Snooker legend Cliff Thorburn has given his backing to a Whitley Bay club and hopes it can help bring through potential future stars.
The former World snooker champion visited Whitley Bay Snooker Centre, run by Paul Rinaldi, last month for two exhibition nights and was also on hand to pass on tips to members and hand out trophies for the weekly Over 60s competition.
And the Canadian was full of praise for the facilities at the club, which includes two former World Championship tables.
Speaking to the News Guardian, Thorburn said: “Snooker is difficult to learn but you have some great coaches like Paul who can help people improve.
“The people I have talked to love the facilities, then you have the various inhouse competitions and the kids get their coaching on a Saturday morning.
“If I was involved in a club in Canada, that is the first thing I would do – get the parents down with their kids so that we have more youngsters playing.”
He added: “It’s a very frustrating sport. I broke 11 cues the first time I played it but you then get the hand of it.
“But having the proper equipment is a big thing, and you certainly have it here.”
Thorburn said that although snooker had lost a number of fans and viewers to the high number of sports channels and coverage elsewhere, he felt the future was still bright.
“If you look at the TV ratings, it’s fantastic that there is a lot of snooker on TV,” he said.
“It is a world class sport and the World Championships are as big as any event.
“The number of tournaments are growing, but if we can get a tournament with £2m prizemoney, that should get the sponsors back involved and bring in more spectators.”
And Thorburn – who was full of praise for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s performance in defending his World Championship crown – also felt that the sport’s growing popularity in Asia could only be good, helping attract new players and increase prizemoney.