Unfair advantage

April 3, 2020

In a frame of Snooker, a player is leading by more than 31 points but less than 35 points and comes to the table with the last remaining red ball in a position very close to a pocket and with clear straight-line access to be able to pot it. In the course of feathering prior to playing the stroke this player inadvertently touches the cue ball with the cue which is clearly seen by the referee. The referee calls the foul but the player proceeds with the stroke, whether by involuntary reaction or with malice aforethought, and pots the red. The referee then correctly awards the non-striker 4 points.

 

The situation now is that the offender, by dint of those 4 conceded penalty points, is either 28, 29 or 30 points ahead but now with no reds left and therefore only 27 points available, meaning the non-offender is in need of penalty points to win the frame due solely to the unfair actions of the outgoing and possibly smug or maybe apologetic, striker.

 

The question then arises as to what options the referee has in redressing the situation so as to be fair to the non-offender and what, if anything should be said or done to admonish the offender.

 

Well the option of calling a Miss is not one of them as feathering the cue ball in preparation to play is not a stroke and therefore a Miss under that condition cannot be called, nor is it permissible to call the Miss otherwise, not because penalty points were then required, as they were, but solely because the cue ball first struck a ball-on meaning there was no miss. Even if a miss were allowed to be called it would still leave the non-offender with only the three usual options, none of which would allow the frame to be won without penalty points, unlike the situation before the foul.

 

The offender should be warned for unsporting conduct if the referee considers it was a deliberate act or an admonition to take more care if it was considered to be involuntary, but that also does not address the conundrum of how to return the game to a level playing field where both players have the chance to win the frame, which was the situation before the unfair actions were made.

 

Some would say that the rule in Section 5 which allows the referee to make a decision to ensure fair play when situations are not covered by the rules should be invoked, but this is not the case here because the situation is covered and if interpreted correctly, will provide a solution.

 

A player is defined as the striker from the moment the table is approached at the start of any turn and remains so until either no scoring stroke has been made or a foul has been committed. (Asking an opponent to play again following a foul will also end a striker’s turn but that is irrelevant in this example). In the act of feathering the cue ball and making contact whilst doing so (fouling) the player has ceased to be the striker under these rules. By then striking the cue ball and pocketing the red both those balls have been moved by other than the striker for which condition rule 15 in section 3 can now be invoked. It states that any ball moved in such a manner should be replaced to its original position without penalty. This then gives the referee a mandate to redress the balance by replacing both the cue ball and the red to the positions they were in before the passage of play described and where there are once again 35 points available instead of an insufficient, for the non-offender, 27.

 

The outcome is that everything can now be as it would have been if the offender had not been compelled to act as described, including the fact that the offender, if not deliberately fouling, cannot be doubly punished by any further penalty and that the non-offender as well as the offender can or must win the frame on merit.

 

As in the situation described, if the referee had the time to call the foul before the unfair actions of the player such that it was unambiguous to that player that the referee was aware a foul had been committed, a referee in such a case would not be exceeding any authority if awarding the frame for serious unsporting conduct as long as the consideration by the referee was that the action was deliberate. If such circumstance exists then the minimum of a further penalty, prescribed in Section 3 Rule 11 e) and as defined in Section 3 Rule 3 k), (which also states that all balls shall be replaced) should be awarded.

 

The last thing to say is that if this rule is valid in the situation described above where the points difference is critical it is certainly also valid in all other similar instances. The only difference is that it is hard to imagine a player acting so rashly when winning or losing the frame does not hang on the outcome of one stroke. I also have to add that this description is hypothetical not an account of an incident experienced and I would not expect that it will ever arise and that most, if not all, the players I have ever refereed would not act in such a diabolical manner and would therefore not need the unsporting conduct admonition or be subject to a possible loss of the frame.

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