The Portsmouth & District Billiards & Snooker Association was founded in the November of 1911, at that time called an “amateur billiards” association with just six member teams and about forty members. Three months later, the Portsmouth Central Conservative Club were the first champions with a winning margin of 14 points. Under present-day rules this might have been a smaller margin as their very first match was postponed. A Mr Witts of their team collected a gold medal for the highest break with a run of 62.
World War I caused a halt in proceedings, which got back under way in 1922 and at that time was still an amateur billiards league, snooker not then being anything more than the odd diversion. When 1927 saw the first world snooker championship, and Joe Davis buying the trophy that is now presented annually at The Crucible out of his meagre £6.10s.0d. winnings, there was no TV coverage and snooker only gradually became popular, mainly in servicemen’s NAAFI clubs.
World War II caused the league’s progress to again be suspended and, when play resumed in the 1940s, snooker was a much more popular game. Also round about this time, the word “amateur”was dropped from the association’s title, probably because there were a number of skilled craftsmen who earned their living as table fitters and cue makers while enjoying active participation in the games. Technically, they were classed as professionals even though most of them couldn’t make a break of 20. The popularity of snooker improved when the BBC televised Pot Black, even though it was in black and white for a high percentage of viewers. When our association celebrated its 60th birthday in 1971, colour TV was well established and the players in the Portsmouth league totalled in the high 400s, representing 25 clubs.
By 1986, we had a summer league, as well as a winter one for snooker that boasted 1,285 members playing in nine divisions of 13 or 14 teams each. The summer league itself grew to nine divisions of six teams playing a mixture of singles and doubles, after the format of the winter team knockout competition. There were five divisions of eight teams playing billiards and competitions in both games for individual champion, individual handicap champion and the team handicap knockout.
Snooker also had scratch and handicap pairs, Under-23s, Over-50s, the Club Champions’ championship and various one-day events. Both games also had inter-town leagues playing matches on Saturday nights. Alas, the bubble burst and a number of snooker clubs closed across our area leading to a core number of teams who continue to enjoy both Billiards & Snooker. We now have around 30 snooker teams playing in the Winter & Summer Leagues and around 10 teams who keep the flag flying for our annual Billiards League.
The association also spawned the Portsmouth & District Billiards & Snooker Referees’ Association, one member of which helped in the formulation of the current version of the Rules of the games with well-known professional referee the late John Street, who often phoned to discuss the latest reported odd incident.
In 2020 the Association Committee took the decision to suspend the League and Competitions for the third time in its history. National lockdowns soon followed due to the Covid-19 pandemic which saw unprecedented times globally. Thankfully a new Snooker Winter League is to restart in October 2021, much to the delight of all players including a young Jamie Wilson who last year gained Professional Snooker status. Our Association is proud to see one of our young players performing on the world stage.
The Committee always welcome contact from new players. Our contacts pages list committee members all dedicated to promoting Snooker & Billiards across the area.