Phil Haigh ✍️
Judd Trump cannot wait to be back at the Masters this month and play in the renowned Alexandra Palace atmosphere, but would like snooker to find a new format that encourages a livelier setting more often.
The north London event is known to be one of the rowdier tournaments on the tour, although this means a pretty reasonable level of cheering and shouting rather than the overly raucous atmosphere of the one-frame Snooker Shoot Out.
That unique event is made up of one-frame matches, which are limited to 10 minutes and played under a different ruleset, including ball-in-hand for a foul and having to hit a cushion on each shot.
Taking inspiration from the success of T20 cricket, Trump thinks there is potential success in short-format snooker with a rowdier atmosphere than a normal event, but the Shoot Out is not quite the answer.
‘There needs to be a format, and I don’t think it’s been found yet, that is snooker, not the Shoot Out, a game of snooker where the top players still have the advantage of being the better player, that’s not evened out by stupid rules,’ Trump told Snooker Scene magazine.
‘It could be one frame, 15 minutes, I just don’t like the gimmicks of ball-in-hand or whatever, it’s not snooker. I feel like there’s something missing. I just don’t know what it is.
‘I would have the same environment as the Shoot Out, that kind of atmosphere, but maybe with one frame of proper snooker. There could be a shot clock, but the other rules, hitting a cushion and that, I don’t like that kind of thing. That’s why I don’t enter, it’s a toss of a coin. I want to know that if I’m one of the best players, I’ve got one of the best chances to win.’
The world number four believes there is an audience out there that could enjoy a more relaxed environment than a traditional snooker event, but has not been explored yet.
‘I still feel that there’s a whole new crowd that haven’t been delved into,’ he said. ‘A whole new type of person that wants to go out and have a laugh, wants to enjoy themselves and watch snooker at the same time. But it doesn’t have to be watching every single shot.
‘You can have a good time chat to your mates, but you don’t need to worry about putting the players off and there is still world class sport going on. I just feel that at some point we need to find somewhere in between the Shoot Out and a normal tournament.
‘I’ve been to the darts, they’ve got 3,000-5,000 fans and 100 of them watch darts, 2,900 don’t. Snooker needs to get in on that.
‘You don’t want the calling out, I don’t think anyone would enjoy that, but we want someone to come, watch the snooker, chat to your mate, have a drink, but not put the players off.’
Whether this is the answer to that puzzle or not, Trump reckons there is great potential in team events, which have been tried but not reached the heights of the likes of pool’s Mosconi Cup or golf’s Ryder Cup.
The former world champion reckons the UK could even be split up into teams to encourage local support and tap into the kind of fanbase that team sports enjoy.
‘Team events is an avenue we can go down. The World Cup has been missing the last few years, but you could have a tournament and teams based on where you’re from. In cricket it’s counties and you get behind your own people,’ he said.
‘I’m from Bristol, Jack [Lisowski] Cheltenham, there’s a team. London, the North East, whatever. In football you’re brought up supporting where you’re from, you don’t really choose. I don’t think snooker’s every really had that.
‘I feel that a team or doubles event can really take off. A better vibe, a bit of interaction is missing. It’s just a different idea, I’m throwing things out there.’
Trump is at Alexandra Palace next week hoping to land a second Masters title and he is looking forward to it as much as any event on the calendar.
‘The atmosphere sets the Ally Pally apart,’ Trump told WST. ‘It’s probably my favourite atmosphere of all the tournaments because of the whole setup. You feel very surrounded now with the crowd 360 around the table, so it can be quite an intimidating place.
‘The people are a lot rowdier and really get involved. A lot of the other events have more than one table, which makes it impossible to do that. But this is the best 16 players in the world on one table. There’s so much prestige over this event and everyone loves going to London to play snooker.
‘It’s just the best venue we play in. It’s big, well attended and done out great,” said the two-time champion. “I’ve got some really good memories from last year’s matches. It was probably the best atmosphere I’ve played in, or one of them. The World Championship was good as well.’
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