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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 11:47 GMT
The day the Masters was born
Clive Everton
Clive Everton: The man who began the tournament
BBC snooker commentator Clive Everton talks about the the day he accidently created the B&H Masters.

Walking down Buckingham Palace Road one summer's morning in 1970, I had no idea that the meeting I was on my way to would engender a relationship between snooker and Gallaher.

Gallaher was the parent company of Benson and Hedges, which is now well into its third decade as sponsor of the Masters.

At the time, I was managing Jonah Barrington, then the world's top squash player.

We were looking for a sponsor for a five man event in a variety of venues.


Nevertheless, after discussion, a four man league with John Spencer, Rex Williams, Gary Owen and John Pulman was created
Clive Everton
I had heard that one of the BBC's best known broadcasters, Peter West, and Patrick McNally, had just started a company which proposed to take a professional approach to sports sponsorship.

Gallaher had decided to become involved in this field and West Nally were pitching for the account.

They quickly agreed to put squash into their proposal and asked whether I had any other bright ideas. At the time, I was a man of many parts.

As the Birmingham Post's Hockey correspondent, I suggested that the county championship could do with a sponsor.

As editor of a snooker magazine with all too often not enough to put in it, I advanced the claims of snooker, certainly the hardest sell of the three.

John Spencer and Ray Reardon
Spencer and Reardon: The original line-up
Nevertheless, after discussion, a four man league with John Spencer, Rex Williams, Gary Owen and John Pulman was created.

There were to be 18 matches in various club venues with a final between the two finishers.

Peter and Patrick landed the account with the Squash and Hockey under the Benson and Hedges banner and the snooker under that of another Gallaher brand, Park Drive.

There were four Park Drive 2000s in 1971 and 1972 - Spencer winning two, Ray Reardon and Alex Higgins one each.

Each final was recorded and shown on BBC's Grandstand.

These events were so well received that Park Drive extended their involvement by sponsoring the 1973 World Championship.

This had always run throughout the season - indeed, it took Higgins nearly 13 months from first match to last to win the 1972 title - but under Park Drive it was compressed into a fortnight at the City Exhibition Halls, Manchester.


I saw every match in the original Benson and Hedges Masters in January 1975 and have missed only one days play in its entire history
Clive Everton
Reardon won it and again the following year at Belle Vue.

The WPBSA awarded the 1975 championship to Australia and Park Drive left the sport but Gallaher remained in snooker with their own event, the Benson and Hedges Masters, to which it brought standards of its market presentation which extended possibilities as a public entertainment.

I saw every match in the original Benson and Hedges Masters in January 1975 and have missed only one days play in its entire history.


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