Michaela Tabb on the 'challenging' 900, her snooker legacy and life since the tour

November 23, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️


Michaela Tabb
Michaela Tabb is still very much involved in the snooker world (Picture: Twitter)

Iconic referee Michaela Tabb left the professional tour back in 2015 but has been really put to work again this year at The 900, not made any easier by running her own business at the same time.

The pioneering ref became the first woman to take charge of a World Snooker Championship final in 2009 and again officiated a Crucible final in 2012.

She has now been off the main tour for seven years, but has had to get used to a new challenge over the last few weeks at the hectic, fast-paced and late night event, The 900.

Not only has she been refereeing from 10pm-1am Monday-Wednesday, but running her successful Blackball Tables business from her Reading hotel room while flying back and forth from Scotland.

‘It’s been quite challenging,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘Getting used to the hours of 10pm-1am, then needing a bit of time to wind down, then a nap and getting up in the morning to work, then going to work again at 7.30pm, it’s been quite bizarre but I’ve loved it.

‘I fly down on a Monday and back on a Thursday morning. Those Thursday’s are challenging, it’s tiring. Thursday afternoon I’m in the bath with a book and zonked.

‘I wasn’t concerned or worried, but I was questioning how I was going to stay awake and work those hours. I’m not a late night person to bed anyway, so to start work at 10pm, what the hell?

‘But because the matches are so quick, you find it’s the quickest three hours of the day. We do two games each, me and the other referee Mark, but we score for each other. Before we know it we’ve done four, half way through, it disappears. It’s a perfect format, it’s been amazing.

‘Being part of the team here, from start to finish, seeing it through, it’s been fabulous.’

Tabb’s business, selling pool tables and various snooker and pool accessories went from strength to strength in lockdown, and she hasn’t missed her opportunity to work her magic while donning the white gloves again.

‘We sell snooker and pool accessories so it all merges into one a bit. I’m down here selling snooker balls to a player, not while I’m in a match! But it’s who we are, that’s why we love it,’ she said.

Tabb has never hung her gloves up entirely, staying involved with refereeing since the days of being one of the most recognisable faces in snooker on the main tour.

‘I stopped the professional tour in 2015, but I’ve always reffed for Snooker Legends since 2010,’ she said. ‘I do the Seniors Tour and a lot of exhibitions with Jimmy [White], Ken [Doherty and Ronnie [O’Sullivan]. They’re fun nights. I’ve kept my hand in and I can make it work around my job.

‘I do [miss it] at times. It was long hours and difficult at times. When the World Championship comes round every year it is difficult, obviously I was there for every year bar one, when I was having my son, when I was working on the tour. It’s always like, “Aww, would have been nice to be there.”

‘But things change for a reason. Obviously now I’ve got a very successful business, which couldn’t have happened if I was still on the tour.

‘I do still follow it and there’s still so many people there who were there when I was there, still doing well, and it’s nice to see the young guns coming through as well.’

Tabb was a big name in snooker while she officiated on the pro tour, but even transcended the sport to an extent due to her position as the first female ref at the top of the game.

She was happy to shoulder the burden of pressure that came with that role, but did not quite see how much pressure was coming with it.

‘I didn’t expect it,’ she said. ‘I started on the snooker because I’d refereed the American pool on TV, four years before they came to me with the snooker.

‘I hadn’t appreciated the significance of the history I was making when I started on tour. Then there was actually a lot of pressure on my shoulders because I was representing the whole female population.

‘Let’s be honest, if one of the guys made a mistake, commentators and people at home would say, “That man made a mistake” but if I made a mistake it was “Michaela made a mistake” because I was the only one.

‘So there was quite a lot of pressure there but in hindsight I was probably the right choice for it because I was married and had a family. I wasn’t a young girl, I had responsibilities at home, a bit more mature, a level head on my shoulders, so probably the right kind of person to make that change.’

While she was forging a path, many have followed, with a range of female referees working on the professional circuit now and in recent years.

‘I love it now,’ said Michaela. ‘I look and see all these young ladies out there reffing and think, that’s because of me. I love it.’

In her World Championship final days, were there any approaches to work away from the green baize: ‘Never offers to go on reality shows,’ she said. ‘I was probably a celebrity in the world of snooker, but refs are supposed to keep their head down really…but I’d have probably done it! Maybe not the jungle.’


Ronnie O'Sullivan of England (R) and ref
Michaela Tabb and Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible during the 2012 final (Picture: GettyImages)

Tabb’s exit from the professional tour was somewhat controversial at the time, as she claimed sex discrimination, unfair dismissal and breach of contract against World Snooker, and the two parties came to a settlement over the matter.

On the matter, she said: ‘I suppose, in summary, we had a difference of opinion with regards to my employment contract. I wasn’t happy with the terms that were being imposed and decided it was time to go my own way. That was the long and short of it.

‘It just wasn’t right for me and I couldn’t carry on under the circumstances. It happens to a lot of people in different walks of life, I was just quite prominent as the only female.

‘From my point of view it was stressful. We ended up in an employment tribunal and I wouldn’t have gone there if I didn’t believe I’d been mistreated, but we came to a settlement and we both were happy to walk away. It was time to draw a line and move on.

‘I believe what’s meant for you doesn’t go by you. What’s happened since has worked for me and my family.’

Clearly loving her time at The 900 and enjoying her great success in business, it all appears to have worked out well for her.

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