Jason Francis spoke to Phil Haigh after the wonderful week had by all in Sheffield:
World Seniors Snooker Championship a record-breaking success, confirms chairman
Phil Haigh Tuesday 9 May 2023 3:48 pm
This year’s World Seniors Snooker Championship saw record ticket sales as chairman Jason Francis says it ‘bodes well for the future of seniors snooker’.
The thoroughly entertaining tournament was won by Jimmy White on Sunday night as the Whirlwind lifted the trophy for a fourth time, beating his good friend Alfie Burden 5-3 in the final.
Burden had enjoyed a superb run at the Crucible, beating Ken Doherty, Stephen Hendry and Ben Hancorn to set up the showpiece with White, who himself had downed Philip Williams, Adrian Ridley and Tony Drago en route to the final.
With so many iconic names in the sport, tickets reasonably priced at as little as £15, and Sheffield still struck by snooker fever after the main event at the Crucible, everything fell into place for a successful tournament.
Francis told Metro.co.uk: ‘I’m very pleased, record-breaking ticket sales and really, really good feedback. It bodes well for the future of seniors snooker. We did just under 5,000 tickets, which is around 30 per cent up on last year. Great week, great event, great feedback.
‘There’s no doubt that Jimmy winning helped boost the profile of the weekend, the Jimmy and Hendry factor on Friday night was helpful.
‘I also think people were looking at the field this year and realising it’s undoubtedly stronger. There’s no doubt this project needed to start on the back of the legendary names like Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, John Parrot. Dennis and Cliff are in their seventies so it’s very difficult for them to compete at the same level as a Mark Davis or an Alfie Burden.
‘We had a slightly younger field, recent and current professionals, so the standard was better, we had more centuries than ever before. Also, maybe people who couldn’t get a ticket for the main event thought maybe it was time to try a little bit of the Seniors. It was a mix of ages in the crowd, it really was.’
At 61 years old, White is playing some amazing stuff still and it means a huge amount to him to be lifting trophies at the Crucible after famously missing out on the World Championship title in six finals.
Not only does is it an amazing achievement for the winner, but the Seniors has developed so much that it is extremely disappointing for the losers.
‘He was buzzing, winning in the Crucible is incredibly special for any player, but for Jimmy White it’s cathartic, almost,’ said Francis.
‘Ken was devastated because he can do the ultimate grand slam of amateur, professional, junior and could add the world seniors. He’s still hungry to get his name on the trophy, but he had a tough first round with Alfie.
‘Ben Hancorn did fantastic for an amateur player, beating Peter Lines in a great match. And of course Drago was a breath of fresh air. He is incredibly watchable, potting the most unbelievable balls, then misses the easiest ball. I think Tony has proved that he’s still one of the best seniors in the world and clearly he’s an important part of our plans going forward.’
This year’s tournament saw the introduction of Seniors of Sheffield day, as charities Age UK and Care Workers Charity were involved in bringing 500 older people in the city to the Friday afternoon session.
As WSS explained, the aim was to, ‘not only see some top class snooker but meet likeminded others and engage with many of the great organisations based in the city helping and serving the ageing population and those living in isolation.’
Reflecting on the day, Francis said: ‘Seniors of Sheffield day was a fantastic success and we’re still getting the feedback on that.
‘Local charities got to benefit, not only by sending their members for the networking, meeting the legends, seeing some snooker, but they got to be able to promote their services to people at the event who perhaps didn’t know their charity existed for them.
‘We’re going to build on that. The head of the chamber of commerce heard about that, came to the final on Sunday and wants to get involved in building on it.’
The calendar for the forthcoming season of seniors snooker is yet to be confirmed, but after a superb World Championship, there will be plenty of interest from players and fans alike when the next events roll around.