In the majority of sports there is always one rule that causes some sort of controversy in a game, whether it is the introduction of the black card in GAA or the lack of goal line technology in football. In snooker the rules are never a cause of debate. However, the introduction of the miss rule has raised some eyebrows and caused some controversial situations.
According to world snooker, the rule states that “The striker shall, to the best of his ability, endeavour to hit the ball on.”
Essentially the player has to attempt to hit the ball whether they are snookered or not. If the target ball is missed by the player then the referee calls ‘foul and a miss’ and the shot is replayed if the opposition player chooses it.
The majority of times this rule stands up quite well but 2 situations come to mind that question the consistency of the rule.
1.Difficulty Of The Snookers
As talented as the top players are, there are some cases where it is almost virtually impossible to hit the target ball. With the miss rule in play a player could play and miss the target ball enough times as to concede enough points that they require a snooker. This is where referees need to become more lenient. There have been occasions where 30-40 points have been conceded by players as a result of the miss rule. It’s a rule that slows games down and referees have it in their power not to call a miss if they deem the difficulty of the escape too high
2. Technical Fouls
There arises another scenario where the controversy of the miss rule is brought into play. This is when a technical foul is played. Examples of a technical foul include part of the players clothing touching off a ball or the players cue accidentally (and illegally) hitting off a ball. Because an attempt has not been made to play the ball then the miss rule does not come into effect and the shot can not be retaken. This can cause an unfair advantage for a player as it gets them out of a tricky situation. The clip below is in a match between John Higgins and Ronnie O’ Sullivan and shows an example of how a technical foul can actually benefit the fouling player.
The referees need to be more flexible in their handling of the miss rule, after all they have the power not to call a miss if they deem the difficulty of the snooker too high. The wording rule should be changed in such a way that a technical foul, which you can see in the clip above, is punished in the same manner as a failed attempt to hit the ball.
A potential change to the miss rule would be not to allow a retake but to surrender a free ball to the opposing player instead. This introduction would for one stop the unfair accumulation of points awarded in fouls and in turn, the tactical advantage would still remain with the player who laid the snooker.
This miss rule has been a thorn in the side of some players over the year, most notably Ronnie O’Sullivan in matches against players like Peter Ebdon and Mark Selby whose tactical style of play clash with that of O’ Sullivan’s.
One highly doubts snooker will revert back to the 80’s when the miss rule was non existent but we do hope that amendments are made to the rule in order to restore fluency to the game.
Dave Duggan, Pundit Arena.