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The Embassy World Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, has become snooker’s Wimbledon, the climax each spring to the snooker year. It is an exhaustive examination of skill and psychological capacity, a 17-day marathon of the mind playewd on a snooker table. It is incomparably the game’s most prestigious title. Many other fine events, some with long-standing sponsors, are greatly valued elements of the circuit, but the sponsorship of the championship by Embassy in 1976, its move to the Crucible in 1977 and the BBC’s decision, a year later, to cover comprehensively every day’s play all emphasised a pre-eminence which remains unchallenged. When you take into consideration that just before and after the 1939-45 war there was a severe depression, in which even the world championship was not staged between 195 7 and 1964.
A tentative revival was assisted by the BBC series Pot Black, which started in 1969, and by the emergence of Alex Higgins, an anti-hero who quickly became box office attraction. No box office take, though, would ever have been enough to transcend snooker’s limited potentialities. In comparison with football pitches, athletics tracks and even tennis courts, the number of spectators who could obtain a worthwhile view of the action on a 12ft x 6ft snooker table is scarcely more than 1,500. Snooker would still have been widely played. There were more than three million players in the British Isles alone when television was scarcely acknowledging the game’s existence – but its superstars would have been forever in limbo had the scene not been transformed by television and sponsorship.
If you enjoyed this blog then you will be pleased to hear that I will be following up on this blog with articles on the history of televised snooker.
To be cont….