A SNOOKER star from Hartlepool fears his professional dream may slip away if he does not secure new sponsorship.
Ryan Clark – the first-ever professional snooker player from Hartlepool – was hit by a major blow recently when he lost his main sponsor.
The 22-year-old joined the professional ranks last May after coming through the Q school qualification process, and has competed among the world’s best 128 players since then.
However, now he is without a sponsor, meaning he is finding it difficult to fund travel to tournaments and entry fees to the competitions.
Clark feels that if he can not attract a new backer, he may have to hang up his cue and end his professional days prematurely.
He told SportsMail: “Getting a new sponsor is pretty much all or nothing for me.
“If I don’t manage to get one, it’s probably going to be time to call it a day.
“The travel expense, as well as entry fees, make it very expensive, and that’s why a sponsor is so important.
“I could try to find a job, but it probably still wouldn’t be possible then, because my practice time would be limited, and you aren’t going to improve without practice.
“I’m struggling for practice time at the moment, because I play out of town normally and the expense of travelling is difficult to fund.
“There are not many places in Hartlepool to play, and the tables tend to be better in other places.
“If I don’t get a new sponsor, I could maybe get a job and come back in a couple of years, but then I would be behind everyone else again.”
Clark has had a testing time on tour over the last 17 months, and admits he has not done as well as he would have liked.
However, he has taken a lot from his early experiences as a professional, and feels he is a better player for it.
The former Dyke House pupil added: “Last season, I didn’t do too well. Not many people do great in their first year on tour, though.
“I would have liked to have done better, but it started to come together towards the end of last season.
“I’ve had some very tough draws as well – I’ve played against a couple of top 10 players in my first four tournaments of this season, so it’s not like I’ve been losing to really low-ranked players.
“It hasn’t been great, but I’m confident in my ability and that I will be able to do a lot better in the future.
“Even when you feel you’re not playing your best, you are definitely learning.
“Playing top players week-in, week-out, you are obviously going to learn, pick some things up and gain more experience.”
Clark is also embracing the nature of the modern snooker tour, with competitions held across the globe.
He also feels like he “belongs” with the elite of the sport, while he has leant on several senior players for advice over the last 17 months.
Clark said: “There are worse things to do! I’m enjoying it.
“There are quite a lot of tournaments, but it’s alright.
“It’s good to travel about, and I don’t feel like I don’t belong there. I feel like I’m good enough to deserve my place on tour.
“I’d like to win a few more games, do a bit better and earn more money, but I’m confident I will do that.
“Maybe in 20 years, living out of a suitcase could become tiring, but at the moment, I really enjoy being on the tour.
“I’ve had the chance to speak to a few of the experienced players during my time on tour as well, and when I’ve asked people for advice, everyone has been helpful.”
Anyone who would like to sponsor Ryan can call 07538 943109.