René Evans says it was “a shock” to him. And after having all that in a snooker, you can believe it without reservation.
Evans, 35, is the most successful female snooker player in the world, a twelve-time world champion (most recent in 2019) who is unbeaten after playing 90 consecutive games, which is why Evans sometimes plays the dominant game. Nevertheless, she can hardly make a living from her sport, so far there are no women professionals, it is still a normal job to finance the trip on tour to the players. Men attract attention: As accomplished professionals, they jet around the world, Asia, Great Britain, and again, if not an epidemic. It is about decent prize money, television broadcasts, advertising contracts – everything that brings an income.
Even when the annual Women’s World Championship is held, hardly anyone has taken notice. Instead, a “Ladies Day” is patronized in the Men’s World Cup.
“I always wanted that to happen,” Evans says
Evans had resigned himself to his snooker life off the radar – but now a “jerk”. In a move that has continued for several years, the World Union has decided to give women two starting spots on the main tour in the future. Like Englishman Evans, 30-year-old Ng Wai of Hong Kong also qualified and could compete with the best men over the next two years.
Only two starting places out of 128, that’s not a lot, you might say. Evans is still overwhelmed. “I always wanted this to happen,” she told the newspaper Metro: “Players like me ultimately have a goal. We can become professionals.” The head of the women’s tour, Mandy Fisher, “speaks of a tremendous moment. We are facing the most important days of our history”.
Why women have long stopped playing the same rung in snooker is a question that can only be answered with a disappointing answer. For a long time, the self-proclaimed “Gentleman’s Sport” was a purely men’s club in which women were avoided: not only in pubs, but also in associations that represented only male players. An organization for women (World Snooker Women) has existed for 40 years, but was not recognized by the World Association (WPBSA) until 2015. WPBSA President Jason Ferguson said the fact that the women are now officially playing on the main tour “is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.”
Evans feels it is particularly important that he get regular starting positions this time, not the wildcard. When she was given permission to play due to her dominance in 2010, with a guest ticket, it was considered a jewel gesture. The transition was very tough for Evans at the time, he did not win a single game and said goodbye again. But the time for the biggest difference in quality has come to an end: women’s visits have recently been greatly advanced; Evans measures himself more often against men in other tournament formats, and last year he put world champion Sean Murphy on the verge of defeat.
However, some women do not recognize the visit as an official qualification path. The level is very low compared to Q-School, with some male players on the Internet, mainly on Twitter. Q-School is an important qualification tournament in which the last free tickets have been played so far. Continental champions and junior champions also get a place on the main tour. And now also two of the best women.
Evans is largely unsuccessful in understanding the arguments of critics. “Why don’t people see the big picture?” she asks. It’s not about the desire to prove something: Evans wants to play regularly, whether that’s ultimately enough for success. And help snooker eventually become a contemporary sport.