OK, maybe I grabbed your attention under false pretences by making you think this was the start of some awful Bernard Manning joke. Let me correct that quickly.
Last night, BBC2 audiences across the UK were treated to a Best of Top Gear special, except for those unfortunate people in Wales who were forced to sit through the final session of the Welsh Open between John Higgins and Ali Carter. I guess somebody important at the Beeb must actually think along these lines…
Top Gear can wait! Given that the snooker calendar features fewer ranking events than ever and is blessed with a home nation tournament in Wales, a country with great snooker traditions, top top players and terrific passionate support, it upsets me that the majority of the UK doesn’t even get the chance to see the competition unless they pay for additional TV services or equipment or for access to the internet. The fact is that there was simply no promotion of the event here for the rest of the UK to latch on to.
It feels like a continuation of the recent trend for the BBC to push its highlights slots ever later into the evening and reduce its prime-time output. I’m lucky enough to be able to get both the BBC 2 Wales coverage on Sky and to get online to see the matches live but this just doesn’t seem right and can only contribute to the falling audience numbers. Barry Hearn has a real job on his hands to turn this around.
As for the tournament itself, it was another disappointing year for the Welsh boys who were without a semi-finalist from their number. Finally John Higgins took the crown with an imperious first five frames in the final catching Ali Carter cold. While Ali did his best to make a match of it from there, the writing was on the wall and Higgins cruised to a 9-4 triumph.