Mark Allen: Playing Conditions A Factor In Poor Standard

Snooker's world number three opens up on 'shocking' conditions
20:00, 17 Mar 2023

Mark Allen claims ‘shocking’ playing conditions have played a big part in bringing down the overall standard of snooker on the tour this season.

The 37-year-old from Northern Ireland is ironically the player of the campaign to date, having won three big titles including the UK Championship, Northern Ireland Open and World Grand Prix - and reached another final at the British Open.


But even world No3 Allen has fielded criticism from pundits and some fans for the battling and gritty style employed to achieve all that success and already around £600,000 this term.

One of Allen’s main rivals, former world champion Neil Robertson, insisted that “this year has been so strange – I don’t think anyone has played to a really, really ultra elite standard.

“Mark Allen has had a sensational year, but he would admit himself he hasn’t played very well.

“Mark has battled unbelievably hard and he’s got over the line, done amazingly well, especially in a couple of the finals when he was well behind.

“He won a decider with Judd at the Grand Prix, battled through that really well, but I really don’t think anyone’s played well, to be honest.

“Apart from Shaun in the Players Championship, that was good stuff, that was good standard.

“Everything else, I wouldn’t say it’s been rubbish but I think it’s been a poor overall season from everyone.

“John Higgins, myself, Ronnie O’Sullivan…I’ve played really well in spells, could have won a couple more events, probably should have won a couple of Home Nations.”

There have been 14 different winners on tour this season, and Allen said: “ I can only speak for myself, but the conditions this year have been nothing short of shocking.

“The playing conditions have been terrible. I’ll probably get a fine for that, but it is the case – they have been dreadful.

“That wasn’t the case at the Grand Prix – that was just me being rubbish! But the conditions do sometimes dictate how you play.

“People laugh and say ‘you said the conditions were bad, and someone else made three centuries in the next session’.


“Every session can play different, and overall this season they have been really poor. It’s no coincidence that the old table-fitters that were here for years and years are no longer here.

“And now we are getting really bad conditions. Make of that what you will.

“I’d agree with Neil. I played some really good stuff at the British Open – up until the final.

“There have been spells and matches where people have played well – but Shaun at the Welsh and the Players has been the most sustained high-level spell of snooker this season.”

Senior table fitter Pete Godwin of World Snooker Services retired last year with another experienced member of the team also stepping away.

There is nevertheless some continuity with one key fitter overseeing a vital and often underappreciated part of the snooker business, with World Snooker Tour also using new staff having taken the operation in-house.

A World Snooker Tour spokesperson said: “Our table fitters are the best in the world. The team includes fitters with extensive experience who have worked on snooker for many years.

“We have taken this team fully in-house in recent times and have set up our own warehouse and workshop. This is to ensure we have greater control over conditions.

“Playing conditions have improved dramatically in recent years, particularly with innovations such as the anti-static cloth which has helped to virtually eliminate kicks.

“There has been some outstanding snooker played this season, for example at the Masters there were 30 centuries in 15 matches, and there have already been nine maximum breaks this season

“There has been no change this season in terms of the equipment from our suppliers. Our outstanding tables, cloth and snooker balls help provide the best possible conditions.”

Both Robertson and Allen agreed that Murphy had produced some of the best and most entertaining snooker of the campaign in reaching the final of the Welsh Open, and then immediately winning the Players Championship – where he smashed in a record 11 centuries in the event.

And the 2005 world champion Murphy looks in the best shape he has ever been to win a second world title 18 years after his first.

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