The 900 Finals Night is here but it is just the beginning: 'I’ve created a monster'

November 23, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

The 900
The 900 has been a big hit in its debut season

The debut season of The 900 is coming to a close on Wednesday night and after making quite the impact on the amateur snooker scene, we can expect to see plenty more of it in the future.

The late-night, fast-paced action has been cracking entertainment, from Dennis Taylor rolling back the years, to talented teenage prospect Alfie Lee shining on television for the first time.

We’ve also been treated to seeing the likes of fan favourite Tony Drago, star of disability snooker David Church, Emma Parker and Maria Catalano representing the women’s game and a host of recognisable names who have fallen off the professional tour.

It is no surprise that there has been plenty of interest from amateur players with each weekly winner picking up £1,500 and those eight players returning this Wednesday for a crack at the £10,000 top prize.

The force behind The 900, Jason Francis, explained: ‘It’s the biggest prize ever in amateur snooker.

‘£10,000 for the winner and £1,500 for the runner-up on Wednesday, so at some point one shot is going to cost an amateur snooker player £8,500. As long as you’re not involved, it’s the sort of sporting drama you love!’

For the still uninitiated, The 900 is similar to the Snooker Shoot Out on the professional tour, with 15 minute frames, a 20 second shot clock and a few other tweaks like a spotted cue ball and ball in hand for a foul.

The weekly contests are played Monday-Wednesday from 10pm-1am live on Sporty Stuff TV, hosted by the excellent team of Rachel Casey, Neal Foulds and Lee Richardson, with the likes of Reanne Evans and Ali Carter also popping in.

The champion each Wednesday books their spot on Finals Night and one of those players to come through was former world number 32 Martin O’Donnell, who has been thoroughly impressed with the tournament and the opportunities it is affording amateur players.

‘It’s a good set-up, I enjoyed playing in it,’ he told ‘There’s no crowd but it’s exciting. Having a clock on it makes people a bit nervous and there’s good money at stake for it. It’s a great event.

‘When you’re off tour as an amateur, you’re feeding off scraps a little bit, we all have to do something on the side because it’s hard to earn a living, pretty much impossible really until this came out. So whoever picks up the winner’s cheque on Wednesday night will be very, very happy.

‘This is a bonus that came out of nowhere, none of us were expecting it. What Jason, the sponsors and Sporty Stuff TV have done is amazing, it’s given people a real buzz.’

2018 Betway UK Championship - Day 11
Martin O’Donnell came through his week of action and is into the finals (Picture: Getty Images)

Adding The 900 to the calendar has made amateur snooker suddenly more viable, with the Q Tour, the English Amateur Tour and Pro-Ams returning after Covid making life off the pro tour an encouragingly busy one, and one that can be profitable.

O’Donnell explained: ‘I got £1,500 for winning my week, which is brilliant. I got £2,500 for winning a Q Tour event, winning my week of The 900 would be more than runner-up on the Q Tour, which is our other biggest earning opportunity. It’s really helpful.

‘The opportunity to play for £10,000 is unheard of as an amateur. What Jason’s doing and what he’ll do in the future will change the amateur game. It will change players’ mentalities because you are a bit lost when you come off tour, you don’t think there’s much around. Now you know that this is going to be there, it might not be as big a deal as it once was, dropping off tour.’

The 900 Finals Night Draw

Martin O’Donnell vs Aaron Canavan
Ben Hancorn vs Andrew Higginson
Philip Williams vs Andrew Norman
Ant Parsons vs Alfie Lee

The success of The 900 so far is going to see the return of a second season, while there are plans in place to create a junior and a professional version.

Francis is excited about it all, but is keen to keep expectations under control as demand increases.

‘I think it’s exceeded my expectations, but in some ways I feel a responsibility now,’ he said. ‘There feels like a huge expectation on me to get amateur snooker on television.

‘So many people are asking when the next one is, can they play, will I do it for kids, for women. So, now I have to realistically see what else I can do because amateur snooker players have loved the opportunity.

‘I’m passionate about it all, but it feels a little bit like I’ve created a monster, but I’ve got to make sure that monster doesn’t get out of control.’

On what is next for The 900, he explained: ‘A junior one is next, the challenge we’re going to face is that the TV station is betting-led and clearly you can’t bet on children’s snooker, so it’s going to have to be self-funded.

‘I’ve already had quite a few people come forward and want to be involved. I’m trying to set it up a bit like the IPL. A company comes forward to fund a team to represent them.

‘The pro one, I’m inundated with professional players wanting to play in a pro series. It’s going to be about finding a date that fits in on the World Snooker calendar. They cannot appear on television while there’s a WST event on and their calendar is pretty busy. I think that’s the easiest one to do because there would be a lot of interest in people wanting to follow that and bet on it.’

When the different versions will emerge is yet to be seen, but we can expect another season of The 900 next year, with Sporty Stuff TV very pleased with the product so far.

‘I’ve had no specific numbers yet, but we’ve heard that it’s been as popular as anything they’ve ever had on that channel,’ said Francis. ‘Specifically in that time slot.

‘We’re already talking about how we structure season two and how that will look.’

A vibrant amateur scene is crucial for the sport to thrive and grow, The 900 has brought something to the party and it should finish Season One with a bang on Wednesday night.

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