‘It’s a format that we’ve used before’ – Snooker referee Paul Collier discusses sport’s return


Snooker referee Paul Collier has been fortunate enough to oversee two World Championship Finals and is currently Tournament Director at the Championship Tournament at Milton Keynes.

Starting in the sport back in 1992, Paul has been busy at Milton Keynes and this morning was on a conference call which produced some wonderful news for the sport – chairman of World Snooker Barry Hearn has outlined plans for the coming months.

Of the news, Collier said: “Barry Hearn has obviously been working very hard in getting the game back to where it should be and he has made an announcement regarding the structure of the tour for next year and there was a distinct possibility that The Q School might not have gone ahead, but Barry being Barry has come up with a plan and he has announced it all this morning.

“We are now putting the wheels in motion and are now about six weeks away from actually staging it.”

The Championship Tournament has been in the snooker calendar for many years, but this year has seen a change to its format.

“It’s a format that we’ve used before.” he said.” We’ve played behind closed doors for about eleven years now.

“We’ve been using seven players before and playing it on two tables over four days and then four groups of that event, so it’s been a sixteen day event in the calendar for quiet some time, but it was nice to bring it into this format to be able to bring 64 players in which is exciting with a top player in the group and some of the lower ranked players in the groups to come through.

“You have seen that already with Harvey Chandler and Ashley Carty making it through.”

The lockdown has seen a lot of players struggle to get some practice in.

“Some players have tried to play during the lockdown.” he said.

“We looked at playing like the darts have done by playing in their houses and we did a trial for it during the middle of lockdown and were amazed when we contacted all of the players that of 128 players on the main circuit, only 10 players actually have tables in their houses.

“They’ve been scrambling the week before the event to try and get a game wherever they could. We have got two practice tables on site but they can only come into the venue on the day that they play, so they come in the day before and they are tested and quarantined to their room until we get the results, so they’re not getting much practice here.”

Even the players in the Championship Tournament are having to get used to a different procedure than normal.

“For the players it wasn’t to bad for them as they come in the day before they play as they have to be at the venue by 3 o clock.” he said. “They get tested they are quarantined to their room for that day so there meals are provided and hopefully the next morning somewhere between 10 and midday, provided they pass the test which so far is 83 people have been tested and nobody has failed it yet and everybody has been clear, they are then free to go and play.”

Paul, has been involved with the game since a young age and was awarded his first World Snooker Championship Final in 2004.

“I started to referee when I was 15 years of age. I had always wanted to be a player but I realised at that point that I probably wasn’t going to be good enough and I quiet enjoyed being involved in the tournaments and through a coach that I was working with at the time he was a referee and told me to take my referee’s exam and I’ve progressed from there and never really looked back, so when I got the nod in 2004 to say that I had the final it’s obviously a dream and I just couldn’t wait. I actually found out in the end of November and I had over six months to wait to get there, but it was a fantastic experience, something that I will never ever forget.”

Paul did take a brief break from the game but came back a stronger man and took charge of the 2016 final between Mark Selby and Ding Junhui.

“I took a few years off as I got a little bit disillusioned as the game was going through a bad time and I was struggling to make a living and I went off and did a few other things and I didn’t think that I would ever come back, but they rang me[wpsba]and said would you come back and from the start was to train me up to be a tournament director and I would be able to fulfil both roles. To come back and get a second world final, that was fantastic for me.”

Paul has been fortunate enough to referee some great players in his 28 years in the game.

“I’ve been very lucky in my career. I’ve referred Steve Davies at the Crucible and Stephen Hendry at the Crucible and some of the greats, Ray Reardon, John Spencer all the legends of the game including Fred Davies back in my first year 1992, and I’ve really enjoyed it.” he said.

Interview with Paul Collier


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