Independent

Can snooker and pool follow bingo in appealing to a different audience?

Pool and snooker are two of the most common games you can find on a night out with your mates. It’s a nice game to play while having a chat and enjoying a drink, without taking it too seriously unless you want to put a couple of quid on the line.

However, pool and snooker as sports are losing a generation of players due to a decline in participation. They are a victim of the rise of other pursuits like eSports, where younger adults are committing time to online games rather taking a cue in hand. The governing bodies of pool and snooker could learn a valuable example form the world of bingo to halt their decline. Bingo is renowned for being beloved by the older generation. Or so it may seem. Surveys from across the United Kingdom believe that bingo is becoming more prevalent with younger adults.

One of the primary causes could be the exposure to the game online. Bingo is one of the most popular games on the internet, and providers are always on the lookout for new customers to draw to their websites and apps. Online companies have successfully tapped into 25-34 year-old demographic with their litany of games on offer, including jackpot bingo that allows customers to play for large jackpots on games with different themes, like Shaman’s Dream and Deal or No Deal Multiplier. The online providers have built a strong social media presence and honed their games around familiar themes such as television shows.

Everyone knows Deal or No Deal, and building a bingo game around its brand breeds familiarity with customers, prompting a willingness to participate in the game. The brands are used to attract the younger adults, who have then shown a desire to remain on the websites and apps due to the interest in the game itself as well as the bonuses provided.

The more the new players are engaging with bingo, the more inclined they are to take up the game as a hobby. Evidence has been forthcoming to suggest that bingo halls are beginning to cater for younger patrons. Venues are now offering comedy and music nights as well other forms of entertainment alongside bingo to capitalise on their new market. It certainly seems to be working, at least for the classic game, shredding its image of grannies in a stuffy hall with a cheesy compère on the mic – well maybe not the latter.

There are lessons that snooker and pool could learn from bingo. It needs to increase its online presence both in slot games and in console games. There have been efforts in the past based on the icon of snooker, Ronnie O’Sullivan, but it needs to develop an effective strategy to appeal to young adults to keep the game alive. A successful console game could make the difference, allowing people to learn at their own speed before trying out the game for real. Virtual reality games would certainly help in that regard, honing techniques in a safe environment without having to leave the house.

The social aspect also needs to be improved. Snooker halls are a bit too outdated with older gents emulating the grannies in the bingo halls. Pool bars are a bit too casual and the game itself becomes second fiddle to alcohol and a social catch-up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for the players, but the game loses out in this aspect.

Culturally, there is not a great deal of interest outside of a loyal following of fans. The BBC used to have a gem of a television series called Big Break that was broadcast every Saturday night for 10 years between 1991 and 2001. A revival could spark an interest for younger adults and it’s certainly an avenue the governing bodies of pool and snooker should explore.

Bingo has shown the way for a games that developed reputations of being old-fashioned. If you are prepared to work hard to generate a new audience it will pay dividends down the line. Hierarchies of snooker and pool should be watching and learning to revive their respective sports.

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