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Joe Johnson pays tribute to Bradford's 'Mr Snooker'
Former world snooker champion Joe Johnson today paid tribute to Bradford’s ‘Mr Cue Sports’.
Eric Hodgkinson, who covered snooker and billiards for 27 years for the Telegraph & Argus before emigrating to Malta in the winter of 2002-03, died in a Gozo hospital last Friday aged 77.
Johnson, who won the world professional title in 1986, said of Eric: “I am not saying that I wouldn’t have become the player that I did without him but it certainly did no harm.
“He loved the sport, no-one ever had a bad word to say about him and I will miss him terribly.
“Many players owe an awful lot to Eric, even though they might not know it. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes.”
Hodgkinson, who leaves a wife Brenda, sister Joyce and brother Bob, as well as countless younger relatiives, not only ran Bradford snooker and billiards but was also Yorkshire secretary, Yorkshire’s representative on the English Association of Billiards and Snooker and jointly managed England amateur snooker teams in the Home Internationals.
He also organised the Tetley’s Summer League and Bradford qualifying competitions to find the Telegraph & Argus amateur champion to face such luminaries as Jimmy White, John Parrott, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis at the Richard Dunn Sports Centre.
Nominated for Service to Sport awards in the 1997 English Sports Council (Yorkshire), Hodgkinson was helped in his administration of Bradford events by youngster Richard Bakes, who went on to emulate him by becoming chairman of the Bradford & District Billiards and Snooker Association, but also became Yorkshire secretary.
He also emulated Hodgkinson by writing a weekly column for the T&A, and Bakes remembered: “I used to go to Eric’s house with a bundle of Bradford entry forms and we used to sort through them.
“Eric and his wife Brenda were very welcoming and I have modelled the way I run things on the way Eric used to run them. He got to know the players and I have done the same. Eric and Brenda were also very welcoming at tournaments.
“I would have taken over from him in 2002 but I was too busy. However, I did replace John McEachran in 2006.
“Eric never used to miss a week with his column for the T&A, and for me that was a good avenue for finding out what was happening. The downside when it wasn’t there was the lack of exposure for the sport in the city.”
Hodgkinson’s friend Bill Oates said: “Eric helped a lot of the players who are now professionals. He also used to run sessions all over the place for juniors, ladies and the disabled and also put a lot of money into the sport.
"For example, when the national association went bust, Eric helped to retrieve a lot of their valuables and took them down to the new association in Bristol. I had £30,000 worth of stuff in my van!
"But Eric often helped the game at his own expense."
Oates added: "Eric started complaning of chest pains last September and has been in hospital ever since,apart from a couple of weeks in between when he came home.
"He had a litre and a half of fluid drained off his lungs and had to use a Zimmer frame to get around he had been in hospital that long.
"He has donated his body to medical science, and his wife Brenda has agreed to do the same."
Eric, who joined the Army when he was 18, serving with the Royal Engineers in Osnabruck, Germany, played scrum half at union for his regiment and later for West Bowling in league.
A self-employed decorator, Eric’s real passion was billiards, and he won the Bradford Sunday School individual title, as well as league and cup team medals with Eastbrook.
A cricket lover too, Hodgkinson was on the benefit committees of Yorkshire players Tony Nicholson, Geoff Cope and John Hampshire.
A Grade One referee at both billiards and snooker, Eric, who was also a staunch Bradford Park Avenue fan, has refereed the English billiards final and a semi-final of the World Professional Billiards Championship.
He was also been on the selection committee for the England amateur snooker team for over 15 years.