Thursday, 13 December 2012

Marcus Campbell EXCLUSIVE: "I can't see new players coming through unless something dramatically changes"

Scotland is the destination for the final snooker tournament of 2012.

Starved of competitive tournaments in the last two years, the European PTC event 5 in Ravenscraig is a welcome return of the baize north of the border.

Picture by Marcus Campbell
The country has superb snooker history but perhaps a gloomier future. A successful tournament here could be the first steps to the return of a full ranking event.

OnCue spoke exclusively to Marcus Campbell ahead of the big off to find out more.  

Snooker is coming back to Scotland. You must be really looking forward to it...

It's nice to be playing in an event that is virtually on my doorstep. There have been a lot of trips over to Europe this season in the PTCs and this is a lot easier for the London boys who are nearer to the airports and can get there for cheaper. We normally have to go from Glasgow to London and then onto the event.

I'm about half an hour away from Ravenscraig, which is John Higgins and Graeme Dott's area who live only five to ten minutes away from the venue. 

It will be nice to take my wife and my wee son to watch me play locally for a change.

Is interest in the game waning in Scotland?

I think the snooker fans in Scotland have just been spoilt with the world champions we've had down the years and taken it for granted. But right now there aren't many players coming through in Scotland.

Scott Donaldson and Michael Leslie have done well to get on the tour and Anthony McGill is just in front of them in the top 64 and fairly well established now.

People still love the game here but it's difficult getting people to come to watch. The World Open was in Glasgow in 2010 but the turnout wasn't fantastic. It's not really improved since then.

Are you hopeful that a successful tournament this weekend could see it developed into a full ranking event?

I've been telling all the boys at the club that this is a chance to go to support an event again in Scotland and see it develop into a full ranking event.

The recent tournament in Bulgaria was absolutely fantastic because of the fans there. They knew all the players and wanted photographs and autographs. You're lucky to get that here now.  If the support is right this weekend we can hope it will become bigger one day.

Do you think people seeing an event back in Scotland will help to change perceptions as well?

Definitely. It's only a PTC but to even have something back in Scotland is very important, especially for the players. We've got a lot of top players in Scotland and it's not nice to not to have our own event. I just hope people support it, enjoy it and it can grow.

Scotland has a great snooker history Why is that momentum being lost?

The Scottish fans have been spoilt with top players. The appreciation for them went for a few years because of it. It was taken for granted. I think if other countries had had this kind of talent they might have embraced it a bit more. They're a good crowd but need to go to the events rather than sitting and watching it on the TV. The PTCs are excellent for fans. You can watch lots of different matches and players. It's great value for money.

What more can you say about Leslie and Donaldson?

They're both in their first season as professionals. They've gone from playing in small events in Scotland to being on the circuit so it's a big leap. It's not easy financially for them but if they can get some wins this season and get some confidence it would be good to see.

The two of them can play but it's all about building the experience and developing a bit of grit.

There looks to be a real togetherness between the Scottish professionals. Is it quite a happy circle?

We always stay together whenever we go somewhere. We share rooms, have a drink together, have food together and all look after each other.

We've got our own little clique. We practice together and see a lot of each other compared to other professionals outside of Scotland. We do mix with others but tend to find ourselves in our own company more often than not. We're friendly with all the players though. There isn't a problem at all.

What do you think has got to change for the future of snooker in Scotland to be a bright one?

It's all about numbers. The club that I play in is fantastic but doesn't get used anywhere near enough. There's an offer on at the moment for children under 16 to come in and have free time on the tables but not one person has taken it up. It's a beautiful family run club but there's a lack of interest.

When I was younger all I wanted to do was finish school and go to the snooker club. That attitude seems to have gone. Every generation of Scottish players has always had older players to aspire to but that could disappear.

We're skipping a generation. There are pro-am events now that only get 12 players in. We used to get 70 turning up. It's very difficult and I can't see new players coming through unless something dramatically changes.

How good would it be for a Scottish player to win the tournament this weekend or have a good run?

It would be really good. It would encourage lots of family and friends to come and generate more interest about it in the country. We all want it to go well.

I hope it gets well supported and is a success. If the Scottish players we've got in the top 32 at the moment can't generate people to come through and watch then we've got no chance.

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