Monday.


Speaking of Maike Kesseler, having paid her dues over the years and notably on the European Tour circuit the referee looked extremely happy and proud as she waved to the 2,500 crowd doing the Tempodrom ‘walk of fame’ in the spotlight down into the main arena ahead of the two players. This was a first ranking final for Kesseler, though she has taken charge of a semi-final in Berlin and also the final of a PTC event. If the reception at this stage of the tournament sends shivers down the spine of the combatants, imagine what it must be like for the referees who are even less used to it. I think it is fair to say we will never see football referees get this sort of warm, red-carpet welcome ahead of a big match.


Luca Brecel is bidding either in Berlin or in the future to enter that renowned pantheon of ‘famous Belgians’. Here is Inside Snooker’s own selection on what he is up against to crack it:

Tintin (and creator Herge); fictional detective Hercule Poirot; five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx; legendary singer Plastic Bertrand of ‘Ca plane pour moi’ fame; the current Belgium national football team especially Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany but not Christian Benteke; crap film king Jean-Claude van Damme; Audrey Hepburn (are you sure?); tennis champion Kim Clijsters, and last but not least Baroque painter Rubens.


Senior official Jan Verhaas, supervising for the German Masters, was a conflicted man just moments before the big walk-ons ahead of Sunday’s Tempodrom final. His beloved Feyenoord were locked in battle with deadly rivals Ajax in Holland’s Eredivisie, but duty called and there was Maike Kesseler to support as she strode out to referee a first major final in her home event. The big Dutchman admitted “my head isn’t really here” after carrying the trophy out to the table, and about the time Rolf Kalb was winding up the preliminaries Ajax scored what proved to be the winner, leaving Verhaas desolate.


With only nine ranking tournaments a year, you might have expected a bit more on the BBC Sport web site about the German Masters. Incredibly on the morning of the final there had been NO stories about the event proper. Yes, a lot of box office stars tumbled out in qualifying including Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui; yes, the Berlin event was being televised on a rival broadcaster in Eurosport/Discovery. But that doesn't make a difference in other sports and to find absolutely no coverage at all was a real surprise. Back on Wednesday the world No1, the world champion, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy and many others were still involved, and the semis threw up a guaranteed new ranking event winner. Worth a mention, surely.


The racier elements of the snooker entourage hit the town big-style on Thursday night, ending up in top Berlin club The Pearl. Unsubstantiated rumour and wild speculation have it that ‘Whirlwind’ Jimmy White, 53 years young and taking brief time out from his Eurosport duties, ended up being shown how to drink a Jagerbomb by the graphics team. Or maybe it was the Matchroom events team (our source was hazy on this point). It was though by all accounts not an evening that finished early.


Ryan Day knew his day was not done despite securing a big last-16 win over reigning world champion Stuart Bingham at the German Masters on Friday afternoon. The format at the Tempodrom sees the quartet of afternoon winners having to go straight out again for their quarter-finals in the evening, while Thursday’s winners were able to prepare in more relaxed fashion.

After doing his interviews in the media centre the Welshman made a grab for some of the fresh fruit on the table. When challenged about this ‘theft’ in good-natured fashion, the world No18 protested that there were no energy-boosting bananas laid on in the players’ room. Kyren Wilson could probably have done with a couple too to aid his recovery. The Shanghai Masters champion’s last-16 game against Michael Holt was late in finishing, around 6.25pm, giving him just an hour and a half to get ready to play for a semi-final spot against Day. 


Snooker has made great strides in Germany, as we know, and has a loyal following of viewers on Eurosport but it still has a long way to go to catch up with football…and handball. The recent handball European Championships in Poland saw the Germany men’s team emerge victorious and their success was watched by a staggering 15million on free-to-air television. There was then a day of celebration in Berlin last Monday, which saw 8,000 turn out just to welcome the team home and hail their achievements. Rolf Kalb, eat your heart out.


There was nationwide sympathy for victims of the recent UK flooding that devastated many parts of the country, and snooker professional Ian Burns, in action against Michael Holt in the first round in Berlin, was just one of those affected.

Burns had a table at his parents’ house in Croston, near Preston, and as the rains came down it was feared the building would once again be affected as with previous occasions that there had been a deluge and flood alerts.

The expected water level was just a few inches, but almost as an afterthought Burns’ cue, lying on top of the table, was moved upstairs for safety. This proved an invaluable intervention, as the entire table was soon submerged and ruined.

Happily the insurance company, themselves up to their eyes in claims, made sure they did their bit by providing a Star table as a replacement.


An early ‘engaging with fans’ award for this week goes to Mark Allen, who might have surprisingly lost a match to Mark Joyce blowing that quarter of the draw wide open, but not his sense of humour.

Taking questions on Twitter before his flight home, the Northern Irishman was asked: “Do you ever worry that your pants might split when bending down for a shot?”

Unfazed, the two-time ranking event winner replied: “Coming from a plus-sized gentleman, it is always on my mind.”


Shanghai Masters champion Kyren Wilson already has a reputation for being more than capable of holding his own with the media, and there was another good example before his first-round match against Rory McLeod.

Speaking to him in the corridor, I asked him if he felt opportunity might be knocking this week with a few of the big guns not making it through qualifying, and others tumbling out in the first 24 hours of the tournament. With a big smile, Wilson replied: “I am one the big guns!” No arrogance, just humour and plenty of self-belief. That was me told.


The plush Crowne Plaza hotel in Berlin, adjacent to the Tempodrom venue and a favourite for players, officials and media, has changed hands since last year’s German Masters, formerly known as the Wyndham Grand.

And the new management were left in little doubt as to some serious shortcomings in the very busy bar area on opening Wednesday night.

Amazingly the 423-room hotel ran out of glasses in the bar, which must be the equivalent of the Munich Beer Festival running out of beer on the first day.

An early casualty was former world champion Shaun Murphy, who arrived having lost a decider to Ben Woollaston and was frankly in need of a drink. A suitable haranguing from World Snooker director Brandon Parker should ensure no repeat for the rest of the event.


Stuart Bingham usually has a decent following in London for the Dafabet Masters – and a first world title last May did not exactly dampen demand among friends and family for the man from Basildon.

The world No2 estimated that he had to get hold of “around 60-70” tickets for his Sunday night first-round match against Ding Junhui, giving him a very solid support base in the Alexandra Palace arena.

Players receive 10 complimentary tickets at the Masters but are also afforded the right to buy additional ones at a discounted rate, an option the 39-year-old Bingham had to exercise, keeping him very busy in the build-up.

Extra seats have been installed this year bringing the capacity to just below 2,000, a figure that looks certain to set a record for the venue for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s already virtually sold-out clash with Mark Williams on Tuesday.


Peter Ebdon arrived at Alexandra Palace in good time for his debut full live commentary stint with the BBC alongside Dennis Taylor for the Stuart Bingham v Ding Junhui evening first-round match on opening Sunday.

Being a former world champion, Ebdon very much fitted the mould for recent BBC appointments in the role, and Taylor and fellow former Crucible king and broadcaster John Parrott spent time reassuring Ebdon in the salubrious surroundings of the media centre canteen area before he took up his place in the booth.

For Parrott, this consisted mainly of telling Ebdon that Taylor once couldn’t speak in the commentary box with a large boiled sweet in his mouth, which led to the wise-cracking Scouser immediately offering him another one.

But Taylor had his own victory to celebrate, having finally won a battle lasting several years with the bean-counters to install some more comfortable chairs for the late-night finishes.

Ebdon was helpfully told by the press that swearing, shouting ‘Vegan Power’ at full volume and discussing the merits of organic carrots were all de rigeur as a commentator – advice he wisely chose to ignore.


Pankaj Advani only dabbles in snooker these days at invitation events like the World Six-Reds and picking up a wild-card for the Indian Open, having returned to his first love and “wife” of billiards after a two-year fling with his “mistress”.

Billiards, outside of its Teesside hotbed at least, no longer has much mainstream allure in the UK but things are very different in India where Pune’s Advani, now 30, enjoys a huge profile – far higher than Aditya Mehta, the country’s leading snooker player.

Advani recently claimed the IBSF World Billards Championship title, incredibly a 14th world title in various forms of the sport, beating Singapore’s Peter Gilchrist by 1,168 points in the timed format final.

And one of the first to offer their congratulations was the President Of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee , who took to Twitter saying: “Hearty congratulations & best wishes to Pankaj Advani on winning the IBSF World Billiards Championship #PresidentMukherjee  “

Advani courteously replied: “Thank you for your wishes Mr President!”

It is thought that Stuart Bingham is still waiting for his personal messages of congratulation from Prime Minister David Cameron and The Queen, over his sensational Crucible triumph in May.


There were emotional scenes in Barry Hawkins’s post match press conference as he thanked his manager, Paul Mount, for all the support he has given him in recent years.

Hawkins was one of a number of players who had not fulfilled their potential before teaming up with Mount’s OnQ Promotions, which is now being wound down.

In fact, Hawkins became so choked with emotion that he was unable to get his words out but the sentiment was clear, and Mount – sat at the back of the press conference – had to wipe away a few tears himself.

Mount, a successful businessman, opened the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester in 2010, a purpose built facility designed for events and practice. At the same time he began building his management stable, which included young players and some more experienced campaigners who were apparently going nowhere.

Hawkins is a good example of a player who has benefited from the support he has been given by Mount, his team and Terry Griffiths, director of coaching. After winning the 2012 Shootout he went on an unbelievable run – winning the Australian Open, reaching the World Championship final and becoming firmly established as one of snooker’s top players.

Financially, OnQ did not work out but Mount is keeping the SWSA having expanded the facility, now called the Capital Venue, which hosts a series of diverse events from the sporting, entertainment and corporate worlds.

The annual Pink Ribbon pro-am, in which money and awareness is raised for breast cancer charities, a cause close to Mount’s heart following the death of his sister from the disease, continues.

On his last day at the Crucible as a manager, Mount gave the media a box of chocolates as thanks for their support – but it’s the snooker world who should be thanking him. The game needs more genuine, good-hearted people who care about the sport and what they can contribute to it, rather than take from it. We wish him well for the future.


There was an awkward moment during the exhibition match between Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty, laid on for fans after early finishes on the Monday night of the second week in the matches featuring Ronnie O’Sullivan and Matthew Stevens, and Neil Robertson and Ali Carter.

Near the start someone shouted out from the crowd “Where’s Michaela?”, an obvious reference to the former leading and popular tour referee who resigned earlier this year for reasons that have still not been fully explained, but is believed to have involved an initial dispute over an unpaid bonus that was argued to be discretionary by her former employers World Snooker.

These exhibitions, this one refereed by Marcel Eckardt, are normally wise-cracking affairs, but the moment very briefly triggered an uncomfortable silence even from MC Dennis Taylor with leading World Snooker figures in the audience. Until the Scot decides to tell her side, people will be left guessing to some extent as to the precise nature of the split. It could be that she will sell her story for big money exclusively to a Scottish newspaper, or there may even be further developments in the pipeline. Equally there may be some confidentiality agreement in place and what is clear is that it is almost a taboo subject, and the circumstances surrounding Tabb's departure are a cause for awkwardness for officials.

Whichever is the case, Tabb has been a miss at this year’s World Championship, and did a huge amount promoting snooker in her time refereeing on the main tour, as well as serving as an inspiration to many of the women referees now coming through.