BBC SPOTY: Snooker’s plunge from hero to zero

Not a single snooker player made the shortlist for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year contest, which takes place on Sunday.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has said the contest’s attitude towards the sport is “a complete insult”.

It’s hard to believe today, but snooker was once the darling of the shortlist-makers– and the British public.

Between 1981 and 1990, a snooker player came third-place or better a total of seven times.

Steve Davis is responsible for the bulk of the sport’s success. He is the only snooker player ever to have won the contest (1988) and he has come runner-up twice (1981, 1987) and third-place twice (1984, 1989), too.

The other two players who have featured in the top three– Stephen Hendry and Alex Higgins– both came runner-up in their respective years.

RUNNER-UP: Stephen Hendry came runner-up in  the BBC's SPOTY event in 1990.
RUNNER-UP: Stephen Hendry came runner-up in the BBC’s SPOTY event in 1990.

Higgins’ second World Championship triumph in 1982 secured his Sports Personality honour, while Hendry’s gong came in 1990 after he won his first World Championship, which made him the youngest-ever Crucible winner.

Any other year, Hendry might well have won the Sports Personality top prize. But in 1990, the winner was more-or-less predetermined: Paul Gascoigne and his Italia ‘90 teardrops.

Since 1990, there has not been a snooker player in the event’s top three. The hole left by snooker’s absence has been plugged by stronger showings from other smaller-scale sports, such as cycling and horse-racing.

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