THERE will be five snooker players from South Wales playing in the last 32 of the UK Championship today, but the manager of one of Cardiff’s biggest snooker clubs has expressed his concern about the future of Welsh snooker.
Nick Risdale, 40, is the manager of Penarth Road Snooker Club in Llandough, Cardiff, where a number of Welsh snooker professionals have practised over the years.
“It is nice to see Welsh players doing well just now because Welsh snooker hasn’t exactly been hitting the heights lately,” said Mr Risdale.
“I think the biggest problem with snooker here is the lack of youth coming through. It seems to be very popular in China but in this country it’s a sport in decline,” he said.
A look at the official snooker World Rankings would suggest Mr Risdale has a point. There are only two Welshmen in their early 20s in the Top 100. Duane Jones, 23, from Rhondda is ranked 86 and Jak Jones, also aged 23, is currently ranked 82.
Of the five Welsh players in the third round of this year’s UK Championship in York, only Jamie Jones, 28, is under the age of 36.
Two-time World Champion Mark Williams, from Cwm, is 41 years old, Penarth’s Dominic Dale is 44, Carmarthen’s Matthew Stevens is 39 and Bridgend’s Ryan Day is 36.
Apart from Williams, each of the remaining Welshmen will take on a player inside the top ten of the world rankings.
At 1pm, Matthew Stevens will play world number nine Joe Perry while Dominic Dale faces world number six and former World Champion Shaun Murphy.
At the same time, Mark Williams takes on the man immediately behind him in the world rankings– world number 17 Ricky Walden.
In the evening, Jamie Jones will play Ding Junhui, who is ranked fifth in the world, while Ryan Day plays in-form Northern Irishman Mark Allen, ranked tenth.
When the older generation of Welsh snooker players retires, Welsh fans will look primarily to Jamie Jones and second-round casualty Michael White, 25, both from Neath, for hopes of success.
But beyond Jones and White, Mr Risdale senses a shortfall in young talent.
“Personally I think the XBox and the PlayStation must take a lot of the blame for the lack of young players in snooker,” said Mr Risdale.
“Lots of young people are more interested in playing their video games than in anything else,” he said.
Asked what might inspire more young people to take up the sport, Mr Risdale said showing more snooker on terrestrial television channels could help.
“It’s Eurosport who show most of the tournaments these days and there are a lot of people who are not able to watch that channel. If more snooker was shown on the BBC then maybe that would inspire younger generations,’ said Mr Risdale.
The last time the UK Championship was won by a Welshman was 2003, when Matthew Stevens beat seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry in the final.