My love of Snooker

That’s me in January 1982. I had watched Steve Davis win his first world title back in April and I was convinced that with a bit of practice I was going to be the man (or boy) who would prevent him dominating the game in the 1980s.

Whilst I didn’t go on to turn pro (and Steve Davis did indeed go on to dominate the game in the 1980s), that little snooker table ignited a passion for snooker that would last a lifetime.  It’s a wonderful game and it’s not surprising that it hogged our tv screens throughout the 1980s.  There were thousands of boys (and girls) falling in love with snooker back then and some of them, just like me, would later in life get involved with the running of the local game after their hopes of making it as a pro had long since evaporated.

Moving into organisation

Up until 2005 my only experience of competitive snooker was as a pretty average local league player. I had been representing Stadium Leisure in the Tuesday night Nazareth House Snooker League (“NHSL”) since the late 1990s. My team captain, Pete Gormley (pictured), was also the league’s Chairman and he was constantly badgering me to take up the vacant position of Vice-Chairman. He would say things like “We need young blood” and “the average age of the Committee is 83, we won’t be around much longer”.  In late 2005 I relented, not because of those things Pete said, but because NHSL used to donate money to local good causes and I wanted to see this continue.

Launching the first website

Whilst the NHSL was a terrific league, one thing that it was lacking was a website. The league’s secretary, Dennis Peet (pictured), used to circulate hand drawn league tables to team captains at the monthly meetings. These would then get taken back to the respective clubs and if the team captain remembered, he would pin the table up on the club’s noticeboard. Sometimes, Dennis would forget to bring the latest league table along and so it would be two, perhaps three months, before anyone would know where their team stood in the table.

In 2006 I created the first NHSL website. It was pretty basic, but nonetheless it proved really popular. Now players could see fixtures, results and league tables all in real time. Finally the league had been dragged into the 21st century.

Introducing the Nottingham Snooker website

Also in 2006, I started to play in Malcolm Thorne’s Sunday tournaments over at Potters in Coalville.  Malcolm’s tournaments were legendary and quite a few Nottingham players were competing in them.  Not just that, but some of our local players were doing quite well and I thought other players should know about it.

Whilst the NHSL website was the perfect place for league news, I felt it wasn’t the ideal place to share non-league snooker news. Furthermore, top Nottingham snooker player Michael Holt was doing really well – he was edging very close to a top 16 place on the professional tour – and I wanted to report his exploits to a growing community of Nottingham amateur snooker players. I thought that by sharing the achievements of Holt and the top local amateurs, this would inspire other local players to take up competitive snooker and increase participation in the NHSL.

So in late 2006 I registered the nottinghamsnooker.co.uk domain (later changed to nottinghamsnooker.com in 2009) and went about creating this website.  It immediately proved a success and it developed a real community feel in 2007 when I added the Nottingham Snooker Forum.  At last Nottingham’s amateur snooker players had a forum to arrange matches, report results and keep up to date with local league and national tournament news.

Becoming a Tournament Director   

There could sometimes be a lot of waiting around between matches at Malcolm Thorne’s tournaments. Rather than sit and watch television or play on the bandits, I would spend time with Malcolm, watching him run the tournament whilst still managing to serve at the bar and run a busy snooker club all at the same time. He was such an inspiration and he didn’t hesitate to share his experience and knowledge with anyone who showed an interest.

There were no tournaments like Malcolm’s back in Nottingham, which was a real shame because it was clear to see that these tournaments were where talented young players could develop their competitive skills.

Throughout 2007 Malcolm showed me how he ran the tournaments, how he decided which player went onto which table, how he did his handicapping system, how he worked out the prize money.  I was honoured to learn from the best and I was inspired to start running similar tournaments back in Nottingham.

In March 2008 I ran my first tournament at Phoenix Cue Sports in Eastwood.  There were only 10 entries, but by setting the format as groups followed by knockouts, it ensured that the players got their money’s worth and the club benefited from the all of the players spending money at the bar throughout what would otherwise have been a quiet Sunday.  It was a win win situation and the club were only too happy to make it a monthly occurrence.

The Tournaments

The Eastwood tournaments were proving really popular but it became apparent that some players did not want to travel more than a few miles from where they lived.  BCI Snooker Centre in Bulwell was a very nice club with 9 tables and it was the ideal second venue. The first “Bulwell Open” was held there in September 2008 and by February 2009 the tournament was attracting top players like the supremely talented ex-pro Joe Jogia.

In 2010 I had my own snooker room built in my back garden and GCL Billiards installed a rare oak Riley Aristocrat snooker table. A year later I ran the Snooker TV Masters tournament. All matches were played on my table and they were streamed live over the internet.  The tournament attracted entries from all over the country, including top amateurs like Brian Cox, Chris Keogan and current professional Kyren Wilson.  Wilson compiled the highest competitive break ever made on my table, a magnificent 128 total clearance (see video below).

I love experimenting with different formats and in recent years I have organised a multitude of Tournaments, the Home League and Sunday League, plus the hugely successful Challenge Ladder.

I am determined to attract new players to Nottingham Snooker competitions, particularly amongst under-represented under 19 and over 60 age groups.

Charitable Donations

In 2013, Steve Burrows, Jon Sully and I visited over 70 Nottinghamshire snooker venues, playing a frame in each, in order to raise funds for When You Wish Upon A Star. It was great fun and we raised £1,300 for the charity.

More recently we took part in a 24 hour snookerthon and we raised over £1,500 for Adam Harrad (pictured), a lovely 5-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Back in 2005, I only agreed to join the Nazareth House Snooker League Committee because of the league’s charity work and all these years later, I am still committed to continuing Nottingham Snooker’s long tradition of supporting local good causes.

The Future

Participation in snooker has definitely declined over the last few years. You only have to look at the number of snooker venues that have closed for evidence of that. However, my love of snooker has grown stronger and I am committed to doing all I can to help snooker prosper here in Nottingham.

The Challenge Ladder is really taking off, attracting players of all ages, genders and abilities. But there are few competitors in the under 19 age group and this is something that I want to change.  Encouraging youngsters to abandon their games consoles and mobile phones is crucial.

With the support of my generous sponsors and the Nottingham Snooker community, I strongly believe that snooker in Nottingham will continue to thrive for many more years.     

Steve Butler
Nottingham Snooker