Murphy has a point about amateurs in snooker but timing is his rookie mistake

In life and sport, timing is everything. For example, never answer the question ‘do I look big in this outfit?’ with an affirmative, especially if it’s five minutes before you are due to leave the house.

Similarly, don’t refuse to come off the bench for your pub team, in protest at your lack of starts, if the person you are replacing just scored a hat-trick against The Cock Tavern. It immediately makes you look like a pound-shop Carlos Tevez.

Right or wrong, choosing the right moment to make your stand is vital, a lesson that snooker star Shaun Murphy has just learnt the hard way. The former world champion kicked up an almighty stink about amateurs being parachuted into professional tournaments to make up the numbers. Does he have a point? Yes. Should he have made it just after he had been beaten in the first round of the UK Championship by an amateur? I’m going to say no.

‘I feel extremely hard done by that I have lost to someone who shouldn’t even be in the building. I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments.’

With every comment, the hole just got deeper. Had I been within striking distance, I would have rugby tackled him to the ground for his own good.

Murphy was accused, somewhat understandably, of being ungracious, patronising, arrogant and hypocritical. But in the days since his outburst, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Mark Williams — eight world titles and more than 70 years of professional experience combined — have all stood up for him.

Yes, it does stink of sour grapes and bad timing, but that doesn’t invalidate the discussion. Listen to Williams.

He said: ‘It is a 128 tour and we never get 128 entries. I think it should be smaller, definitely. I think if you make it on to the main tour, you should be guaranteed a living. The only way you can do that is by cutting it down.’

He is not wrong, in terms of the number crunching. There are several players in the top 100 earning less than someone working in a fast-food restaurant. ‘There are not many UK youngsters coming along because they are playing Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Judd Trump in the first round of tournaments. How are you going to progress with a draw like that?’

So, the argument is a smaller professional field will create a better spread of prize money and a healthier professional game altogether, but the World Snooker Tour strongly disagrees.

A statement read: ‘We have come a very long way as a global sport over the past decade and that has partly been down to the structures we have built both at professional and grassroots level worldwide.’

They certainly have. Under the hand of Barry Hearn and his team, snooker was saved from oblivion just a little over ten years ago, so I give them massive props, but the big question here is, why does the professional field need to be so big, especially when their are not enough pros to fill the spaces?

Well, you’d have to say because of streaming deals and TV hours. The more games, more schedules filled, more chance to create revenue. Also, dare I add, more games on which to bet — a big part of modern sport, like it or not.

So, yes, I see both sides to this, I just wish this great sport would stop having its domestics at the times when the most amount of people are watching. As every newspaper jumped on Murphy’s meltdown, the second fastest player in the world, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, knocked in five centuries in a 6-1 win over Stephen Hendry. A masterclass, pure and simple, but virtually ignored.

Whether it’s a Ronnie rant or some form of industry handbags, it seems snooker’s triple crown tournaments are so often highjacked by in-fighting and soap opera and that, above all else, is what make this amateur hour.

■ 6-2 — Neil Robertson was also beaten by an amateur player in round one at the UK Championship, losing to John Astley yesterday

@colinmurray

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