FORMER world champion Peter Ebdon last night described Barry Hearn’s £1 takeover bid of World Snooker as “ludicrous”.
Ebdon, who is defending his Chinese Open title in Beijing, cannot believe the plans for the future from the sport’s new supremo.
Hearn, boss of the Matchroom organisation, has circulated a 13-page document to members of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, asking them to sell their commercial rights for just £1 to a new company that he will set up and run.
A copy of Hearn’s document has been leaked to the Daily Express. If successful, his new company would acquire assets worth several millions of pounds, television contracts and other commercial rights.
Hearn is urging all players to back his takeover bid at a meeting in Sheffield on May 5 immediately after the World Championship at the Crucible, which starts in two weeks.
But there is deep concern that Hearn had not issued voting forms or proxy forms to every WPBSA member, which the governing body’s rules require at least 28 days before an EGM.
Hearn’s document states: “A new company would be set up to acquire World Snooker Limited for £1.
“The shares in the new company would be allocated 51 per cent to Matchroom Sport, a company controlled by me, 24 per cent to other commercial partners, and 25 per cent to the players. The new company would then be totally responsible for running all commercial aspects of the game.”
Hearn, long-time manager of six-time world champion Steve Davis, took over as the WPBSA’s chairman just last December but has wasted no time in making one of the boldest takeover bids in British sports history, let alone in professional snooker.
Ebdon, a former WPBSA board member, said: “The players should be very careful. I definitely won’t be backing it. Players must understand that if they give away 51 per cent then it’s lost for ever. No previous WPBSA chairman has asked for 51 per cent of the company.
“Barry Hearn is dynamic in the way he wants to create change. He’s bringing in one-frame and best-of-five matches. They’re novelty events. As a player, it’s a load of nonsense. You might as well toss a coin.
“I’ve spoken to players, who want proper tournaments with proper prize money.
“The general feeling is that this takeover attempt won’t be backed. There’s too much to lose. It should be for our association to run the game, not some outside company. This is ludicrous. I was on the previous board for five years when Rodney Walker did a fantastic job. He took us from £750,000 in debt to £4million in the bank, which was great considering the worldwide recession.”
Former WPBSA chairman Rex Williams dismissed Hearn’s proposal as “crazy”.
He said: “Transferring millions of pounds of assets to a company which is 51 per cent owned by Barry Hearn would be absurd.
“The players will be stunned by such a crazy proposal.
“He’s asking members to let 30 years of assets and goodwill be taken over by a company he would control, but no one with half a brain could back it.”
Hearn has told the players: “Your support is vital to the revitalisation of our sport and to begin the journey to take snooker back to the level it should be operating at.
“My recommendation is to set up an entirely new company to acquire World Snooker Limited that would own snooker’s commercial rights, and one that would be judged purely on the level of prize money and events provided for the players.
“We need more events to keep snooker as a viable sport to give the players an opportunity to earn a decent living from the game.
“Someone has to take responsibility, and that person has to have control.
“If I have control, I am confident I can do the job, but it obviously needs the voting members of the WPBSA to support this initiative.”
He added: “If we fail, players know that the commercial rights acquired will revert to them.”
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