Barry Hearn takeover bid could face snooker

SNOOKER'S biggest names will be joined by the game's lesser-known players in Sheffield today to make the long-awaited judgment on whether they want Barry Hearn to run the business behind the sport.

Hearn, the veteran promoter who has had success across sports including darts, boxing and golf, returned to snooker's front line in December when he was a popular choice as chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. He wants his Matchroom Sport business to take a 51 per cent controlling stake in the WPBSA's business arm, World Snooker, at a price of 255,000, and until last week looked certain to get his wish.

Hearn has pledged more tournaments for the players and increased prize money, from 3.5million in 2009/10 to 4.5million in 2010/11. He has also promised to return control to the WPBSA if his efforts to rejuvenate snooker end in failure.

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The emergence of a rival bid, from businessman and former Olympic shooting competitor John Davison, has cast doubt on the outcome of today's vote on Hearn's plans at the WPBSA extraordinary general meeting.

Davison's bid would see him take a larger stake, 63 per cent at a price of 315,000, for a fixed 15-year period – after which the WPBSA would be able to make the rights available for tender once again. Davison has said the 315,000 would be divided up equally and paid to the world's top 64 players.

He has also pledged that prize money will rise to 5million next season, with guaranteed income for players at various levels of the sport. Davison has strong support from Lee Doyle, a former WPBSA board member and chairman of the 110Sport group, who manage many of snooker's leading players.

Doyle has claimed Hearn has "ignored" his thoughts on the way forward for snooker.

"With him, there is no guarantee in the future that anyone else will be listened to, particularly the players," said Doyle.

Doyle stressed that 110Sport are "not involved" with the Davison bid.