Following his widely-reported comments in a recent press conference, Mark Allen gave On Q Promotions Janie Watkins a frank and exclusive interview where he got to tell more of his side of the story. (Interview Source)
Courtesy - On Q Promotions
First of all Mark, you’re facing a possible disciplinary hearing with the WPBSA for swearing.
“Yes, that was totally wrong and I’d like to apologise. We are professional sportsmen and role models for young people and I was out of order to swear.”
You’ve stated that you were one of the players who didn’t vote for Barry Hearn to take over the sport. Can you explain your thinking behind that decision last year?
“I didn’t really think that one single person should have total control of such a big business.
“The players now have no say in what goes on. All 100 players on tour could vote a certain way on a matter but Barry could decide to go another way.
“I don’t think that’s good for any business. But the players who voted for Barry knew what they were getting into.
“There was another plan that was just maybe a few extra major ranking events. I thought that would be more beneficial to the players than maybe bringing in the PTCs.”
Barry Hearn has described himself as a benevolent despot, would you agree with his own assessment?
“Yes I suppose that’s what he is. I think in the long term he will do well for the sport but in the short term I think he’ll ruffle a lot of feathers. It will make a lot of players unhappy.
“I’m not the first player who’s spoken out and I won’t be the last. It does seem that when I say something it’s blown out of all proportion.”
Barry has said recently that he’s running the sport and has a 5 year business plan and this is only year 1. He’s asking for players to have a bit of patience and stick with him.
“I hope he’s right. If it’s a 5 year plan then so be it. But we’re into the 2nd year. I think a lot of the changes he’s made, he’s put a lot of the players off.
“The only upside of what he’s done is that the players are playing a lot of snooker and we cried out for more snooker and Barry’s saying I’ve given them more snooker, what more do they want?
“But it’s not just about giving more snooker, any Tom, Dick or Harry can come in and give people more snooker. It’s about giving them quality snooker I think.”
One of the headaches that Barry has is creating a circuit that works for everyone. Recently players have spoken out about the calendar, about the PTCs, where they’re played and the prize funds. What are your views on the PTCs and how they could work better?
“I understand why they’ve been brought in. It’s giving the players more snooker. It gives the amateurs a chance to compete against the professionals, if they win now and again, which is good.
“It affects people in different ways. Obviously I’m affected because of the distances I have to travel, a lot more than many players. Of course there’s also players worse off than me, like the players from China and other countries.
“Then there are the players lower down the tour. If they don’t do too well in the PTCs, take players like Joe Meara, he’s going to have to stop playing after Christmas because it’s too expensive. Financially it’s just not feasible for those lads to travel and play in these events if they’re not going to get the money back.”
On that basis do you think that when a player qualifies for their pro ticket, they should be on some sort of guaranteed money?
“Yes pretty much. If you’re in any job, then you’re in a job that gets you money over a year. Any person in a job gets a wage over a year.
“Whether that’s in Tesco or as a lawyer or whatever and they know how to plan and how to budget.
“For a professional snooker player, particularly at the bottom end of the tour, there’s no guarantees. If they play every tournament and if they don’t do particularly well they’re probably going to spend £20,000 in a year.
“Maybe that should be thought about a little more. It is affecting a lot of people coming into the game and people coming onto the tour.
“They have to dedicate themselves to the sport and take time away from work and their family and they’re not getting any rewards for it, in my opinion.”
Is it comparable to golf? Players get their tour ticket but if they don’t make the cut then they won’t earn prize money?
“I understand that, you have to make the cut, or win matches to get money.
“But I think comparing it to golf is a little naive. Considering the money involved in golf. I think the person who lost their card on the US Tour last year still won something like $600,000.
” In the golf the cut off point is the top 125 stay on tour. Put that in comparison. That’s a great wage for someone who hasn’t done that well.
“In comparison to snooker you’ll get someone who hasn’t even made £10,000.”
Regarding the PTCs, several players have spoken out saying that the events at the EIS in Sheffield should be scrapped, and maybe just go to Europe to promote the sport and raise the prize funds.
“I understand where the players are coming from on that.
“When you go to Sheffield you’re playing in front of the other player and the referee. I’m not too bad with that, you have to get on with things.
“But some players, take Ronnie for instance. You can picture Ronnie playing in Sheffield and just playing in front of the referee and his opponent. You can’t think of anything that’s motivating Ronnie to win that match.
“At the end of the day you work hard, all the top 16 players worked hard to get there and they want and expect to play in arenas and live on television and the Sheffield events don’t do that.
“The European events aren’t too bad. You go to Germany or Poland, it’s always good atmosphere and they’re very well run events.
“Maybe it’s more of the European events are what snooker needs instead of Sheffield and maybe putting the money into the European ones.
“It would be more beneficial to have 6 European events instead of 12 overall and double the prize money.”
Courtesy - On Q Promotions
Players have recently said they know it’s their job but it’s hard to get “up” for a PTC.
“I spoke to Terry about this. I just can’t motivated for them. To play in front of nobody for very few ranking points and very little money.
“The money isn’t the be all and end all, don’t get me wrong. I want to play snooker for tournament titles.
“I hope to look back on my career when I’ve finished and say I’ve won this and I’ve that. It’s not all about money. But at the end of the day you have to live and you need money and the PTCs just don’t do that.”
Do you think that for the higher ranked players the ‘entertainer’ factor comes in. That while you’re there to win a match there’s a bit of the showman that they want to perform in front of an audience?
“I think so, yes. Some players just go out to win and don’t care about putting on a show, but top players do perform and they try to entertain.
“After all people pay good money to come and watch us play. I think that’s only right that we put on a show.
“It’s like any other sport. You’d be very disappointed if you went to a football match and the players just stood there for 90 minutes. You wouldn’t be too happy would you!
“You have to appreciate that the fans are taking time out of work and spending their money, especially in the current climate with the recession. I think the players do have a job to do to go out there and entertain.”
Courtesy - On Q Promotions
Players have also criticised the congestion on the calendar and the amount of travel and time away from family . Fans have responded saying that they have to go to work 9-5 and leave their families. Do you have any thoughts on that?
"Of course I have my own problems as people know. My daughter Lauren lives away in England so I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like.
“But it’s become even harder now with so many events. Reanne has her own snooker to play on the ladies tour and it’s hard for me to get the chance to get across to see Lauren as much as I’d like.
“I can completely understand what anyone with a family is saying. It is hard but for the people working 9-5 jobs, they still go home to their family at the end of every day.
“Whenever we’re away from home, we can’t do that. We can be away for weeks at a time. They know at 5.30 they’ll see their family. We could be away for a month.”
Overall promoting new events around the world must be a good thing, helping to grow the game?
“Yes it is. I can understand why they’re doing it. It’s not just about the UK. It would be nice to have more tournaments in the UK.
“But beggars can’t be choosers. I’d love to see an event back in Belfast. The Northern Ireland Trophy ran for a few years but the recession has hit everyone and the money isn’t there any more.
“At the moment the only people putting money in seem to be China and Europe.
“As much as I don’t like China, obviously if the money is there, then I’ll go there.”
What don’t you like about China?
"It’s the travel and it’s a different culture. You have to appreciate you’re in someone else’s country and Chinese food at home is completely different to Chinese food in China!! It’s just called food over there and it’s different!
“I don’t really like it. I end up spending a lot of time in the hotel room and it’s too expensive to take people over with me and it gets a bit lonely to be honest with you.”
Courtesy - Monique Limbos
Is there a lot fan support in China for the players?
“People talk about how big it is over there but whenever we go to Shanghai Masters or China Open the crowds aren’t THAT good.
“Unless Ding’s playing or Ronnie’s. Even Judd, who’s got so much publicity lately, and rightly so, even if he plays out in China at the moment, he doesn’t get that much coverage.
“Maybe the players aren’t seeing how big it is out there. Maybe it’s growing at the grass roots with more people watching and playing. With Chinese government getting involved and so on. But the players aren’t really seeing any benefits from it at the moment.”
Having criticised Barry Hearn yesterday? “Did I!!!” Would you have any ideas on how to build up or promote the game?
“No! That’s Barry’s job! I’m not voicing my opinion any more!!
“I did criticise Barry, but really it’s hard, wrong maybe, to criticise someone when you don’t have any ideas yourself.
“But when you can see something’s not working then it’s only right you should be able to speak out.
“Maybe constructive criticism if it helps to change things. I’ll probably get into trouble for having spoken out but I don’t mind if it benefits the sport in the near, and more distant future.”
Find out more about Mark Allen and the other On Q Promotions players including Jimmy White, Tony Drago and Mark Davis on the On Q Website.