Female snooker referee axed

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MICHAELA Tabb, who earlier this year became the first woman to referee at the world snooker championship, has been made redundant by the sport’s governing body.

Another referee, Johan Oomen of the Netherlands, has also gone, along with staff in the marketing and administration departments.

Tabb, 35, was recruited two years ago by the then head of World Snooker, Jim McKenzie, who is now chief executive of Edinburgh Rugby. Having then been fast-tracked by officials keen to give snooker a more glamorous image, she was devastated to learn that her services were no longer required.

"Due to cutbacks, the number of professional referees has been reduced from ten to eight, and unfortunately Johan and I are the victims," said the Dunfermline woman. "It was a case of last in, first out, and I’m both upset and furious.

"I’ve been refereeing now for two years. Now I’m out the door and frankly I consider the situation scandalous. I sacrificed a lot with my family to pursue this career."

Tabb first became a referee in pool, when she and her husband, the professional player Ross McInnes, found there were no referees in their area. From there she was recruited into snooker, and her stint at this year’s Embassy World Championship was expected to be the first of many appearances at the sport’s showcase occasion. Instead, it now seems to have been her last.

"When I came in there were a lot of doubters with me being a woman, but I did not put a foot wrong in the world championship," she added.

Andy James, the marketing director of World Snooker, insisted the decision to part company with Tabb and the other employees had been done with great reluctance. "Two referees’ jobs here have been made redundant," he confirmed. "It’s hugely regrettable, but everyone is aware of the financial pressures facing snooker.

"We fully recognise it’s bad news. We didn’t want to do it, and we wouldn’t have done it unless we absolutely had to. We very much hope that Michaela can continue in the sport in some capacity."

It is clear, though, that if Tabb does remain involved in snooker, it will be in a reduced role. James added that he could not discuss what had been offered to individuals who were being made redundant, but the best Tabb can now realistically expect would be short-term employment on a tournament-by-tournament basis.

"I’m told I’ll be offered other employment within World Snooker which could entail security or general desk work - or maybe making cups of tea," Tabb said. "It’s not good enough. I’m absolutely devastated."

While declining to discuss specifics, World Snooker insisted they have yet to make any concrete proposals to Tabb about the nature of any future work she may undertake for them.