For sports which demand extreme concentration, tactical nous and mathematical prowess, pool and snooker’s reputations as bar games is, we at LS Sport feel, a little demeaning.
Being played purely indoors and requiring near no physical exertion, the reasons why this is not a sport have stretch many an article over the years.
Yet it is this distinction between the professional, modest and tense side of the game and their accessibility to the everyday observer which make these games so definitively sporting.
Ethan Monks, President of the Pool and Snooker Society, explains how the society embraces these differences, taking competition and joviality in similar vein.
He said, “We run a social pool night on Mondays and our snooker session on Wednesday afternoons.
“Monday nights we just take things easy, we run a three hour session so there’s plenty of time to get around, play a few games and have a good laugh.
“With Snooker, we take it a little bit more seriously, although anyone is still welcome to come play. We’ve been running a handicap league over the last month or so and this puts everyone on a level playing field so that even our newcomers have a great chance of beating our near pros.”
Mixing newcomers and hardened players demonstrates the grounded approach of these sports, encouraging improvement through its sportsmanship. It also offers to include those who are not members, offering up competitive pool tournaments on a monthly basis. With entry fees of £5 and winnings of around £40, this could be a lucrative 2 hours for pool enthusiasts.
A rebuilding club following big departures in 2012, the squad are still looking to expand and, while their first competition is next week, more opportunities are available over the course of the year.
“First, there’s American 9-Ball Pool in Telford and that one’s just next week! We also play English 8-Ball down in Great Yarmouth in February and then Snooker here in Leeds around April time.
“The quality for the tournaments is incredible with hundreds of students from universities all around the country coming to compete.”
The Northern Snooker Centre in Kirkstall hosted the World Billiard Championship last month, but Ethan explains how the society use the venue more socially for their weekly meeting, playing over a beer and a chat.
“We’ve moved the focus away from having a few play the best they can and now focus on getting as many people as possible involved, having a good time.
“That’s why we welcome absolutely anyone to come and play, whether you’ve played before or not, our sessions are for everyone.”
Similarly representative of the mixture in levels between the professional and amateur games, the UK Championships begin this week at the York Barbican Centre, and a new structure pits experience versus youth, which could bring about early upsets, following the moves Barry Hearn.
While this move cause ripples in the professional world, Ethan recognises Hearn’s role in globalising the sport, giving him great credit.
He said, “It’s a massive credit to Barry Hearn (the World Snooker Chairman) and his board for globalising the game, hosting massive events around Asia and different parts of Europe.
“Whereas 15 years ago, the top 20 were essentially all British, now we have players like Robertson, Ding Junhui and Marco Fu playing some of the best snooker the world tour has ever seen.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if in 10 years, half of the top 16 were from countries outside of Britain.”
At the top, barring any upsets, Ethan tips the people’s champion to continue his emphatic return from retirement, despite the likes of Selby, Robertson and Maguire presenting significant challenges.
“Ding Junhui seems to be in the form of his life at the minute, winning three massive ranking events back-to-back, only to be stopped at the Champion of Champions last week in a deciding frame by the ever brilliant Ronnie O’Sullivan.
“Anyone that’s followed Ronnie’s career knows how unstoppable he is on his day – the only person that can ever beat him is himself. He’s got back involved in the tour again after taking most of the last season or so off, but he’s still up there in the rankings.”
Tickets are also on sale for the UK Championships which, only a short train ride away in York, could be a great opportunity to witness some up-and-coming talents. Tickets available at http://worldsnooker.seetickets.com/Tour/UK-Championship-Snooker
Image courtesy of the BBC