In the late 1960s the BBC started broadcasting in colour, and were looking for programmes that could exploit this new technology. The game of snooker, with its rainbow of differently coloured balls, was suggested. The format of a knockout tournament, with weekly single-frame matches, was devised by BBC Birmingham producer Philip Lewis, and the programme first aired on July 23, 1969, on BBC2, presented by Alan Weeks, with referee Sydney Lee and match commentary by "Whispering" Ted Lowe. The first tournament was won by Ray Reardon. Mark Williams holds the highest break record of 119.
The success of Pot Black was immediate and phenomenal, and it became the second most popular programme on BBC2. The tournament featured a round-robin tournament where the total number of points scored could often become crucial. Therefore matches always ended with the potting of the black ball, which is often not bothered with in multi-frame matches.
Pot Black featured all the top players of its time, with many such as Fred Davis , Ray Reardon, Graham Miles and Alex Higgins becoming well-loved personalities. Pot Black helped transform snooker from a minority sport with just a handful of professionals into one of the most popular sports in the UK, where every tournament is fiercely contested and the top players earn millions annually, but there is much nostalgia for the simpler, friendlier days of Pot Black.
Pot Black is sometimes credited with producing one of the most memorable British sports quotes. Legendary commentator Ted Lowe, aware that not all viewers had colour televisions, said the player is "going for the yellow ball by the sidepocket - and for those in black and white, it's next to the blue.". However, this quote is more likely to have occurred during a live snooker match, and not during the pre-recorded Pot Black - especially as it was featured on a '50 Years of ITV' special of It'll Be Alright On The Night, and Pot Black is a BBC show.
Pot Black also returned in 1997 as Seniors Pot Black, featuring players who were over 40 at the time. Joe Johnson won the series, having never taken part in the original series. Retired players Ray Reardon, John Spencer, Perrie Mans, Eddie Charlton and Graham Miles took part as well as over 40 (at the time current professionals) Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, Terry Griffiths, Willie Thorne and Johnson.
A Celebrity Pot Black was held on 15 July 2006 in aid of Sport Relief. It was contested between the team of Ronnie O'Sullivan and Bradley Walsh and the team of Steve Davis and Vernon Kay. Steve Davis and Vernon Kay were the winners and became the first ever champions of Celebrity Pot Black. Dermot O'Leary hosted and Michaela Tabb was the referee for the one frame match.
The 2006 edition of Pot Black took place at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London on 2 September 2006. Mark J Williams beat John Higgins and achieved the highest break in the history of the tournament with a 119 clearance in the final.
|1969||Ray Reardon||John Spencer||88–29 ()|
|1970||John Spencer||Ray Reardon||88–27 (points)|
|1971||John Spencer||Fred Davis||61–40 (points)|
|1972||Eddie Charlton||Ray Reardon||75–43 (points)|
|1973||Eddie Charlton||Rex Williams||93–33 (points)|
|1974||Graham Miles||John Spencer||147–86 (points from 2 frames)|
|1975||Graham Miles||Dennis Taylor||81–27 (points)|
|1976||John Spencer||Dennis Taylor||69–42 (points)|
|1977||Perrie Mans||Doug Mountjoy||90–21 (points)|
|1978||Doug Mountjoy||Graham Miles||2–1 ()|
|1979||Ray Reardon||Doug Mountjoy||2–1 (frames)|
|1980||Eddie Charlton||Ray Reardon||2–1 (frames)|
|1981||Cliff Thorburn||Jim Wych||2–0 (frames)|
|1982||Steve Davis||Eddie Charlton||2–0 (frames)|
|1983||Steve Davis||Ray Reardon||2–0 (frames)|
|1984||Terry Griffiths||John Spencer||2–1 (frames)|
|1985||Doug Mountjoy||Jimmy White||2– 0 (frames)|
|1986||Jimmy White||Kirk Stevens||2–0 (frames)|
|1991||Steve Davis||Stephen Hendry||2–1 (frames)|
|1992||Neal Foulds||James Wattana|
|1993||Steve Davis||Mike Hallett|
|1997||Joe Johnson||Terry Griffiths|
|2005||Matthew Stevens||Shaun Murphy||53–27 (points)|
|2006||Mark J Williams||John Higgins||119–13 (points)|
|2007||Ken Doherty||Shaun Murphy||71–36 (points)|