Reanne Evans has not had the recognition she deserves but now is the time for change

Reanne Evans is the most decorated player in the history of women’s snooker (Picture: Alamy)

With 12 World Championship titles to her name it seems incredible that Reanne Evans only felt proud of her achievements for the first time this year, but such has been the lack of recognition outside of snooker, a sense of pride has been hard to come by,

The reigning women’s world champion and world number one has dominated her chosen sport for 15 years, winning 10 consecutive world titles from 2005-14 and adding two more since.

Her success in just the World Women’s Championship alone is monumental, but the profile of the women’s game is such that her immense achievements have not turned her into the household name that she deserves to be.

Recognition came from an unexpected source this October when she was awarded an MBE for services to women’s snooker, something that Evans didn’t see coming but provided her with what her huge trophy collection never has.

‘I’m really proud, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever really felt proud of myself,’ Evans told ‘You do [feel that from snooker] but you’re always in the snooker circle, so to speak.

‘This is acknowledgment away from snooker, so to me it means a little bit more. I know people respect me in the snooker world, but when you get acknowledgement from other people, they see it from a different perspective, so I’m really proud about the extra initials.’

The MBE came out of the blue for Evans, but she intends to make the most of the kudos that comes with it.

‘I never expected it, it’s just me playing snooker from Gornal,’ she said. ‘I never thought anything like that would happen.

‘Hopefully it gets me a few extras in the airport. A few of the girls messaged me asking if I was putting the medal on my waistcoat and if they have to curtsey now. I was like, “YES!” I want the red carpet, the whole lot!

‘Me and [Mark] Williams have a bit of banter now and again on Twitter, someone said I’m up there with him now. I haven’t got a blue tick like him, but I’ve got more world titles so it’s all good.’

Evans won every World Women’s Snooker Championship from 2005-14 (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

Evans is hopeful that the MBE is not just able to provide her with some perks, but can be the start of genuine recognition of the women’s game in the media and wider public.

Asked whether she feels she’s had the recognition she deserves, she said: ‘I hate saying things like this, but no.

‘I’m trying to think how to put it without being a bitch. If I was in a slightly different sport, or different era, maybe it would have been more recognised.

‘I’ve been lucky enough to achieve what I’ve achieved and got what I’ve got out of it, obviously the MBE is a massive pat on the back for me, the recognition I think I’ve deserved. Hopefully this encourages it more, hopefully I’m the stepping stone for future women to be acknowledged in snooker.’

Evans has broken boundaries in the world of “men’s snooker,” more accurately just described as “snooker” but a landscape dominated by male players.

She became the first woman to reach the main stages of a ranking event at the 2013 Wuxi Classic, beating current top 16 player Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, and became the first woman to win a World Championship match, defeating Robin Hull in the 2017 qualifiers.

The big money is to be made on the main tour, as Evans explains, the women are not playing for vast sums in their competitions.

‘The most I’ve ever won from a World Championship was the last one, which was £6k, that’s the most I’ve ever won for a women’s event,’ she explained. ‘The other events, you’re looking at £3k for a couple and the rest are £1-1.5k. The Worlds were in Thailand last year so with travel you have to get to the semis to win anything.’

In contrast, Ronnie O’Sullivan picked up £500,000 for winning the World Championship this year and Judd Trump has won over £1m in each of the last two seasons.

The women’s world champ wants opportunities expanded for women on the main tour and for the women’s tour to be developed as well, with snooker lagging behind other sports in the development of the women’s game.

‘I’m a woman, I always want more,’ she said. ‘They could be doing more, especially now with women in football, darts, cricket, now’s the time to push it forward.

‘People might think “why should you have a helping hand?” But not everything starts from scratch, women’s snooker needs good support and backing and hopefully in the near future, before I get too old, we can have some good tournaments with good prize money on TV.’

This is easier said than done, but Evans has ideas for developing the women’s game separately so they will be able to compete better with the men when they get the chance.

‘When I first started playing, we had events in snooker halls then the semis and finals were in venues, where the main events were. I think that’s a good start,’ she said.

‘Another idea is when they have the qualifiers for big events, while the tables are still there, they could run an event during that. So get the main event down to latter stages, keep a couple of tables and put a women’s event on them. They’d be set up to be streamed and you could get a few people come into watch (not now, but normally).’

Evans won seven big titles in 2019 (Picture: Reanne Evans/Facebook)

Reanne was give an opportunity to impress in the invitational Champion of Champions event last year when the women’s world champ was given a spot for the first time.

One of the most memorable matches of last season, Evans was 3-0 down to former world champion Shaun Murphy, before battling back to 3-3 and forcing a deciding frame.

She narrowly lost the match but proved she deserved her place in the tournament and is disappointed to be missing out on the event this year, because the 2020 Women’s World Championship was scrapped due to Covid-19.

First round losers at the Champion of Champions earn more than she ever has from a women’s event (£12,500), so not only has she missed out on an opportunity, but the women’s game has missed a chance to shine as well.

‘I was a little bit gutted, I was hoping for the spot again,’ she admitted. ‘The experience last year…I went through every emotion going. It’s a big pay cheque as well, it’s a lot of money for me. I was disappointed, but rules are rules.

‘I’ve had a few messages asking why I’m not in and people saying they took a day off work to watch me, so it’s a strange feeling really. It’s a bit different to what people would normally see on TV so they might get extra viewers or different viewers maybe.

‘When I was put in last year there were a couple of comments saying, “I shouldn’t be in it, I’m not on tour” blah blah blah, but it’s not even a ranking event so it’s one of the ways you can publicise women in snooker and that’s why I’m a little bit gutted.

‘It doesn’t have to be me, could be someone else, as long as it’s promoting women in snooker. I think any way they can they need to do it, introduce women to the tour, or give invites, it’s the only way we’re going to go forward at a quicker pace.’

Most of the women’s events are played in snooker halls on tables that barely resemble those that are used at the TV stages of main tour competitions.

Slowly but surely giving women more opportunities to experience elite conditions will make the game much more of a level playing field.

‘They just need to give us a chance,’ said Evans. ‘When they use top-ups at events, maybe choose a woman or two to be an add in.

‘When I’m playing at the World Championships, I’ve only played on those tables once or twice a year. At the Champion of Champions everything was alien, the table was too nice for me! Then the live audience, cameras, the lights…

‘It’s about giving us more opportunity to play in those conditions so we can perform, so we’re not a rabbit in headlights. Championship League would have been a good chance. If and when they can, can they get a couple of women in? I don’t mean me all the time, but when they can, they should take the chance to let us learn.

‘Even for the outside tables to the main TV table it plays different, so from the ones we’re used to it’s like four levels up.’

Playing the men has never been a problem for Reanne, but it can cause a problem for them as they struggle with the added pressure that comes with it.

Evans has never felt disrespect from male players, but there remains a stigma of losing to a woman, and she can see the pressure piled on her opponents. Even the most experience ones.

‘It’s just a different sort of nerves,’ she said. ‘I played [1997 world champion] Ken Doherty in the World Championship qualifiers and he just about beat me.

‘You could see his whole body shaking and he said he never felt pressure in that way before. He said, “it’s not because of you, I know you’re a quality player and everything” but we had the audience round our table and it’s the whole thing of losing to a woman, even though he doesn’t think that, he knows others think that.

‘I don’t know how to put it because I’m not in that situation, but they’ve all said to me: “I’m not nervous because I’m playing you, it’s the whole aspect of it all.”  They’re in a lose-lose. If they lose to me they’re going to be a headline, but if they win there’s not much plus, it’s a strange one.

‘I’ve never had any altercations with any of the players. They’re all really nice, really respectful, it’s just outside of snooker you get it, really. Literally never come across any negativity off the players whatsoever, so it’s brilliant.’

One gauge of just how much quality Evans has in her game is her ability to play with both hands, a skill that few male players can boast and has earned her a serious compliment from the sport’s biggest name, Ronnie O’Sullivan.

‘A few people have known me years and go, “oh, you play left-handed? You look the same!” Some people think I look more comfortable left-handed,’ Reanne said.

‘It started years and years ago. My mum and dad run a social club. My friend used to come back after school and they said I was too good so I had to switch hands. I still won. To be honest I feel more comfortable left-handed, I think it’s because I’m left eye dominant, but I’m definitely right handed.

‘I played Ronnie in an exhibition a few years ago, obviously he does it really well, but he said “I think you’re actually better than me.” But I was like, “no come off it, that was just a good shot.”

Evans has never lacked respect from the top male players (Picture: Reanne Evans/Facebook)

Reanne also works with Ronnie in her punditry gig with Eurosport, which has also been a great way of seeing another female face in the game on a regular basis.

With the wonderfully affable team around her on Eurosport it has been a lot of fun, but Evans also takes it seriously as an opportunity to prove that a woman’s voice belongs alongside the male experts in the game.

It also gives her the opportunity to stay in snooker beyond her playing days, which remains the aim.

‘I’ve always just been snooker involved,’ she continued. ‘People say “get a job” but I haven’t even got a CV! I always want to be involved in snooker, maybe coaching as well.

‘I was getting really into the punditry. They make me feel really welcome, with Jimmy [White], Andy [Goldstein] and Colin [Murray] on Eurosport, I’ve done a bit for the BBC as well. When I started I was so nervous, everything’s new, but I’m really enjoying it.

‘I’ve heard it with football, people saying “she’s a woman, what can she know?” But you can only work off what you’ve experienced. 9 times out of 10 it’s the same experience just maybe on a different level.

‘It’s good to hear different points of views, it’s not right or wrong, it’s just a different opinion. People sometimes think because Ronnie or Jimmy has said it that’s right, but it’s just a different opinion.

‘When I first started, Ronnie said to me: “How many times have you won the World Championships?” I think it was 11 at the time. So he said: “You can say whatever you want then.” I thought he had a good point, but you’re still scared to do it at first.

‘Once you get in the rhythm and used to how everything works it’s really good and you’re not scared to put your point of view across.’

Evans works alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan and Andy Goldstein for Eurosport (Picture: Reanne Evans/Facebook)

Before she relaxes into a career in television, though, Evans still has ambitions and targets on the table, despite her bulging trophy cabinet at home.

She still wants to win herself a tour card, competing on the main tour as a professional and has enlisted the help of renowned coach Chris Henry to hopefully achieve just that.

‘I don’t think I’ve done myself justice in performance, I feel like I can perform a lot better,’ said the 12-time world champ. ‘You want to be a professional at the end of the day. I’ve started working with Chris Henry since lockdown, so I’m going to give myself a last shot before I get too old and hopefully it’s worth it.

‘Most of it is mental. The difference in ability doesn’t make much difference, it’s all mental. 90% of people on tour could end up winning events but only 10% will.

‘Working with Chris, we’re going to try and look through that and see if we can improve. Hopefully he can work his magic.’

The greatest player in the history of women’s snooker has achieved more than most in sport ever will, but her quest for success and the recognition it deserves is far from over.

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