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A table game played with a cue with which a ball is struck with the aim of ‘potting’ 22 balls in a particular sequence according to their colours into any of six pockets on the table. The game was developed as an alternative to the billiards table, by British military officers in India, adding further coloured balls to the table: people who missed a shot were branded ‘snookers’, ‘snooker’ being army slang for ‘novice’. The game became very popular in men's clubs across the social classes, in the gentleman's clubs of London, and in the working-men's clubs of industrial districts across Britain. As Richard Holt observed in the late 1980s: ‘It is one of the minor ironies of history that what is now the most popular televised indoor sport had its origins amongst pig-sticking and polo-playing army officers’ (Sport and the British: A Modern History). World champions were weaned on the tables of miners' clubs and working-men's institutes; and on UK television, the climax of the world championship final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis in 1985 set a record for a post-midnight live television audience. But that was snooker's peak in popularity, and in 1988 Adrian Metcalfe, Channel 4's commissioning editor for sport, described snooker as a sedative not a stimulant: ‘You just sort of nod off…It's Mogadon.’ More have come to see the sport as a stale media product in the years since, with the multimedia alternatives available to viewers via an expanded range of screen and media outlets rendering the drawn-out snooker match dull and limited viewing to the channel-zapping satellite surfer. The snooker authorities and the television producers, showing awareness of this, talked of fresh formats and novel events, and in 2009 the world championship final was refereed for the first time by a woman.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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