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Rival bidder John Davison threatens Hearn snooker plan

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Businessman and former Olympian John Davison has made a bid to take control of the running of professional snooker.

Davison, backed by seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry, is rivalling Barry Hearn's plan to take over the sport's commercial arm, World Snooker.

Hearn's bid looked set to be approved at a meeting next week after receiving support from the majority of players.

But Davison is hoping to swing the vote with his promise of 5m prize money, 500,000 more than Hearn has promised.

Hearn, who became chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) in December, wants to introduce more ranking tournaments as well as higher prize money, but his ownership proposals have been more controversial.

He intends to take a 51% stake in World Snooker, the commercial arm of the WPBSA, with players and other stakeholders in the sport owning the remaining 49% of what would become an independent business.

Three-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan is a fan of Hearn, but Peter Ebdon has been the fiercest public voice of dissent, saying players "cannot possibly back" his ideas and that Hearn is asking players to hand over rights which are worth "millions each year".

 

Davison, who failed with a similar takeover bid in 2002, proposes to take a 63% stake in World Snooker, which would give him power for an initial period of 15 years.

Following that, the WPBSA would be able to make the rights available for tender once again.

Players will have the chance to quiz both men on their proposals at an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday, 2 June.

Hearn, who says if his plan is rejected he will walk away from snooker, was sceptical about his rival's credentials.

"John Davison is an excellent investment adviser but there's a world of difference between running that and the world of professional sport," Hearn told BBC Sport.

"It's a question of who the players think can do the best job for snooker. I think I can offer something very special to the world of snooker

"There are big hurdles in front of snooker in terms of revitalising the sport and the integrity of the game. We can't afford to let this situation go on."

Hendry said the emergence of a second bid was a sign that snooker remains in rude health, before putting his support behind Davison.

Stephen Hendry
Hendry is backing Davison's bid over Barry Hearn

"For a sport which many would like to write off, to have two bids on the table to take the game forward shows that there is plenty of life in snooker," said Hendry.

"Players have been crying out for proper tournaments and more money and the proposal put forward by John Davison certainly meets those criteria.

"John is a guy with a fantastic track record and huge experience in the sports industry. That he has come forward again to lend his expertise and acumen to snooker says a lot about what he sees in terms of potential for the sport.

"He has stipulated the time scale he will work within, which for me is more appealing than just handing all of our assets over."

The Snooker Players' Association called for a financial probe to be undertaken before any decision is made at Wednesday's EGM.

An SPA statement read: "In light of the new proposal made by John Davison, the Snooker Players' Association insists that WPBSA pays for an independent review from a reputable firm of auditors such as Deloitte or PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) and report its findings and recommendations back to its members before any votes are taken at the EGM."

Davison competed in men's skeet shooting at the 2000 Olympics, missing out on a place in the final.

In his professional life, he became a partner of private equity firm Bridgepoint, before retiring last year.

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1st June 2010, 20:52
 
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