Snooker gets a lifeline

Bahrain is to hold a world ranking snooker event in November after a 14-year absence for the sport in the Middle East.
Alan McManus of England won the Dubai Duty Free Classic which was the last event held in the Middle East.
Alan McManus of England won the Dubai Duty Free Classic which was the last event held in the Middle East.

ABU DHABI // After fighting a drought in the UK, snooker yesterday discovered water in the Middle East. The game's governing body have confirmed that the Kingdom of Bahrain will host its first world ranking event in early November. The arrival of the Bahrain competition could be regarded as timely after 888.com announced their decision to withdraw sponsorship of the World Championship, despite being just three years into a five-year contract. Saga Insurance also invoked a termination clause to endorse the invitational Masters tournament in London.

The Gulf region has not housed a major tournament since the demise of the Dubai Duty Free Classic in 1994 when the Scottish player Alan McManus defeated Peter Ebdon, the former world champion who resides in Dubai. The Bahrain championship will be staged in Manama (Nov 8-15), and will feature the world's leading 16 players. The world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, Shaun Murphy, John Higgins and Stephen Hendry are among the heady names participating.

Sir Rodney Walker, the chairman of the WPBSA and World Snooker, hopes the Middle East can rival the Far East as a desirable destination for ranking events. "This is a major step in our strategy to make professional snooker a global sport. This tournament will be a catalyst for further growth across the Middle East," said Walker. "We already have two fully funded ranking tournaments in China and we have had considerable commercial success in the Far East in recent years. With this venture into Bahrain we intend to continue to exploit the potential of markets where snooker is popular."

Ebdon has discussed the possibility of bringing a new tournament to the UAE, but he is hopeful that the event in Bahrain will garner the attention of potential sponsors in the area. "To have a brand new tournament is a great boost for the players, and particularly to have one in a new territory," said Ebdon. "I have witnessed at first hand the popularity of snooker in the Middle East, the people love it here.

"I have no doubt that the tournament will be well supported." The Bahrain event will fall between the Grand Prix in October, and the UK Championship in December. The season starts on Sunday with the Northern Ireland trophy being staged in Belfast. @Email:dkane@thenational.ae

Published: August 18, 2008 04:00 AM

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