The foul and a miss rule when snookered after a foul has been one of the most controversal updates to the Snooker Rule Book going back some 20+ years.

The rule itself has led to the turn off from the sport for many players in the Amateur game.  I have seen at first hand what this rule can do to league organisations at local level where players just don’t understand it, don’t know how to apply the rule and it has caused many arguments among players of different abilities.

While the rule is accepted among the Professional players and referees are more comfortable in applying the rule in the Professional Game, it’s not so easy when it comes to the Amateur players and those who are only beginning to take up the sport.

I have seen the rule abused by players of a certain ability against a lesser ability player to gain points to win frames and matches, sometimes players won’t even get out of their seat.  Another problem is when players who have a good opportunity to pot a ball and gain position after the foul & miss is called, just simply put back to continue to gain points, this in itself is cheating to say the least.

As a World Coach and organiser of the Stars of the Future junior events for more than 20 years along with promoting female cue sports over 30 years, this rule should not apply to the Amateur game at certain levels such as beginner, Intermediate while at the top Amateur level it could be capped at put back 3 times.

Tim Dunkley sums this up in his article below.  Tim is also a coach and organiser in the UK for many years and his analysis brings home the difficulties with the rule and I totally agree with the following statement.

Seven things wrong with snooker’s miss rule

A DISTURBING and rather sad trend is changing the way snooker is played at an amateur level.

And it’s all down to our old friend, the miss rule. First of all, I have no problem with the miss rule – regardless of what the title of this article says.

  1. Three strikes and you’re out

Although I must admit I do have an issue with one aspect. The three strikes and you’re out when direct full-ball contact is available is not in the interests of fair play.

Why should a small kid (or anyone else) lose a frame because they are hampered in such a way that it is virtually impossible to hit, say, the black when the cue ball is buried in the back of the pack?

  1. Interests of fair play

But I digress. In my opinion, laying a snooker should be the tactic used when you have no reasonable chance of a pot or you need penalty points to win. It should not be a method of earning 30-40 points because your opponent cannot find an escape route.

The miss rule was introduced in 1995 because professionals were playing escapes in such a way that they were not leaving potting opportunities. Two examples are rolling deadweight up to a red on a cushion or playing off two cushions and trying to skim the edge of the pack. In other words, the shot was not played “to the best of his ability”, which are the key words in the rule.

All well and good. And it works at a professional level with two good players and an unbiased referee. So what happens at an amateur level? Most events run by the English Association of Snooker & Billiards, for example, have roving referees. Many other amateur competitions don’t even have that luxury. So the non-striker assumes the role of referee.

Is it really in the interests of fair play for the opponent, who obviously has a vested interest in the result, to call a miss?

  1. Assessing ability

One argument I hear a lot is that the miss rule is fine but most players don’t actually know the rule or understand it. That is true. They see on television that every failed escape is called a miss and they copy that. Most have never read the rules and never will, something I am only too well aware of. It’s hard enough explaining the free-ball rule to an 11-year-old whizzkid let alone the intricacies of rule 3:14.

Do we really expect the 11-year-old whizzkid to assess the ability of his/her opponent, whom he/she may never have seen before, and assess the difficult of the escape and identify easier routes? I think not.

  1. Practising snooker escapes

Another argument I hear is that the players should practise snooker escapes. True. But the miss rule was not brought in to penalise players who can’t escape from snookers.

  1. Different versions

So misunderstood is this rule and so fraught with difficulties that many local leagues and amateur organisations have adopted their own versions. Be it a maximum of three misses or being able to see part of the object-ball or ball in hand or just no miss rule. But amongst all this, we lose sight of the key phrase: “to the best of his/her ability”.

  1. What can be done?

The miss rule was written primarily with the professional circuit in mind. They have qualified referees. Perhaps the words ‘independent qualified’ should be added to the line: “If the referee considers the Rule infringed…”.

Another argument is that players need educating. I agree. But if it still causes problems after 23 years, perhaps there is actually something fundamentally wrong here.

A few years ago, the professionals voted to leave the rule as is. So cue-ball in hand or placed anywhere on the table will probably never be accepted.

  1. Kids like it

But you know what the really sad thing is? Most kids like the miss rule because they can earn loads of points from a good snooker. In fact, 30-40 points may actually be more than their highest break. No wonder they like it.

As one dad said to me: “Snooker is about potting balls.”

Instead of looking for opportunities to make big breaks, many young players now only look for opportunities to lay snookers. That cannot be right. They are playing a different game. I believe a foul should result in a maximum of seven penalty points – not the loss of a frame.

If you have ever stood in a snooker hall and watched a young kid with tears running down his/her face while trying their heart out to escape from a snooker and being put back time and time again by his/her street-wise opponent, you’ll know where I’m coming from.

Author: Tim Dunkley