By James Knight.
Mention the name of Barry Hearn to sports fans and they will associate his name with snooker, a man who has brought slick PR and marketing into our rooms and online.
He turned the Crucible in Sheffield into an institution and brought a sport back from the dead.
The sport is over 150 years of age, started by a young officer in the British Army experimenting on a billiard table.
Through the sixties when colour TV came into our snooker become a TV must, with record-breaking audiences, Steve Davis becoming a household name and “Hurricane Higgins” as Mr Personality, the George Best of snooker.
Big Break was a BBC1 light entertainment show on Saturday nights where contestants teamed up with snooker stars, testing their skills against the clock, drawing in large audiences.
The popularity seemed to dip, the lights went out and snooker seemed to just die. Players left the small screen. When it needed a Phoenix to rise from the ashes, along came Barry Hearn who lifted the sport and new names came to our TV screens with Steven Henry leading the queue.
Now we have come full circle, the World Championship at the Crucible and world-wide tournaments have seen Barry Hearn leading the way with brilliant PR and event management. Ronnie O’Sullivan is a household name and there are many following in his footsteps like Judd Trump and Mark Selby.
With 120 million people around the world playing the sport and its huge popularity in China there is a new group of great young players in our top tournaments.
Hearn told snooker presenter Hazel Irvine that he would be stepping back from the tables but he has brought snooker back to the mainstream as it has captured our imagination during the lockdown.
Professor James Knight is an international businessman, public relations practitioners and academic. He was Fellow of Bournemouth University Public Relations School, guest speaker at Judge Cambridge, Surrey, Bath and Reading, International Mentor for Oxford Brookes on Hospitality. He is a Fellow of CIPR and the Society of Public Relations of America, as well as a fellow of the Institute of Directors.