Are we seeing Snooker reborn? -Part One

Being a fan of snooker hasn’t always been easy. It can be described as the ultimate game of skill, yet its audince has been dwindling over recent years. However, that’s a picture that’s changing slightly in my opinion. Barry Hearn, PDC Darts Supremo. has taken on World Snooker to shake it by the coat tails to rejuvenate the worldwide audience it once enjoyed in the 1980s. So far, it seems to have been working. An ever-enlarging audience in China has caused a sudden surge in interest in the Far East. Homegrown talent like Ding Junhui and Marco Fu, and younger prospects in  Liu Chuang and Cao Yupeng have really whetted the Chinese appetite for the acute game of angles. Even the sponsors of the players are having a seemingly increasing amount of Chinese characters on them from what I’ve seen…

Snooker has been crying out for bright sparks in what has been a rather dull period for the game. The aforementioned Chinese and the gifted youth in British players like World No. 2 Judd Trump, whom is setting the snooker world on proverbial “fire” with his brand of “Naughty Snooker”, which has seen him evolve into a big crowd favourite since his meteoric rise to prominence.

 The World Championdhip this year is without doubt one of the most open for many years. The return to form of 7-Time Champion Stephen Hendry and “Welsh Potting Machine” Mark Williams, the fall from grace of Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan, and a swarm of a new guard on the baize making up a very unpredictable, yet exciting field.

One of the Hearn “methods” of getting the most out of an atmosphere at a venue has been to implement entrance music for the players. It’s only a small touch, but it’s one that builds up the anticipation, creating a good buzz in the venue, something which helps the players as well as the fans, and snooker has needed it!

 

More to follow soon…

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Battle of BBC vs Sky F1 Coverage- Round 1-China

While the race in China was brilliantly won by Nico Rosberg for his maiden F1 victory, this is the first time that the two F1 broadcasters have gone head-to-head at a live event, which was something that I was intrigued to see who would come out on top in. As the BBC team of Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and 13-time race winner David Coulthard have been presenting for a few years now, you would be forgive Sky for not being as slick or having as much of a rapport with the audience at the moment.

Sky’s line up of Simon Lazenby, Martin Brundle and Damon Hill (who was absent in China, being replaced by Johnny Herbert) have given good first impressions so far, giving an all round picture of the race weekend unrivalled by their BBC competitors; but that could be part of the comfort of their own tv channel. But I’m only speculating…

I think it’s fair to say that the BBC were given the worse of the broadcasting deal, especially by being given the live races that are traditionally more unspectacular: Barcelona, Valencia and Abu Dhabi spring to mind.

In terms of the analytical side of things, Sky poached Ted Kravitz, Anthony Davidson, Natalie Pinkham and and David Croft. This has proven to be a move that has given Sky the edge in getting reports first and more in-depth. BBC’s Gary Anderson doesn’t really seem to live up to the bar that Kravitz has placed so highly over his tenure at ITV and the BBC. Joining the BBC this year also are former Touring Cars commentator Ben Edwards alongside Coulthard on TV, with former ITV lead commentator James Allen joining to front their Radio 5 Live coverage.

With the new voices of F1 at Sky in Brundle and Croft, their commentary has definitely come across as more fluid, as well as easier on the ear. They understand each other well and this has led to first-class commentary so far. Their conversation also spreads further than tyres, something which seems to be all Edwards and Coulthard can manage in theirs when there’s no overtaking happening. The BBC commentary team have taken more time to gel, and as stupid as this sounds, they aren’t really as easy on the ear when they get excited. Ben Edwards did a sterling job in Touring Cars, but I struggle with the gravelly undertone in his voice, where Croft seems to control his voice better. It’s the little things…

The trump card in the BBC team, though, is the immediate camaraderie and familiarity that Humphrey, Jordan and Coulthard bring to the table. I find their features in the build up more interesting, as well as the banter between them to be very endearing. I don’t think we would see Martin Brundle buying a ridiculous suit for Damon Hill any time soon…

In all, both broadcasters are good in different ways. But if I had my way, I would still keep with the BBC for the whole season (are you listening, Mr Eccles-Dwarf?). The presenting is far better and let’s be honest, you can’t argue with having a song like “The Chain” as your theme tune!

The Battle of BBC vs SKY gets serious! Watch this space…

Coming in the next few days will be my analysis of who has drawn first blood in the battle of the F1 broadcasters when they go head-to-head at the same time for the first time in China on Sunday, so look out for it, it’s going to be a good fight. Who really cares about the race when who you watch it with is so important 😉 

Why Goodwood really is as Glorious as people say!

When Lord March started opening the rather expensive doors into the race track and hill climb in his back garden, I’m not sure that even he envisaged the impact that he would have on the average horse racing fan and petrolhead. For a good few years now, his estate has opened its doors to the public for the Festival of Speed, the Revival and a week of horse racing known as “Glorious Goodwood”. These pull in 100,000s of people every year and have become a regular feature in the lives of many. So as a fan of motorsport, I think we should do our bit to appreciate the work of Lord March even more, and instil a sense of pilgrimage among attending the Festival of Speed or the Revival each year.

For those of you that don’t know already, these celebrations of aviation and motorsport (Revival and Festival of Speed) are often spread over a weekend and held annually at the Goodwood Estate, in West Sussex. It presents a rare opportunity to the average petrolhead to see and bask in the glory of the World’s best and most memorable automobiles.

The Festival of Speed is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Teams from across the World of motorsport and your average car companies come to Goodwood and essentially show off their creations over the course of three days each year. Formula 1, WRC, Superbikes, Le Mans Prototypes and many more showcase their creations, old and modern, by doing timed “runs” up the famous Goodwood Hill Climb course. Recently, a bespoke Rally Stage has been built for all of the old and new rally cars to revel in. This is also a time for motorsport fans to meet their heroes without quite the same price tag of going to the circuit itself. Many F1 drivers show their faces out and about across the site, and often without advertising. Last year, I stumbled upon Stirling Moss doing a book signing in a deep, dark corner of the stalls, and happened to find myself in the front row of a talk at the BMW stand, fronted by BBC Formula One Presenter Jake Humphrey, and the commentating legend that is Murray Walker. Both of their autographs now sit proudly above my bed. Probably down to luck of course, but I’m not going to complain!

Another exciting feature is having completely free access to the “Supercar Paddock”. This is where the World’s fastest production cars stand dormant before their next assault at the Hill Climb. This’ll mean nothing to some but it’s a real feeling of butterflies to see TWO Bugatti Veyrons right next to each other, and even seeing a Nissan GT-R with its bonnet up is something quite special. Such is the cornucopia of available sights at the Festival of Speed, most F1 and WRC teams have their own garage area, where they showcase past competitors, from Williams F1 bringing out Nigel Mansell’s Championship-Winning FW-14 from 1992, and Ayrton Senna’s 1988 McLaren, to today’s Champion, the Red Bull RB7. I think that the effort that motorsport teams put in to the event is a true point of pride to how successful and important the event has been to teams and fans alike since its inception in 1994.

The Revival runs every September and it brings out all of the true classic cars to the Goodwood circuit from motorsport years gone by. For fans of automobiles and aviation from the glory days, look no further. This is your own version of Shangri-La. Since the event began in 1998, it has evolved into the World’s largest historic car festival, and it is based around only using cars from the “Golden Era” of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Racing drivers from the era itself and of a more modern ilk have been known to take to the circuit for the classic races around the fabled tarmac. Sir Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Phil Hill, David Coulthard, and even Gerhard Berger have tested their skills over the years.

The wonders of Goodwood have been present for a while now as previously mentioned, but if you haven’t been already, where have you been? If you want a few days to see the best of today’s modern machinery or the gems of a bygone era, even if you go on a bit of a celebrity hunt, make sure you’re free for it because it is an all-consuming yet incredibly satisfying experience that I would recommend to anyone.