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Friday, 16 February, 2001, 18:18 GMT
Ronnie O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan could prove to be a major TSN attraction
Who exactly are the two organisations squaring up in snooker's civil war? BBC Sport Online investigates.

World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association is the global governing body for professional snooker and billiards.

It was formed in 1968 as the Professional Billiards Players' Association with an initial membership of just eight.

Since then, the organisation's membership has grown to more than 400 snooker players worldwide, plus a further 26 billiards-only members.

WPBSA claims responsibility for all policy-making in the sport.

Until now, it has been the sole overseer of the professional game's financial affairs, including sponsorship and TV contracts, as well as all aspects of tournament organisation and media relations.

The WPBSA also controls eight world-ranking snooker tournaments around the world, including the Embassy World Championship in Sheffield.

Last year, it launched a "School of Excellence" to provide what it describes as "structured path linking the grassroots to the highest level of professional snooker".

There are 160 players on the professional tour, but only the world's top 16 are guaranteed entry to ranking tournaments.

Of the sport's current elite, the following have so far declared their loyalty to WPBSA or have not yet agreed to join TSN (world ranking in brackets):

  • John Higgins
  • John Parrott
  • Matthew Stevens
  • Steve Davis
  • Peter Ebdon
  • Paul Hunter

    Sports internet outfit The Sportsmasters Network is seemingly determined to make a major impact in the snooker world.

    Bankrolled to the tune of 10m by American investment bank Warburg Pincus, it has announced a new 10-event breakaway circuit in direct competition to World Snooker.

    TSN has acquired the CueMasters sports management company which handles the careers of several top snooker players, including seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry.

    Ian Doyle manages 2000 Embassy World Champion Mark Williams
    Ian Doyle congratulates 2000 Embassy winner Mark Williams
    CueMasters was founded in Scotland 15 years ago by Ian Doyle, and its stable of stars forms the nucleus of talent on TSN's new tour.

    Doyle, now TSN's chairman, with George Smith as its chief executive, has been a fierce critic of the WPBSA in the past.

    TSN has capitalised on the dissatisfaction of some players on the existing circuit who have criticised the governing body's style of management and its organisational abilities.

    They also feel the time is right for a break from the in-fighting and disputes which have dogged the WPBSA in recent years.

    Another factor is the sponsorship by tobacco companies of three ranking events on the existing circuit. TSN wants to move snooker away from its old-style backers.

    Among the top players who have committed to the new 10-event calendar of competitions are:

  • Stephen Hendry
  • Ronnie O'Sullivan
  • Mark Williams
  • Jimmy White
  • Ken Doherty

    In many cases, the dates of the TSN competitions clash with those organised by the WPBSA.

    TSN's inaugural world championship, as yet unsponsored and a deal for TV coverage, will be staged at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena between 21 April and 7 May, 2002.

    WPBSA's Embassy tournament is due to take place from 20 April to 7 May next year.

    The key to the success of both tour will be TV contracts.

    The BBC announced they would honour a six-year deal to cover WPBSA Snooker events.

    TSN, who have been bankrolled to the sum of 10m by American investment bankers Warburg Pincus, have yet to agree any TV deals.

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