Snooker, a history

The commonly accepted theory of the origins of snooker were described by the author Compton Mackenzie in the magazine ‘The Billiard Player’ in 1939. The article credited a young lieutenant, Neville Chamberlain, with creating the game by adding coloured balls to the existing game of ‘Black Pool’ which used 15 red and one black balls in the officers’ mess at Jubbulpore (now known as Jabalpur) in 1875. 

The sport was developed at the colonial-style Ooty Club in Ootacamund whose membership was restricted to 'officers of the armed forces, and gentlemen moving in general society', from here snooker spread across India and the, then, British Empire.

In 1919 the rules, which had been inconsistent, were formalised and introduced the re-spotted black (a tiebreaker where the black is put on its spot, the first player plays from the D and the players then take turns until the black is potted) to ensure each frame had a winner.

Snooker, a competitive sport

The first amateur snooker championship was held during World War I, the winner being the player with the highest number of points collected over seven frames.

From the mid-1920s, snooker overtook the established game of billiards in the UK, with matches drawing crowds in the thousands.

Snooker, a Paralympic sport

Snooker was included in the programme of the Stoke Mandeville Games from 1951 onwards and in the Paralympic programme from the first Games in Rome in 1960 until Seoul in 1988. It is suggested that it was dropped from the programme because it is not an athletic sport.

Snooker at the Paralympic Summer Games

  • Rome, Italy 1960 – 1 event, 3 countries and 4 male athletes participated.
  • Tokyo, Japan 1964 – 1 event, 3 countries and 4 male athletes participated.
  • Tel Aviv, Israel 1968 – 1 event, 6 countries and 8 male athletes participated.
  • Heidelberg, Germany 1972 - 2 events, 5 countries and 8 male athletes participated.
  • Toronto, Canada 1976 - 2 events, 4 countries and 18 male athletes participated.
  • Arnhem, Netherlands 1980 – Snooker was not included in the programme. This may be because facilities were not available as it was not a well-known sport in the Netherlands.
  • New York, USA/Stoke Mandeville, GB 1984 – 2 events, 2 countries and 6 male athletes participated.
  • Seoul, South Korea 1988 - 1 event, 6 countries and 12 male athletes participated.

British snooker medal winners

  • Rome 1960
    Keaton – gold in Men's Tournament Paraplegics – open.
    Michael Shelton – silver in Men's Tournament Paraplegics – open.
  • Tokyo 1964
    Michael Shelton – gold in Men's Tournament Paraplegics – open. 'Hero's welcome for Paralympic snooker champion Michael Shelton' film from BFI
  • Tel Aviv 1968
    Michael Shelton – gold in Men's Tournament Open.
  • Heidelberg 1972
    Michael Shelton – gold in Men's Tournament Paraplegic.
    P. Haslam - gold in Men's Tournament Tetraplegic.
    McGann – bronze in Men's Tournament Tetraplegic.
  • Toronto 1976
    T. Taylor - gold in Men's Tournament A-C.
    Brian Faulkner - silver in Men's Tournament 2-5.
    Michael Shelton - bronze in Men's Tournament 2-5.
    P. Haslam - bronze in Men's Tournament A-C.
  • New York/Stoke Mandeville 1984
    P. Haslam - gold in Men's Tournament Tetraplegic.
    K. Ellison - silver in Men's Tournament Tetraplegic.
    J. Buchanan - silver in Men's Tournament Paraplegic.
    T. Taylor - bronze in Men's Tournament Tetraplegic.
    Mick Langley - bronze in Men's Tournament Paraplegic.
  • Seoul 1988
    Mick Langley – gold in Men's Tournament Open.
    Maurice Job – bronze in Men's Tournament Open.

Some information from earlier Paralympic Games (i.e. 1960-1988) such as relay and team members are not presented in the IPC source data. Therefore, final results, medal standings and derived statistics may not be complete. Important note on the definition of participants: Only athletes that appear in the official results books in the section of final results are included in the database and counted towards participant statistics. Data for 2014 and 2016 are accurate. Statistics for previous Games are under review by the IPC. Important note on competition partners: Competition partners eligible for medals are included in the combined participant statistics until 2014. Statistics for 2016 and beyond consider athletes with an impairment and their competition partners separately.

Rules of Snooker

At the beginning of each frame there are 15 reds on the table, each with a value of one point, along with a yellow (two points), a green (three points), a brown (four points), a blue (five points), a pink (six points) and a black (seven points). 

The object of the game is to score more points than the opponent by potting a red followed by a colour. The coloured balls are returned to the table until all 15 reds have been cleared from the table when the colours must be potted in increasing order of value. 

Points are also added when an opponent plays a foul shot. Examples of foul shots:

  • The player missing the ball they are aiming to hit.
  • Potting a ball out of sequence.
  • Any ball jumping off the table.
  • Potting the cue-ball.

Governing bodies

World Disability Billiards and Snooker – established in 2015 with the long-term goal of having snooker back in the Paralympic programme.

Regional clubs 

UK Wide
The British Paralympic Association has created an online directory, Parasport, where you can search for and find out about sport and physical activity in your area. 


  • Brittain, I.S., (2012) From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A History of the Summer Paralympic Games. Champaign, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing