Monday, 13 August 2012

Life without Ronnie

This week sees the start of the new Premier League.

A stellar line-up includes John Higgins, Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham, Peter Ebdon, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen, Mark Selby, Stephen Lee and Shaun Murphy.

But reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan is missing. The four-time world champion has claimed this invitational event as his own with ten titles and an impressive seven in the last eight years.

His absence will without doubt take away something from the tournament as it travels around the country but lead referee, Paul Collier, who returns for another season to write exclusive columns for OnCue, says the show must go on...

Ronnie's absence is going to be a little detrimental to the Premier League, of course, but no-one is bigger than the game.

Tickets will probably sell a little less quickly because he's such a box office attraction, but I'm not worried about the event overall this season. It's a shame he isn't going to be in it. He's the defending champion and also the world champion. Any event would suffer from him not being there. He's a massive character and a great player.

I've got to know Ronnie fairly well over the last few years and I hope he's in a happier place now after his break. Maybe he'll be back with us next year, if he qualifies.

I think true snooker fans will go to watch the Premier League if it's near where they live whoever is playing. I think the support will still be high and a little bit of extra marketing has been done to help that along. 

I don't think Ronnie's decision not to play is anything to do with the actual way the Premier League is run. In fact, I know he enjoys playing and is disappointed not to be involved this season. He had his contractual issues and couldn't sign up to play in the Premier League before that was sorted. He's just so busy that something had to give. He's not the kind of player who will enter everything and the Premier League is off the list this time, unfortunately.

I know the event will still be a roaring success and that's why it's here to stay.

The Premier League does put some constraints on when other tournaments can be played because so many top players are involved, but they all still want to play in this as much as a lot of ranking events.

We've got ten top players this season and it's going to be another exciting campaign. A lot of people are also looking forward to seeing Peter Ebdon under shot clock constraints. It will be interesting to see how he reacts. I haven't spoke to him about it but he's a very deep thinker and will definitely have it on his mind.

I think 25 seconds is quite a long time to play a shot. I'd like to see it cut to 20 seconds. It would give all the players something to think about, for sure. It would get even people watching.

People ask me whether the Premier League still has its place with so many other tournaments, but I still think there's a big place for it. You only have to look at the reaction of the players when they qualify to see how popular it is.

Stuart Bingham can't wait for it, for example. There's still a prestige to the event. 

I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into the Premier League again. It's been a long time since the last one finished, but there have been so many tournaments that it's really flown by.

The Premier League is returning to more of a league format this time. There are no more Shoot Out frames. They are all six-frame matches again. I think it was difficult for people at home to follow last season and it took quite a lot of explanations before every match at the venue, so the idea is to simplify the event again.

I wouldn't say it was a failure last time but it might have been more successful if there was a programme at each event with a detailed explanation of the new format and I think the traditional Premier League fans didn't enjoy the change.

It was difficult for me as referee and all the players to suddenly have to switch formats during a match and handle two sets of rules in one match.

It's going to be great to go back to Grismby for the finals weekend. I think the auditorium deserves it. it's been an excellent venue down the years and one of a handful where you can rely on a sell-out crowd. There are lots of people there who love the game and really know their snooker. You rarely have to ask for quiet. They're great in every way.

I'm not doing as much refereeing as much this season for World Snooker because I've got so heavily involved with the tournament office and organising events. I'll always be doing some matches, of course. I had a quarter-final at the Wuxi Classic and a semi-final at the Australian Open to fill in for Jan Verhaas while he's injured, but the Premier League is my main regular refereeing duty.

There are only two dates I won't be doing where Brendan Moore is stepping in for me. This is just because of how busy I am. I would never give the Premier League up because it's my main priority. When I left World Snooker, Matchroom didn't think twice about keeping me on. They said that as long as I wanted the job, it was mine. I'm giving the Premier League some loyalty into return for that.

I hope you all enjoy this season's Premier League as much as I know I will.

If you're interested in going to the first Premier League event in Skegness this Thursday, visit or call 08456 740 505 for a bargain £10 ticket.

Here's a full list of the line-up and venues,,,13165~2810278,00.html

1 comment:

  1. The premier league has big prize money and is one of the longest running on the calendar and deserves respect for its inventive format and sell out venues ,for the life of me i cannot understand people who turn their nose up because they believe snooker should be played in a certain way and refer to themselves as "purists" hypocrites more like it for if they were true purists then they should have ranted when the tree was cut to make the cue.