A Conundrum

A conundrum has been raised by incidents in VBSA Pennant matches played recently.

This account of proceedings in the first incident is not first-hand but from the perspective of the player who did not prevail in that particular frame.

The course of events was that this player, who was 30 points in arrears with one red remaining managed to lay a snooker. The referee upon the failure of his opponent to successfully escape from the position, called a ‘miss’ but then turned to the player in arrears and said, and I quote, ‘that’s the frame’. This player immediately protested saying that not only was he able to win the frame from the original position where there were 35 points available with only 31 required to win but that because of the foul there were now only 27 points required to win and if the request for the balls to be replaced following the call of miss was complied with there was a good chance that the arrears could be further reduced.

By the account given to me this argument did not have the desired outcome and the frame was eventually won or awarded to the player ahead in the scores at the time who was also, whether or not by coincidence, a member of the same team as the referee.

If it did transpire as related, then the actions of this referee are highly unethical. It is never the duty or right of a referee to offer an opinion of whether or not a player is capable of overturning a points deficit such as described. Even if penalty points had been required it is still solely up to the player whether or not the frame should continue in an effort to overcome any such deficit, unless it has got to a ridiculous stage whereupon the prescribed actions of the referee are still not that the frame can be awarded but only that a suggestion may be given that a concession would be appropriate. (Further avenues are also available to a referee if the suggestion is ignored including the ungentlemanly conduct rule).

Upon further inquiry and by the account of this referee’s team captain, who in admitting that the incident was unobserved still came to the conclusion that it was a misinterpretation of a very poorly understood colours plus 10 points rule. (A full explanation of this condition can be found on the Victorian governing body website under ‘by-laws’.)

Another question posed by this person after describing the above events was ‘how many times can a miss be called on the same stroke’ The stated misapprehension was that there was a prescribed and limited number with the impression that it was either 2 or 3 or 4.

The rule states that a miss may not be called if either player is in need of penalty points to win the frame, either before or because of the stroke played unless the referee considers it deliberate. There is no restriction on how many may be called before that condition exists except to say that if full straight line central contact is available to a ball on then a miss can only be called three times before the frame must be awarded, as long as a warning is given after the second call of miss.

The amount of misses that can otherwise be called is therefore only limited to the amount of points available and the difference in the accumulated scores of the protagonists and if all the reds are still to be potted and no previous penalty points have yet been awarded then that limit to the amount of miss calls is only constrained by the moment that one player is 146 penalty points in arrears with all the reds remaining on the table.

The obvious caveat to this is that the above scenario is only hypothetical and repeated failure to strike a snookered ball on should eventually succumb to common sense when the referee must come to the decision that an escape is beyond the skill capabilities of the striker.

In a separate incident at a different venue but on the same night the black was potted during the course of a frame that was by coincidence, being refereed by a player who is an accredited referee with international experience. The Spot and the Pyramid Spot were both occupied whereupon the referee proceeded to spot the black on the Centre Spot. This was immediately challenged by one of the players, saying that the black should be spotted on the yellow spot, insisting that he was correct and continuing the dispute despite his opponent, who was also an accredited referee holding a Class 2 certificate, agreeing with the match referee. The rule is that if a spot is occupied the ball shall be re-spotted on the highest spot available, and as can be seen both the professional referees were correct in the decision made.

Regardless of whether or not it is the belief of a player that a ruling is incorrect, that player is not free to argue the point and the outcome is always that the referee’s decision is final.

A player may question a decision once and in a respectful or at least, non-aggressive manner and if still not satisfied, enter a formal complaint to the governing body at the conclusion of the frame or match, in this case the VBSA and if found to be correct the referee in question could and should be counselled. This counselling could also be followed up by the retraining of that referee. The important point to make however, is that the offending decision made will not be overturned and no adjustment to the result of either the frame or match will be made and that the final decision of any referee, whether accredited or not, will stand.

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