John Virgo believes social media and celebrity culture’s intrusion into sport have turned snooker’s charismatic characters into privacy-guarding potters.
During the mid-1980s snooker boom years, the likes of Alex Higgins, Jimmy White, Kirk Stevens and Tony Knowles were household names as much for their vibrant personalities as their snooker skills.
But Virgo says modern stars, in snooker and across the sporting spectrum, are denied the freedom to cut loose and enjoy themselves because the slightest hint of a misstep could count against them.
He predicted ’Hurricane’ Higgins, who died in 2010, would have smashed the camera phone of any modern-day interloper.
Crucible stars used to populate Sheffield’s nightclubs between matches at the World Championship, but the new generation are more likely to enjoy a quiet meal and turn in early.
Virgo won the UK Championship in 1979 and swiftly saw the one-time minority interest sport become a mainstream fascination.
“It is a different world now and I think the world started getting different round about then,” Virgo said.
“I remember that if you went down to the Crucible or other snooker tournaments it was all the snooker writers, and then all of a sudden when the game became popular on television it wasn’t only snooker writers: it was what we called special correspondents.
“All of a sudden you couldn’t go out to nightclubs, you didn’t know who you were talking to, and it just changed completely. As soon as it became popular then not only the sports pages wanted to know about it, everybody else wanted to know.
“Particularly now with social media, you only need to turn round and someone will have a camera in your face and occasionally someone will be talking to you at the bar, asking you to pose for a picture, and someone will say, ’They’re videoing this’.