Snooker stars and fans were shocked as the BBC suddenly axed popular Willie Thorne from his job at the microphone commentating on the sport’s top two events.
The 63-year-old former professional player had been preparing for next month’s UK Championships in York and the world competition in Sheffield next year – leaving him with just a job at February’s Welsh open.
Willie, who has starred on BBC hit Strictly Come Dancing, has undergone a series of personal problems, including a battle against cancer, and admitted he was stunned.
He used social media to announce the news: “I was told by the BBC that they wanted to change tack…I’m almost speechless; it was income I expected for Christmas.”
Fans called for a boycott of BBC coverage of the sport, describing the decision as “a disgrace”; snooker stars and broadcasting colleagues underlining Willie was “one of the best” – former world champion Stephen Hendry underlining he was “gutted”.
Despite problems with a gambling habit and suffering from depression – making a suicide bid as debts mounted and being rescued by his wife – Willie has remained one of the sport’s most respected voices.
He later thanked everyone for their support and said he loved every minute of the job but was at a loss as to why the axe fell – the BBC later saying it was “an editorial decision” but wishing Willie well in the future after doing “a great job”.