Gods of Snooker – 16 May 2021 – 16/5/2021 – Sunday – BBC Two

Series 1 Episode 2 of 3

Though snooker was firmly established on our TV screens by the early 80s, the game’s money-spinning potential had not yet been realised.

One of the first to spot a business opportunity was savvy Essex-based sports promoter Barry Hearn, who had recently taken a young hopeful called Steve Davis under his wing. Davis was the polar opposite of people’s champion Alex Higgins: slow, precise and intent on grinding out victories rather than entertaining with risky flair shots. Hearn was certain that his young apprentice was a future world champion, and together, the pair plotted world domination. As Higgins’s career took a downward turn, Davis quickly became a winning machine, bagging trophy after trophy. But his ‘robotic’ performances failed to win over a crowd who preferred their sporting heroes more flawed and unpredictable.

Capitalising on Davis’s success, Hearn started to build his own snooker empire – the ‘Matchroom’- and recruited a small group of players he could mould and market, creating a soap opera out of sporting rivalry, and in the process, bringing lucrative sponsorships (and even hit pop singles) into the game.

By the mid-80s, snooker was at the peak of its powers, and in 1985 nearly 20 million people tuned in to see Steve Davis play Dennis Taylor in the World Championship final. It was an encounter that became known as the ‘black ball final’, widely believed to be the best snooker match of all time. After that, Britain really did go ‘snooker loopy’, and a select group of cue-wielding sportsmen were suddenly the biggest superstars in the country.

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About Gods of Snooker

In the 1980s, sporting superstardom was embodied by snooker as the sport landed on our screens and captivated an audience of millions.

This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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