Scenes From The UK Snooker Craze

The Matchroom crew continues it’s movement to make snooker a worldwide household game. They’re the producers of The Champion of Champions competition on Vibrant TV. Today’s snooker stars gained inspiration from the United Kingdom’s snooker craze of the seventies and eighties. Before those two decades, snooker struggled unsuccessfully to break out from two opposite corners of society (pun intended). 

UK Gets Snooker Loopy

It’s 1984, and the original Matchroom snooker crew star in a promotional video with Chas and Dave, called Snooker Loopy. The zany (some would say cheesy) tune is about a rag tag mob of snooker loving characters. The chorus is basically the color order for potting the snooker balls when clearing a frame:

Pot the reds then, screw back
For the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black!

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/c/chazndavelyrics/snookerloopylyrics.html

The Matchroom crew set their sights on making snooker a worldwide sport. By the 1990s, snooker became a Saturday night staple, with The Big Break. The program’s theme song, The Snooker Song, was nicked from the West End Musical, about the Lewis Carroll poem, The Hunting of The Snark. There was no mention of snooker in the original Carroll poem created a century earlier. Snooker was the billiard game of the 1980s for British kids. 

The tale of snooker’s astonishing rise from niche hobby to UK household favorite has a lot to do with the game’s unique bright, colorful look.  Also, there was a colorful bunch that were playing snooker since its inception, in the late 19th Century. These same aspects almost doomed the game to obscurity a scant fifteen years earlier.

Snooker World #1: 20th Century Status Symbol

In Modern English society, having room for the addition of a large snooker table and the extra kit meant you were moving on up in the world. Like having a swimming pool, the best houses had game rooms. All the best game rooms had all the games from the club, including snooker. Developed in India, by colonial officers, snooker tables became part of recreation rooms globally where British servicemen were stationed around the Empire. 

The father of 20th Century snooker is one of the sport’s most accomplished players, Joe Davis. As an award winning  pool player, Davis organized grand spectator snooker events, only to dominate the game for years. He won the World Championship 15 times (with time off for World War II). Later, his younger brother Fred Davis took over as a major player in world snooker tournaments for years.

Snooker tournaments usually included fancy dressed players and dapper white gloved referees who announced the scores. The referee acted like golf caddies, handing the players the appropriate gear, cleaning and replacing potted balls to their proper positions. They also, tallied and announced the scores. Contestants would agree whoever wins the designated amount of frames first was the winner of a small amount of money and a trophy.

Snooker World #2: The Working Men’s Club Game

Other snooker players around the United Kingdom found and built their skills in recreation halls across the empire. Clubs that could fit a large snooker table or two were usually pubs and the men’s working clubs. Thick with tobacco smoke and selling alcohol, these venues were supposed to be for adults only. Gamblers set up challenge frames with cash reward, as the pool, snooker, and poker tables, filled the down time between track races. 

Curiously, the great players started quite young practicing their stances, without a snooker table at home. The Sultan of Snooker, Joe Davis began his career as a boy frequenting the billiard club his family lived above. Snooker survived through a strong tradition of local tournaments, not all of them legal under the laws of parts of the the Empire. Players made money traveling a circuit of clubs where small audiences gathered and bets pooled.

In books and movies, often snooker would only get a passing mention outside of the United Kingdom’s sphere of influence. Most of the world didn’t realize that snooker required a different table, balls and cues. Nor did many seem to care, as the game often was mistaken as form of pool.