Despite the acres and acres of coverage afforded it in the media, the Open Golf Championship drew a peak viewing audience of 4.7m on the BBC, just 500,000 more than the peak for this year’s world snooker final.
Actually, they are not like-for-like figures because the golf was shown on BBC1 and the snooker on BBC2, which is still considered a minority channel.
Also, while events at Birkdale were closely fought until Padraig Harrington turned it on over the last few holes, the Crucible final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter very quickly turned into a procession, so the final session was decidedly low on drama, which would have meant a lower audience than for a close finish.
So why does a sport like golf attract 20 times the media coverage that snooker does?
Some of this is snooker’s own fault, in terms of how it’s marketed and promoted, but most of it is a form of cultural snobbery.
Golf is a middle class game. It is the sport presidents and high-powered businessmen play. It costs fortunes to join many clubs and the game revels in its own elitism.
Snooker is traditionally working class, but in reality is open to all. Many, many people look down on it for this reason and because it does not require physical fitness, as if this negates the considerable skill required to play it at the top level.
The media get very excited about the World Championship but little else. Sometimes you can’t blame them as very little happens between tournaments, especially as players are threatened with disciplinary action for even the mildest of statements.
However, look at the BBC snooker homepage. It hasn’t changed since June 8, even though there have been three tournaments played since (the Jiangsu Classic and two in the World Series).
For a period in the 1980s, snooker was the most popular sport on British television. Figures have declined but are still satisfactory and often more than satisfactory. On Eurosport, they are on the up-and-up.
Yet this doesn’t translate into finding top class sponsors for new events.
It’s easy to blame World Snooker for this – and they are to blame for some of it – but they are fighting against the same cultural stigma the game carries.
Chief executives would rather stand on the first tee alongside Tiger Woods in a pre-tournament pro-am than go anywhere near snooker.
Golf carries more prestige and, because it is popular in America, affords opportunities for brand penetration and all the other horrible marketing buzzwords major corporations use.
What’s the solution? Snooker should not apologise for appealing to every sort of person, regardless of class or background.
But the time has come to look at ways of changing the game’s appeal and think globally. This does not just mean China but also continental Europe and beyond.
Going to venues such as the Newport Centre is not going to persuade anyone with money to invest to get involved.
The promoters of the new World Series have the right idea in terms of merchandising and bringing fans closer to the players, as witnessed recently in Berlin.
The sport may even have to embrace shorter formats such as the shot-clock used in the Premier League or the 6-red version of the game, which proved popular recently with players who competed in an event in Thailand, in the same way cricket had to turn to one-day internationals and 20/20.
There is nothing wrong with snooker as a game. It is still played and watched by millions around the world. Its top players are household names from Birmingham to Beijing to Berlin.
But it has been allowed to stagnate, as witnessed by the skeletal calendar for the new season.
The sport needs to send out a message to sponsors that it is worth getting involved with, and this will only happen when it first acknowledges that a change of approach is required.
Just stumbling on the same old way isn’t going to work.