When Barry Hearn took the hotseat at World Snooker, it was hoped he could transform the game and introduce the razzmatazz that had seen darts become a fans favourite.
While significant progress has been made in terms of increasing tournaments for players – despite the occasional moan about the hectic schedule – sponsorship and TV deals, there hasn’t been much change when it comes to trying to attract a new audience to the sport.
This week, the Masters takes place at Alexandra Palace, managed by Hearn, just a fortnight after the PDC World Darts Championships had taken place.
World number two Judd Trump says he’s keen to see some changes made to snooker.
He said: “The atmosphere and the crowds were really good. It was a bit rowdy for me but I think they need to certainly liven it up, especially between frames.
“The crowd should be allowed to chant perhaps, or get some music playing.”
It’s true that snooker needs to look at alternative ways of attracting fans, but it’s difficult to see how anything like the darts atmosphere being replicated.
At times, the darts almost seems like a secondary purpose for the fans being there, and the quick nature of legs in darts makes it a lot easier to adapt to that environment, in which many players will be familiar from their amateur days.
But the hush of a snooker hall is something that’s been with players since a young age, and even the most casual recreational player will find distractions irritating at certain times when playing in a local club.
That’s the view taken by John Higgins anyway.
He said: “I think it’s pretty hard to bring the darts razzmatazz to snooker.
“At the darts there is maybe only a small percentage that are there to really watch the darts, and the rest of them are there to enjoy themselves.”
With lengthy frames and matches, it’s difficult to imagine the “darts-type crowd” having the patience to avoid disruption over say a 30 minute frame, or even more so, a lengthy even nine frame match. The break between frames isn’t necessarily long enough to ensure “enjoyment” could be hard simply from those periods.
A few gimmicks have been tried – Power Snooker and the Snooker shoot-out – but neither of them will draw away from the traditional game, neither have they proved popular enough, yet at least, to become a viable, regular alternative, not in the shape of, say, Twenty20 cricket.
So while the razzmatazz of the darts, and the resulting fan interest, is wanted in snooker, it’s hard to see where it could reasonably fit in.
What are your ideas to liven up snooker and attract a new audience?