Snooker Stars and the Law

Ahead of the World Snooker Championships, Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in the Law Department, recollects a few instances where noted characters in the world of professional snooker had well publicised interactions with the law.

The World Snooker Championship takes place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from the 17th of April to the 3rd of May.  The tournament is part of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), one of the events hosting audiences as part of the government’s plan to get big crowds back this summer.

By barfisch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17390498 

Alex Higgins (1949 – 2010), world champion in 1972 and 1982, found himself the defendant in a Magistrates’ Court on a few occasions.  At the 1986 UK Championship, in Preston Guild Hall, tournament director Paul Hatherall was headbutted by Higgins.  The case came before Preston Magistrates’ Court in January 1987 where the incident was described as a “completely unprovoked attack.”  Higgins pleaded guilty and was fined £250 (£200 for assault and £50 for criminal damage to a door).  A decade later he again found himself charged in relation to an assault and in June 1996 was given a conditional discharge at Stockport Magistrates’ Court.  As well as these assault cases, Higgins also appeared at Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court in December 1985.  This related to charges arising from an incident where he threw a television through the glass in a window at his home, Delveron House in Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire.

One of Alex Higgins’ managers was Howard Kruger, a well-known figure in sports management who also worked with 1986 world champion Joe Johnson and Tony Knowles.  Kruger was the subject of proceedings at Brighton County Court in October 1991.  He was disqualified for five years from holding any company directorship.

In 2015 referee Michaela Tabb was involved in a dispute with World Snooker, the body that runs the professional tour.  Tabb brought a case against World Snooker at an employment tribunal in Bristol.  The case was a claim for sex discrimination, unfair dismissal, and breach of contract.  There was an out-of-court settlement and World Snooker issued a statement which stated that “Michaela McInnes (Tabb) and World Snooker Limited have come to a confidential accommodation regarding the claims.”

It is to be hoped that stories for which the 2021 World Championship will be remembered will relate solely to high quality contests in the arena at the Crucible. 

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