UK Snooker: Portsmouth singles champion shows me the ropes at Waterlooville Sports Bar

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
When I think of snooker halls, I envision dark rooms, hushed silence, and despite the smoking ban coming into effect 17 years ago, cigarette smoke.

Portsmouth Singles Champion, Nick Fegan, showed me the ropes at Waterlooville Sports BarPortsmouth Singles Champion, Nick Fegan, showed me the ropes at Waterlooville Sports Bar
Portsmouth Singles Champion, Nick Fegan, showed me the ropes at Waterlooville Sports Bar | Habibur Rahman

An outdated perception undoubtedly, but snooker appears to be going through somewhat of a crisis with young people drawn to the louder and more accessible game of pool. I was invited down to Waterlooville Sports Bar by the Portsmouth singles champion, Nick Fegan, so he could show me the ropes. Beyond the opportunity to showcase my lack of sporting skill, it was a chance to get Nick’s perspective on the future of the game.

For Nick, the game has been a big part of his life from a young age. He said: “I have been playing the game for 25 years or so now. A misspent youth and slightly misspent adulthood I guess. My stepdad was a very good snooker player, so he would drag me along and showed me how to hold a cue.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Then a close friend of mine is a professional on tour, and as a junior we used to get the same bus so after a while he encouraged me to come along. That was it then, once I entered the snooker club once, that was me sold. After that, everyday after school I would be there and that was childhood gone.”

Growing up in Leicester, it wasn't just any snooker club where Nick caught the bug, but one where some of the best players of the past 20 years have passed through. Nick said: “Willie Thorne’s was the snooker club, it’s no longer there sadly. They had 24 tables and every weekend they would have a junior tournament one day, and then a pro-am where you would get so many of the top professionals go through.

“At the club you had the likes of Mark Selby, Tom Ford, Judd Trump, Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire, and Shaun Murphy. You will hear them reference it quite a lot on tv, it is one of those places that was a complete hot bed. I was just fortunate that it was 20 minutes from my house and that's where I learnt the game, watching those guys play.”

For those that don’t know, snooker is played on a much larger table than pool, around 12ft by 6ft which makes it more challenging. You are required to pot a red ball which scores one point and then a colour which all have a different amount of points associated to them. The process is repeated until you miss and your opponent then does the same. Once all the reds are potted, you need to pot the colours in order with the black last. The player with the most points wins. A whistle-stop tour of the rules but hopefully you get the gist.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Snooker has a rich sporting history in the UK and the sport has taken off in Asia. However, as Nick explained, it is not all rosy at home. He said: “It is a tricky one with snooker at the moment because globally it is doing well, in the far east in particular there are more and more professionals every year. However, locally, I don't want to be too dramatic but it is dying off slightly.

“Every year another snooker club seems to close, and clubs have fewer tables because the demand is for more pool as it’s easier and more accessible, and in some people’s eyes it is more fun. Financially it makes sense to have pool tables over snooker tables. We are at a really delicate stage where we are not seeing the youth coming to the big tables and they are sticking with pool unfortunately.”

Portsmouth singles snooker champion lines up a shot as I try and watch and learn. Nick is concerned about the future of the game in the UK.Portsmouth singles snooker champion lines up a shot as I try and watch and learn. Nick is concerned about the future of the game in the UK.
Portsmouth singles snooker champion lines up a shot as I try and watch and learn. Nick is concerned about the future of the game in the UK. | Habibur Rahman

Alongside major sporting events such as the FA Cup final and the Grand National, snooker is featured on free to air tv every year. The World Championship, held at the Crucible in Sheffield, has been shown annually on the BBC since 1978 and is hugely popular. The coverage does not seem to correlate in the take up of the game by the younger generation according to Nick. He is the youngest player that takes part in the leagues in Portsmouth and he wants to see younger faces coming through.

Nick said: “There are tournaments all year and for me one of the things that is missing is the coverage of things like the qualifiers. Sometimes I think that is more exciting, we have all seen Hendry, Robertson, Higgins, O’Sullivan, we have seen them hundreds of times. I think it’s exciting to see fresh faces, like in darts with the impact Luke Littler has had coming through. That's what gets people excited and gives people something to aspire to.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It has been an uphill battle even for Nick himself. His children accompany him on occasion to the snooker table but even they are more drawn to pool.

In our games, I surprisingly don’t do too badly, potting a few shots as I get used to the bigger table. It is a fun and challenging game and Nick’s passion for it is infectious. The larger table requires greater accuracy and more thought about your shot selection. The clash of cultures between pool and snooker reminds me of the battle happening in cricket at the moment between Test and the T20 formats. Both are excellent and deserving of time and participation.

Regarding my preconceptions, the room was still dark and I would have felt uncomfortable making too much noise, but that is out of respect to other players. Much more than that though the game is fun and I would recommend people giving it a go. With such a rich history it would be a shame if the next generation don't take up the sport.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.