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Page last updated at 14:10 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Barry Hearn reveals plans for snooker events in Europe

Barry Hearn congratulates the new Masters champion Mark Selby
New Masters champion Selby (right) is part of Hearn's plans to boost snooker

New snooker chief Barry Hearn says he has big plans to crack the European market after revealing that Berlin may host a new ranking event next February.

Hearn also wants shorter formats and more of the "razzmatazz" that packed Wembley crowds saw at the Masters.

"The basis of the game is good," he told the BBC, after Mark Selby's 10-9 win over Ronnie O'Sullivan on Sunday.

"It just needs a few simple things to freshen it up. Europe is right up there at the forefront of my plans."

After being appointed chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association in December, Hearn has made an immediate impact.

The 61-year-old, who also chairs the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), secured new sponsorship for the Masters and introduced walk-on music for the Wembley tournament that finished in thrilling fashion on Sunday night.

Mark Selby

Video - Selby elated after victory

It was a nail-biting finale to what is seen as the second most prestigious championship despite the absence of ranking points, with Selby, known as the 'Jester from Leicester', fighting back to take the last four frames to topple the world number one.

"It was a wonderful game and showed the better side of snooker when it can be terribly entertaining," Hearn told BBC Radio 5 live.

Throughout the week at the London arena, players walked out to the their favourite tune, with Selby, the world number seven, opting for Underdog by Leicester band Kasabian.

It was well received by the crowds and players with music just one of a number of initiatives aimed at spicing up a sport many critics have suggested is dying.

"The nicknames and entrance music are just very small steps in making the game more appealing to a younger audience," added Hearn, who is keen on encouraging players to express their personalities and characters.

"Inevitably there will be more razzmatazz, but we mustn't lose track of the strengths of the game.

"There are certain events that are almost untouchable - like the World Championships - but we need events to have their own personality and identity.


"It might involve shorter formats, outrageous razzmatazz or may involve absolutely nothing if the product is right."

One of the criticisms aimed at World Snooker's previous chief Sir Rodney Walker was the limited playing opportunities - Selby complained he was a "part-time professional".

Berlin's proposed tournament next year, the first of its kind in Germany, has still to be confirmed but would increase the number of ranking events to seven and Essex-born Hearn told BBC Sport: "The biggest thing we need is more activity.

"There are countries that want to watch top quality snooker and my job is to find them and make sure the players are kept busy.

"We have the weapons to do it. The players are very receptive and I've been impressed with their desire to hand over the workings to myself and all those at World Snooker.

"But I need them to show that support by actions and that they are prepared to join me on this historic little journey we are about to undertake because it's going to be fun."

Mark Selby

Video - Selby wins Masters final frame thriller

With China already an established market, hosting the Shanghai Masters in September and the China Open in March, as well as producing top talent such as Ding Junhui, Hearn is turning most of his attentions to Europe.

"I'm very excited about Germany, Austria, eastern Europe and the Nordic countries," the owner of Leyton Orient said. "It's showing some resurgence in interest and it's a market that can make us money and therefore I'm even more interested!"

Plans are also being devised for a one-frame shoot-out between the game's top 64 players with the winner pocketing £32,000.

Six-time world champion Steve Davis, who was part of Hearn's Matchroom management stable and was also recently co-opted onto World Snooker's board, said: "Hearn's vision is one that will inspire people.

"Snooker had it easy in the 1980s and now it's got to compete with every sport for the best opportunities. It's got to be more aggressive and I think Barry's going to be the best person for that."

Davis and Hearn have been joined on World Snooker's board by Pat Mooney, who manages John Higgins and Graeme Dott, and Shaun Murphy's manager Brandon Parker.

Mooney is also the man behind the World Series of Snooker event while Parker promotes the Paul Hunter Classic which takes place in Germany.

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see also
Selby stuns O'Sullivan at Masters
18 Jan 10 |  Snooker
O'Sullivan hails Hearn influence
09 Jan 10 |  Snooker
Hearn confirmed as snooker chief
17 Dec 09 |  Snooker
Masters 2010 - Full results
16 Jan 10 |  Snooker
Ding defeats Higgins in UK final
14 Dec 09 |  Snooker
Video - Selby elated after epic final
18 Jan 10 |  Snooker
Snooker on the BBC
08 Apr 11 |  Snooker

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