Mark Allen has incredibly been drawn to face his ex and 12-times women’s world champion Reanne Evans – just three months after having her thrown out of a TV studio.
The 35-year-old former Masters champion from Northern Ireland must take on his ex Evans in the first round of next month’s British Open at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
Relations between the pair, who have a teenage daughter, reached a bitter new low in April at the snooker World Championships at the Crucible in Sheffield.
Against the backdrop of a cash wrangle over maintenance payments Allen, about to play a match, was practising in a room that also house a BBC studio where Evans was preparing for a pundit stint.
He requested she be temporarily removed from a legitimate place of work, and both the BBC and tournament organisers attracted criticism for acceding to his wishes
The draw, made by World Snooker Tour officials on Wednesday, is an awkward long-shot - their first ever meeting - and the last thing either player wanted. But the clash could make for compelling viewing.
In April Allen had BBC pundit Evans controversially removed from the TV studio at the Crucible during the World Championships.
The former Masters champion was practising before the 10am start of his first match against China’s Lyu Haotian in Sheffield.
The BBC studio was adjacent to the practice tables and presenter Radzi Chinyanganya and Evans were preparing for the start of the show.
But Allen, at the time locked in a bitter legal dispute with Evans over child maintenance payments for their teenage daughter, asked that she be removed.
After discussions between World Snooker Tour and the broadcaster the 35-year-old from Dudley was asked to go and reluctantly consented - leaving her own place of work to avoid a major row.
Allen, also 35, then left the room to play his match and Evans was rushed back into place for the start of the live programme.
Evans was said to be upset and embarrassed by the episode, and also alarmed that the issue might jeopardise her TV work.
Players’ governing body the WPBSA confirmed they received a complaint about the incident and investigated the circumstances.
And the mess highlighted serious issues over whether Evans should ever have been asked to leave, and what might happen in the future.
Evans was claiming increased maintenance payments for their daughter having become unhappy with the previous arrangement of around £100 per month.
Former Masters champion Allen’s annual on-table earnings averaged £392,000 over the past four years.
Antrim’s Allen was mired in legal difficulties - also going through divorce proceedings with estranged wife Kyla McGuigan, with whom he has another young daughter.
He has since declared himself bankrupt despite career earnings of £3.3million
The greatest woman player of all time Evans, ranked No1 on the Women’s Tour, was alongside Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee won a two-year main tour card from this summer.
But Allen had criticised that move saying: “I’m not really sure what the two women and Jimmy White are going to bring.”
A BBC sport spokesperson said of the studio incident at the time: “The complaint was lodged against the player in question, not any production company on site or WST.
“For the sake of ten minutes, Reanne left the player’s practice room so Mark Allen could practice before his match without distraction upon his request.
“This did not affect her broadcast commitments and she appeared as planned in the BBC programming right on schedule.
“The player’s practice room is under WST’s jurisdiction, who make the decisions for such requests.”
Allen, commenting on the incident at the time, said: “I understand a complaint has been made to the WPBSA, so I don’t want to say too much.
“As far as I am aware there have been several other cases of players asking for people to be removed when they were practising ahead of a match, so I’m not sure why there is a fuss about this one.
“As far as the fact that the person was working for the BBC and what would happen in the future, you’d have to ask World Snooker about that.”
World Snooker declined to comment on the incident in April, or say what would happen if there was a reoccurrence.
Allen said after winning his first-round Crucible match: “I have had a lot of stuff going on off the table that I would rather not talk about.
“It has been highly distracting and it did happen pretty much at the end of the Champion of Champions [in November 2020].
“It is no coincidence that my form has been awful since and it will be great when it all goes away, but it probably won’t go away any time soon.”
After losing to eventual winner Mark Selby at the Crucible, Allen admitted he would be taking a break from the game with personal issues to deal with.