Former Sheffield bus driver Brendan Moore could not be happier after swapping his steering wheel and ticket machine for a globe-trotting career as a snooker referee. Richard Hercock reports.
When Brendan Moore quit his job as a Sheffield bus driver he never imagined his next stop in life would be a full-time snooker referee.
For the 41-year-old quit driving the Steel City streets in 2001 and spent a year helping wife Sharon with her child-minding business before eventually launching his sporting career.
A keen snooker player himself – he learned to play as a young boy – he went on a refereeing seminar after becoming captain of his local team.
“I wanted to learn the rules seeing as I was captain of my team, so went to a referees seminar. I loved refereeing at an amateur level and decided that I wanted to try and get into the professional game and do this for a living. It was the best decision I ever made as I love this job.”
He worked his way up the local leagues as a snooker referee, and now stands as one of the elite and best-known officials in a sport which is quickly becoming a global phenomenon.
In the last few months, father-of-three Moore has racked up the air miles jetting off to officiate in tournaments in Australia, China and India.
And while next week he will be back on familiar territory, with the launch of the williamhill.com UK Championship in York on Tuesday, he will still be living out of a suitcase in hotel rooms for three weeks.
“I never imagined that I would be doing this when I packed up bus driving,” said Moore, who qualified and took charge of his first professional game in 2005.
Moore quit as a bus driver because he was fed up with the shift work. Despite all the globe-trotting as a snooker referee, his new job actually means he gets to see more of wife Sharon and three daughters Lorna, Sophie and Caitlin.
“I had had enough,” he recalls, “of getting up at 3am one week, then coming home at midnight the week after. Not seeing the kids.
“I actually see more of my kids now than when I was a bus driver, staying at home every night. I would be in bed when they were at school, or vice-versa.
“So from a family point of view – despite all the travelling – I actually see more of them now.
“It can be tough (on family life), but I have been doing it for so long now that it’s just accepted. It’s my job. It’s great to be at home with the family, but when it’s time to work, away you go.
“It’s been busy. Since the start of the season I have been in Australia, China a couple of times, India.
“I enjoyed driving the buses while I was doing it, but nowhere near as much as I like doing this. It’s a great job.
“I enjoy the travelling, I have always loved flying so don’t mind the overseas trips. I am away for three weeks now from home, Coventry this week. Come back Monday, drop one bag off and pick another up, and straight to York for two weeks.
“Then home for one day, then five days in Barnsley.”
Despite the proximity to his Sheffield home, Moore is the ultimate professional, and will stay in hotels in York and Barnsley to avoid any travel problems.
“If you are doing a morning game, you don’t want to risk motorway traffic. Anything could happen, accidents on the motorway,” he says.
“Barnsley’s only 20 minutes away, but I shall stay in Barnsley.”
Since Barry Hearn took over as World Snooker chairman, the sport has seen its popularity explode, particularly in Asia, with a packed calendar of tournaments.
“The only change from a referee’s point of view is there’s more work, so you are away more,” said Moore. “The job’s still exactly the same.
“As well as refereeing, I am part of the assessing team now. So when I am not reffing a game, I am at an event helping the referees.
“We are at the stage now, where we have an event every week.”
Next week sees the UK finals in York, the second most prestigious tournament in snooker after the World Championship in Sheffield.
All the top names in the game will descend on Yorkshire with some intriguing matches.
Ronnie O’Sullivan will face Scottish amateur Rhys Clark when he starts his bid to add the UK crown to his World title.
The Rocket will take on Larkhall’s 19-year-old Clark in the opening round next Saturday, November 30.
On the same day, Mark Selby will open the defence of his UK title against Shane Castle, a gifted 15-year-old from Southampton, while world No 1 Neil Robertson will meet Bradford’s 18-year-old Dylan Mitchell.
Sheffield-based Ding Junhui will begin his quest to win a fourth consecutive ranking title against Middlesbrough’s Antony Parsons.
The tournament runs from next Tuesday to December 8 and top stars like Judd Trump, John Higgins, Jimmy White, Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen will also be among those competing for the £150,000 top prize. There will also be a £55,000 bonus available for a 147 maximum break.
The UK finals hold fond memories for Moore, as he recalled several stand-out games over the last decade which he has donned the white gloves for.
“I did Ali Carter v John Higgins, my first ranking final in Wales,” he recalled.
“But then I did the UK final in 2010 when John Higgins beat Mark Williams 10-9, that was the last year at Telford before returning to York.
“That was my first of the major BBC events, the second biggest ranking event we have in snooker, and that is up there with my first Masters final in 2012.
“My first time at the Crucible, with Steve Davis playing, then my first semi-final in Sheffield when I reffed Ronnie (O’Sullivan).
“There are so many good memories, but the 2010 UK final is probably the best one. A 10-9 game, two of the greatest ever players, playing arguably one of the best games ever seen.”
Moore will once again officiate in the UK final at next month’s December 8 climax at the York Barbican,
“There are three referees there til the end and I am one of those three,” he said. “I did the India final last month, that was awesome.”
Another final appearance to look forward to, it’s all a long way from driving the No 52 bus from Crookes to Woodhouse.
Tickets for the williamhill.com UK Championship are on sale now. For details call 0844 854 2757 or visit www.worldsnooker.com/tickets
Follow Brendan Moore on Twitter: @brendanmoore147
STARS TO GRACE SPORTS CENTRE
The qualifying rounds of snooker’s biggest tournament, the World Championship, will be held at the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield next year.
Ponds Forge will host snooker for the first time, with the World Championship qualifiers taking place from April 8 to 16.
All players seeded outside the top 16 will be battling for places in the final stages at the Crucible Theatre.
Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and rising stars like Jack Lisowksi and Michael White are likely to be among those striving for a coveted spot at the Crucible.
The 16 successful qualifiers will then be drawn at random against the top 16 seeds in the championship.