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Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 11:38 UK

Huge financial blow hits snooker

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O'Sullivan is the reigning world snooker champion

Snooker is facing a financial crisis after the sport's two biggest sponsors announced they are terminating their contracts, costing the game 1.5m.

World Championship sponsors are quitting their five-year deal after three years and Saga Insurance will no longer back the Wembley Masters.

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association said the companies blamed the "current economic climate".

The WPBSA said it was "optimistic" it would find new sponsors for the events.

The World Championship and Masters were backed by tobacco companies from the 1970s until 2005, when the government introduced a tobacco sponsorship ban.

The Grand Prix and UK Championship are currently sponsored by Royal London Watches and Maplin Electronics respectively, although both deals are in their final year.

There are two fully funded and sponsored ranking events in China but the first major event of the new season, the Northern Ireland Trophy, gets under way later this month without a big-money backer.

Snooker commentator and editor of magazine Snooker Scene, Clive Everton, believes the sport faces a problem.

The infrastructure is better than it has ever been before

Terry Griffiths
Former world champion

"The loss of Masters and world championship sponsorship means snooker's governing body (WPBSA) has to find just over 1.5m," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"The sponsors of the other two events shown on the BBC, the Grand Prix and UK Championship, are also coming to the end of the deals after this season. So there is an urgency to find new backers."

However, former world champion Terry Griffiths believes the supporters of the sport did not need to worry about its future.

"The infrastructure is better than it has ever been before," added the Welshman.

"We have a great product and I don't believe we'll go into the world and Masters without new sponsors."

see also
Crucible review
06 May 08 |  Snooker

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