Snooker Hall: Mike Watterson, the man behind the Crucible, who wishes he never bothered

Carol Watterson sat in the Crucible Theatre, taking in a play, when she had a lightbulb moment that changed the face of snooker forever.

Tuesday, 26th April 2016, 10:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th April 2016, 10:33 pm

Married to former professional Mike, she imagined the Crucible as the perfect venue for snooker. Carol mentioned it to Mike, Mike hired the venue for two weeks in 1977 and the World Snooker Championship, at its spiritual home of Sheffield, was born.

Legends have been made there; over 18million people watched its famous final on TV. But no obvious tribute, recognition or even mention of Watterson obviously exists at the Crucible.

In 2007, in an interview with this newspaper from his home in Chesterfield, Watterson admitted he was bitter about his treatment from the snooker world. He was removed as promoter of the world championships he had been running for seven years in the 1980s, and added: “I go to a couple of games each championships but to be honest, it’s a heartbreaking experience for me.

“After 25 years it still hurts. It still hurts a lot.”

A former wages clerk, car dealer and national amateur champion, Watterson helped take snooker out of smoky pubs and clubs and into its spiritual home.

“Sheffield has been making millions out of the World Snooker Championships for 30 years and that is because I brought it to the Crucible,” he added.

“My name is never mentioned. I did not make nearly a fraction of the money as I should have done but I made enough and invested it well so I am comfortable. I have made a lot of people wealthy through snooker. I do resent it and, yes, I am bitter about it.”

Watterson is 73 now, and the game has changed immeasurably since he was a player. It would be a shame if his role in that transition wasn’t recognised before it is too late. You never can tell if something’s going to work,” he said. “I don’t think I imagined at all the tournament would be in Sheffield for so long.

“But if it ain’t broke now, don’t mend it.”

Barry Hawkins, not-so-fresh from his battle with Ronnie O’Sullivan the previous evening, trails Marco Fu 7-1 in their quarter-final.

* Last night Ding Junhui stormed to a 13-3 win over Mark Williams to reach the semi-finals. Mark Selby was leading Kieren Wilson 10-6 at the end of play.