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Default Some interesting Snooker stats - 2020 World Championship

August 5th, 2020, 00:43
The Snooker World Championship got underway this week and with the first round just about over I found myself remarking to a colleague how everyone seemed to be very old this year & I made the claim that it feels like it's gone back to its early 80s state in terms of most of the players being old pros rather than exciting new talent.

I could have been making some kind of cognitive bias though, so I hunted for some stats.

I analysed the age data for the last five World Championships that occurred on a decade year, namely 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2020.

The televised stages of the competition are the only stages that really count towards public perception of the current Snooker player base, so I simply counted anyone who made it into the last 32 of the competition, commonly known as Round 1.

The average age of players was as follows:

1980: 38
1990: 33.5
2000: 29
2010: 32
2020: 35.5

So I was indeed vindicated in my assumption, it is indeed the oldest World Championship for about 40 years.

To make matters even more boring'er, at least in the 1980 era the old people in the competition were indeed really old, so even in 1980 it didn't seem totally dominated by the older players as it was more a case of the extremely old simply padding the stats & having a 20 year old playing a 66 year old is a different kind of interesting to a 43 year old playing another 43 year old.

The age range of players:

1980: 20-66
1990: 21-60
2000: 21-42
2010: 18-52
2020: 20-49

However, even this doesn't fully illustrate the oldness of this year's event. If we go one step further and now look at how many under 25s were playing in each year, 2020 really shines as the most lacking year for 'new talent' of the bunch:

Under 25s competing:

1980: 4 (including a future no.1)
1990: 4 (including a future no.1)
2000: 6 (including someone touted to be a future no.1 who sadly died of cancer)
2010: 5 (including a future no.1)
2020: 2 (neither of whom are expected/showing signs to become a no.1)

There are only two stats of relevance where 2020 is at least still barely 'younger' than the game was in 1980, that of under 30s and the number of 40+ players.

Under 30s competing:

1980: 7
1990: 12
2000: 18
2010: 11
2020: 9

Over 40s competing:

1980: 12
1990: 8
2000: 1
2010: 3
2020: 9

I remember back in the late 90s how people were postulating that Snooker had pretty much become a "young man's game" and that it had become another sport that almost demanded retirement by 35/40, but the reality of time has suggested that that era was actually the anomaly as Snooker seems to have quickly reverted back to being very much a middle-aged man's game. [Women are allowed to compete, there's zero sexism to entry, the long awaited arrival of female players just never materialises naturally for unknown reasons, the last female pro on the official Snooker tour circuit lost all 18 of her opening matches]

Combine this bevvy of stats with the fact that this year there are no crowds because of Corona Virus and the event this year seems to be just naturally less glamourous an event than it traditionally should or could be.

This is all fine for dedicated Snooker fans who are very familiar with all the players involved, but one can't help thinking that it wont be a year to attract much in the way of new talent via inspiration, even with any increased viewership as a result of Corona lockdowns.
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August 5th, 2020, 13:10
Looking at the list of people who became world champion, it appears to be very much a sport of which any role model comes from the UK. I expect to attract young people you need role models in a sport (which is how Darts became popular in The Netherlands).
I can watch snooker, but it doesnít really have my interest like some other sports do, so I donít know that much about itís players, but are there any role models in snooker that young people can identify with and that are successful or outspoken?

As to your stats, is using a spacing of a decade sufficient to show a trend?
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August 5th, 2020, 15:26
Yes, promotion to the televised stages of snooker tournaments on a regular basis is a very slow process as the sport is based upon a top-16 system, whereby the top 16 players all get automatic places in round 1 of any ranking tournament, thereby self generating more ranking points to maintain their position & getting into the top 16 therefore requires a lot of sustained talent to break into it.

As a result a top 16 can barely change over even five or six years. For example, 9 of this years top 16 were also in the top 16 in 2010, they are all just 10 years older now. And many of the new top 16 from that time were also players of that era who just developed later in life [another 3, one of which who played in the 2010 competition, just not as a seeded top 16 player].

So to perform a top 32 for the years in between 2010 and 2020 would just see this lot getting one year older every year. The round number years in snooker historically make for good benchmarks. I've no idea why, it's just how the generations tend to work out, as Steve Davis started about 1980, Steven Hendry in about 1990 and etc.

There's more internationality to the competition than the list of world champs suggest and there's regularly been non-English winners and even quite a few non-UK winners. For example, in the early 1980s the sport was quite dominated by Canadians and most years there's been a top ranking Australian. But no great influx of Canadians emerged as a result of that. The Aussies still manage to have at least one top guy at all times though.

Since the 1990s there's also been top players in the top 16 from Thailand and China and although they haven't won the world title yet, they've won pretty much everything else and most competitions now have strong representation from these two countries.

This year saw the first competitor from Switzerland, one of the two under 25s, but he didn't do so well but no doubt hugely inspires young folk from that country just to get to the tele stages.

In terms of the Dutch, the most famous Snooker professional from there has, interestingly, been the sport's currently most famous referee, Jan Verhaas who's refereed the grand final of the WC on 6 occasions, most recently in 2017. And now even he's started to look quite old

The nationality of the winners over the years has been:

English
Scottish
English
Australian
English
English
Welsh
Northern Irish
Welsh
Canadian
English
Northern Irish
English
Scottish
English
Irish
Scottish
Welsh
English
English
English
Scottish
Australian
English
English
English

And yet most of the 'new talent' in the sport is coming from places like China and Thailand and there aren't any young UK folks turning any heads at the moment. So it's not so much just the winning, but competing generally that gets people interested. But why young UK folk have gone off the boil is both surprising and unfathomable.

Of the under 25s at this year's event, their nationality is: Chinese, Swiss.

The sport suits the oriental mentality very well as it's a very civilised, thoughtful sport even though it has its roots very much in working men's clubs and always seeks to maintain that heritage.

a whopping 7 of this years top 32 players were even playing in the last 32 of the 2000 event, what with so much of that year being so young and so talented. But it's not so interesting for the audience watching the same two players play each other for 20 years
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August 10th, 2020, 13:43
Some more interesting stats for this tournament that have arisen that relate remarkably well to what I have been observing above. [for anyone who's interested but cba enough to post ]

The last 8 players left in the tournament are all bunched into exactly generational challenges:

QF1: Trump (30) vs Wilson (28), both members of the current gen of top players.

QF2: MgGill (29) vs Maflin (36), both non-seeded qualifiers, rank outsiders.

QF3: Robinson (38) vs Selby (37), both members of the 2010 gen of top players.

QF4: O'Sullivan (44) vs Williams (45), both members of the 2000 gen of top players.

Meaning that the semis will be guaranteed to be gen vs gen + a guaranteed rank outsider. Which is all very interesting indeed.

In terms of nationality it's quite interesting as well:

QF1: England vs England

QF2: Scotland vs Norway

QF3: Australia vs England

QF4: England vs Wales

So there's still lots of variety here. I'd be interested to know if @a pibbur is noticing any excitement in Norway as a result of Maflin's unusual and unexpected progress, especially with him being odds-on favourite in his QF match to get to the semis.

And the 44 yr old Ronnie O'Sullivan has chipped in on the lack of UK talent issue with some classic Ronnie humour-truth:

Most of them would do well as half-decent amateurs, or not even amateurs they're so bad a lot of them.

A lot of them you see now, you think, cor, I've probably got to lose an arm and a leg to fall outside the top 50. So that's why we're hovering around - because of how poor it is down that end.
Thankfully, those still playing are still extremely good entertainment
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