Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Which is worse - a delayed snooker match or an uninhabitable planet?

Astonishingly, there’s a debate about the sanctity of snooker being disrupted by Just Stop Oil supporters.

Snooker crucible
YouTube screenshot/Beanyman Sports

Just Stop Oil supporters disrupted a couple of snooker matches at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. One person climbed onto the table and broke open a packet of orange powder, while another attempted to glue themselves to the table.

Predictably, the pair have come in for criticism from fans of the game and those determined to keep things running as usual in spite of a clear climate disaster.

Snooker player Mark Allen, whose game was disrupted by the protestor with glue, said: “It was a surreal moment, but I feel like even talking about it is giving them airtime they don't deserve because they are just idiots. What are they trying to gain from what they have done? I am sure there are better ways to get their point across.”

Every time a protest actually makes headlines, comments like Allen’s are commonplace. People ask why protesters are disruptive, why they couldn’t have done things in a different way, and argue that their actions are misguided.

What way should Just Stop Oil have gone about this? In a way that was less disruptive? If they did so, it wouldn’t be a protest. How much media coverage would Just Stop Oil get if somebody politely handed out leaflets outside the Crucible instead?

Former snooker player Stephen Hendry was worried about the table being undamaged, saying: “It is scary. Wow! You just hope the cloth can be recovered from that. It caught us all by surprise and then this happens. For me, straight away as a snooker player I am thinking: 'Is the table recoverable?' We don't know what that is on the table."

Hendry’s comments are, frankly, asinine. What does it matter if a table was potentially damaged? Or a snooker game momentarily paused? What does any of that matter when, as a new study found, 40 new fossil fuel projects could be approved by 2025, which would triple the UK’s annual emissions?

Just last year, climate change and human rights lawyer Tessa Khan painted a dire picture, saying: “In just six months the UK has gone from touting itself as a climate leader to championing fossil fuels, the very thing that is driving the climate emergency. It beggars belief. Expanding North Sea oil and gas means the UK – which still holds the COP presidency – is now a dangerous climate wrecker.”

Business as usual

Predictably, social media was full of people moaning about the games being disrupted, and adding other grievances.

This happens every time a protest makes the news, whether it’s a can of soup chucked at a protective covering on a painting or pensioners stopping traffic.

If it was possible to 'fix' the climate crisis without disrupting day-to-day activities, then it would have already happened. Instead, the UK is a world leader in climate hypocrisy. Business interests come before preserving the planet for future generations, with just 20 companies responsible for a staggering third of carbon emissions.

The time for patiently explaining the problem is long past. Protest and direct action is supposed to be disruptive. One action, such as chucking some powder on a snooker table, isn’t going to change things - it’s not supposed to. What it is supposed to do is attract media attention and thus political attention. It’s far past the point where people washing out yoghurt pots for recycling is going to be enough. The behemoth of fossil fuel capitalism is destroying the planet for current generations, never mind future generations. Lobbying of the media, politicians, and fellow members of society has to happen if we’re going to get out of this mess.

Eddie Whittingham, who unveiled the orange powder, said:

I don’t want to be disrupting something that people enjoy, but we’re facing an extremely grave situation. Europe is experiencing its worst drought in 500 years. We’re seeing mass crop failure right now. We’re facing mass starvation, billions of refugees and civilisational collapse if this continues.

It’s short-sighted and facetious to hold climate crisis protesters to impossible standards. Let’s be real - there is no possible example of perfect protest that won’t upset someone or disrupt everyday life. Everyone needs to do their part, and that includes direct action that forces the media and political class to listen.

Filed under: 

More News & Views

Can Sheffield end new HIV transmissions by 2030?

In anticipation of next week’s Festival of Debate panel, Rei Takver speaks with Sheffield doctor and HIV specialist Dr Claire Dewsnap about what the city still needs to do to tackle the virus.

More News & Views