Plenty has been said about the 32 players competing at this year’s Betfred.com World Championship.
But making the trip to the Crucible is a special feeling for the referees as well.
Nine officials have been named to take charge of the 31 games.
To mix up OnCue’s Crucible Countdown, resident columnist Paul Collier has penned a few a words on each of them.
The Dutchman takes charge of his fourth final this year. I’ve only ever had the honour of one world final, but I’m sure it doesn’t get any less special each time. Jan and I have known each other a very long time and have spent a lot of time together because he joined the circuit a season before me in 1991. He’s a popular guy with the players because he’s a familiar face, and a good bloke to have around.
Like me, Eirian is a Welshman. But he’s got the bragging rights because he can speak fluent Welsh. I can understand most but not all of it. He’s been around a long time and loves the game. He’s big on the rules and has sat in on the Rules Committee many times.
When Michaela broke through, she was given a hard time by a lot of other referees because rather than coming through the system, she was hand-picked for the role. I tried to see both sides of it and I think it’s great for the game to have a female referee. She does a very good job and earned her world final on merit. A lot of people don’t realise she’s only part-time. She only works 80 days a year for World Snooker and balances it with being a full-time mum alongside it.
I get on great with Brendan. His first year on the circuit coincided with my last in the 2004/05 season. I was assigned as his mentor then and I was around to answer any of his questions. We would talk for hours about the rules of the game and I always thought he looked comfortable. He gives me a bit of stick as well because he’s done the UK Championship final, and it’s the only one I haven’t yet. Being a Sheffield lad, he loves it at the Crucible.
Pete is probably the most experienced referee out there. He’s been about a little longer than Eirian and Jan. He’s a big fan of his billiards, and I’d like to get involved with that a bit more too. He’s also keen on his pop music. I think he goes to some concert or another every week.
Olivier puts in a lot of work in Belgium for the game. He’s the tournaments director out there and snooker really needs people like that. He’s enthusiastic for the game and this is his second time at the Crucible. I hope he has another good tournament.
I’ve not seen him for quite a while because he’s from Malta and doesn’t come over all that often unless it’s for longer tournaments. There are a lot of keen referees in Malta but I think he usually gets the edge because he’s one of the youngest and a good prospect.
A very committed referee. He works as a civil servant for his full-time job and works a lot of over-time and books all his holiday to contribute to snooker. That takes a lot of good planning with his calendar. He’s stepped up very well in recent years.
I was chuffed for Leo getting his first final at the recent China Open. Just before he went on, I sent him a message wishing him good luck and reassuring him that there were only 115 million people watching. He just replied afterwards and said it was “awesome”, so I guess he enjoyed it. Outside of snooker, he still works as a cab driver in Edinburgh.