Enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years, snooker is no longer the moribund sport that translated well in live arenas, yet on TV lacked a certain pizzazz and style. Arguably in the '70s, Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins drew a different crowd with his dazzling trick-shots, fast potting and off-table antics, while former champions/non-champions such as Ray 'Dracula' Reardon and Jimmy 'Whirlwind' White could only grimace at TV cameras, slump back into their chairs, spark up another fag and down another pint while the troubled maverick racked up another 147.
With a new generation of ever-younger champions like Steve Davis and Steven Hendry, snooker halls and arenas have sustained growth in popularity and produced the next wave of professionals. Many of them have been regularly trounced by another outspoken but gifted potter, Ronnie 'The Rocket' O'Sullivan, the man who currently holds enough titles to sink a hundred display cabinets. He currently holds the title of Premier League Snooker Champion, an honour bestowed upon him no less than an incredible TEN times since 1997, including five titles on the bounce earlier this century.
This year, a new name will be etched on the trophy because O'Sullivan is sitting it out. For 2012's tournament, the field is, as they say, wide open. Pick of the pack is the holder of nine ranking titles ,John Higgins, a good bet to take the title, although you also have another nine highly capable and competitive hopefuls in contention. All have qualified to play at the Premier League tournament by winning a title - Mark Selby is the Shanghai Masters champ, Shaun Murphy is the Brazil Masters winner and Neil Robertson won The Masters recently. Others through to these round-robin matches include young Judd Trump, a future winner for sure.
The Premier League Snooker tournament will tour the UK whereupon two pairs of players will play a maximum of 6 frames to score points. After a few months, points are totted up and the best 4 go through to the semi-finals, followed by the final, all of which are played in Grimsby Auditorium on 24th and 25th November.
Until then you can catch the league games in towns such as Skegness (16th Aug - Ding Junhui v Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump v Stephen Lee), Biddulph (6th Sept - Stephen Lee v Peter Ebdon and Mark Selby v Neil Robertson) and many more including Carlisle, Banbury, Guildford and Durham.
Tickets for league and semi-matches cost £18 plus fee, while the final costs £20 upwards. Let's get the boys on the baize!!