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Snooker ‘not doing anything’ to encourage black players

Rory McLeod

Rory McLeod reached the third round of the UK Championship in 2014, the furthest he has gone in the competition

Snooker’s only black professional says the sport’s governing body is “not doing anything” to attract more black people to take up the sport.

Since joining the main tour in 2001, Leicester-based Rory McLeod has been the only black player to compete.

“What World Snooker are bothered about is the prize money and sponsors. That is it,” McLeod, 45, told BBC Sport.

However, WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson says the comments are “completely unfair” and the sport is open to all.

He added: “We have equal opportunities in the sport and there are no boundaries for participation. If you are good enough, you can make it on the tour.

“We need to reach out to those areas in the world that we are not yet there. Africa is one of those we are working on right now.”

‘Other players don’t mess with me’

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McLeod ‘finally’ brings trophy home

McLeod, who is ranked 52nd in the world, spent 10 years on a secondary tour on which another black player, John Clouden, also competed during 1994 and 1995 – but there have not been any others since.

Last season was the most successful of McLeod’s career, as he won his first title carrying ranking points with a surprise victory at the Ruhr Open in Germany.

However he feels a lack of funding means black people will find it difficult to follow in his footsteps.

“You need black people in the snooker clubs for starters,” said McLeod, who is of Jamaican descent. “Parents are pushing their children towards an education rather than telling them to be a professional snooker player.

“There is a lot of moving around in snooker, too. You have to travel and stay over at places. If you don’t have money for that then you can’t do it.

“There could be a lot more [black players] but the opportunities are not there. Most snooker players have money and support behind them, to have that in the snooker business for black people is not something that exists.”

McLeod admits he spends little time in the company of his fellow players on the circuit.

“A lot of the players are wary of me, I don’t move around with the snooker player ‘hangout’ crowd,” he says.

“They have known me for years and don’t mess with me. Maybe they see me as someone they don’t want to mess with.”

The ‘Isis’ controversy

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McLeod caused controversy with an ‘Isis’ logo on his waistcoat

At the 2015 Welsh Open, McLeod caused controversy during his second-round match against Ronnie O’Sullivan by displaying a logo on his waistcoat that read ‘Isis’.

The branding was that of an accountancy business – one he has promoted for 15 years – but it did not stop him being linked with the terrorist group Islamic State.

There are 798 businesses containing the name Isis registered with companies house; McLeod just happens to be sponsored by one of them.

“It is all a make-up and a farce,” he said. “If anybody knew anything about about me, they would know I have been wearing the logo for many years.

“People are shallow at times but the reaction did not surprise me. This terrorist group, which has nothing to do with Islam, have called themselves Isis and don’t have a history of more than a couple of years.”

1. Muslim 2. Family 3. Snooker

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McLeod’s refusal to shake a female referee’s hand in 2011 because of his religious beliefs was questioned by top referee Jan Verhaas

McLeod is a devout Muslim after converting to Islam in 2004 in a change he describes as “one of the best moves I made in my life”. He also grew his beard longer in line with his religious beliefs.

Along with Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar, Iranian Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, Hammad Miah of Hertford and Egyptian Hatem Yassen, he is one of five Muslim players on the 128-man circuit.

“There are three things in my life; I am a Muslim first, a family man and then a snooker player,” McLeod said. “The job I do is not a priority on that list of three.”

Asked if he can become the first black world snooker champion, McLeod replied: “Of course. I don’t care what anybody expects of me, I am a person that proves people wrong all the time.”

McLeod begins his 2016 UK Championship campaign against Welshman Jak Jones on Tuesday.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/snooker/38031317