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banner Saturday, 18 November, 2000, 20:06 GMT
Young guns fall by the wayside
Mark Williams
Reigning champion Mark Williams - the one to beat
BBC Sport's Clive Everton reports on a radical scheme by snooker's governing body which has not met with universal approval.

Four of the six members of the World Snooker Association's Young Players of Distinction (YPD) squad were among the 160-strong field at the Liverpool Victoria UK Championships, which started in Bournemouth on Saturday, but only 20-year-old Allister Carter, the highest ranked member of the group and therefore exempt until Sunday's second round, is still involved.

Stephen Maguire, a 19-year-old Glaswegian, lost 5-3 to Thailand's Somporn Kanthawung. Ryan Day, 20, went out 5-2 to Welsh compatriot Wayne Jones, and Alan Burnett, a 21-year-old Scot without a win in five world-ranking events this season, lost 5-0 to Nick Dyson.

The YPDs - chosen last May - received 5,000 each but were expected to add to that by making up to 20 appearances on WSA promotional and other work.

They were registered with UK Sport's Athlete Career and Educational programme to take advantage of a number of personal development courses from personal finance to media training.

Snooker makeover

In the hope - so far unfulfilled - of raising snooker's profile in the style press, the YPDs were sent for a makeover at SAX hair and beauty salon in Kensington and modelled clothes for Peter Werth, the menswear designer.

A psychology course with Steve Davis is also planned.

But within the snooker world, the scheme has received a muted welcome.

There is a view that all young pros might benefit from advice on certain non-playing matters but critics say that as the world snooker association is effectively owned by all pros, its resources should not be used to help some at the expense of others.

Snooker missionaries

It also seems unfortunate, just when the WSA, in its world governing body function, should be encouraging more cosmopolitan fields, that all six YPDs are British.

This is not to say that the YPDs have not had their successes.

Maguire won the International Billiards and Snooker Federation World Championship in China last month - an event still informally known as the world amateur championship although it is now open to professionals who stand lower than 96 in the rankings.

However, Maguire returned from China with a three-year ban from IBSF events for allegedly trashing his hotel room.

He was made to forfeit his 4,000 first prize and was fined 500. And the Scottish Snooker Association had to forfeit the 600 bond all national associations have to lodge against the good behaviour of their players.

Rising star

Eighteen-year-old Shaun Murphy, a semi-finalist in China, last Thursday won the Benson and Hedges satellite event in Malvern to earn a place in the 18-man Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley in February, a fine achievement for a player who is yet to achieve a place on the WSA world ranking circuit.

The other YPD not on the main tour is Ian Preece, a 17-year-old Welshman who, in defence of his IBSF title, failed to reach the knockout stages in China.

The top 16 seeds at Bournemouth, including Mark Williams, the world and defending UK Champion, are exempt until the last 32, a stage which does not begin until next Friday.

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