Bob Grafham was always coming up with creative ideas for sponsorship and in 1983 he suggested we look into sponsoring the first professional snooker match in the Middle East,
After some research, we decided this would be a very good thing to do and Bob had received some very good feedback from snooker promoter and manager Barry Hearn in London. Snooker was becoming big business in those days and Barry was the manager for Steve Davis, the reigning world champion, along with Terry Griffiths amongst others. Barry was eager to develop new markets and readily agreed to bring Steve and Terry out to play an exhibition match in Bahrain, which he hoped would be the forerunner of a Middle East Championship.
I was particularly pleased with this as Steve Davis was a Porsche 928S owner and I suggested we have a couple of Porsches in the hotel adjacent to the venue entrance where we could shoot some publicity photographs for the local press.
After some negotiations Bob got the Diplomat Hotel in Bahrain, which was part of the Forte chain, to host the event and Gulf Air to sponsor the flights and airfreight. Bob also got in touch with Riley who produced the snooker tables in the United Kingdom and we agreed to purchase a table from them at cost. Riley told us they would need to send an engineer out to set the table up so things started to come together very quickly.
A date was set and Bob set about getting raised seating put together within the Diplomat hotel ballroom. This was done using scaffolding and seats were created in a rectangular stepped fashion rising up into the roof. We worked with the Diplomat hotel on promoting this event in the local, regional newspapers and on radio Bahrain.
As prizes, Bob arranged with Porsche Design and us to sponsor the winning prize, which was a Porsche Design Sports Titan watch along with a leather briefcase with saddlebag for the highest break.
The seating was completed; the snooker table, lighting set-up and we were ready to host the evening event. I had arranged to put a Porsche 928S in the ballroom lobby. Barry, Steve, Terry and the referee had arrived the previous evening. We met up in the morning and went through the last minute arrangements together. I could see Barry Hearn was taking this quite seriously and he could see a lot of potential in our part of the world for snooker. At the last minute we also got Bahrain TV to come long and cover the event for their weekly English magazine programme.
The evening arrived and we arranged some press photographs of Steve Davis sitting on the bonnet of our Porsche 928S before the match which I sent to Christophorus magazine.
The event was formerly introduced to the seated public and then the players arrived and were introduced. The match went very well and we had a good response from a very mixed audience. Steve won the match and he also won highest break, so we gave Terry some Porsche Design sunglasses and other goodies as runner up prizes.
Afterwards the general manager of the Diplomat hotel hosted a private dinner for us all. We had a very enjoyable evening together and it went on into the early hours.
Barry was keen for this first trip to include another event in Dubai, which Bob had undertaken to organise and was to travel with them over to Dubai, it was being sponsored by our Porsche Design agent in Dubai, Bin Hindi Enterprises, a company was owned by the Director of Civil Aviation at that time. Again the event was another success; Barry had obviously done some homework and could see huge potential in the Gulf area.
Steve was learning the piano at that time and he started to play some and shortly a few of us gathered around whilst he played a few tunes. We had some spare snooker Cue’s, so Bob, Rob and I got Steve and Terry to autograph three of these for us as mementos.
One of my customers, Torfiq Al Aali had ordered a Porsche 930 turbo from us. This was probable one of our more outrageous orders, as it was metallic black paint with a light pink suede dashboard and matching steering wheel, all pink leather interior with black carpets.
Torfiq had approached me prior to the snooker event-taking place and asked if he could buy the snooker table after we had finished with it. I introduced him to Bob and they did a deal together.
Once we totted up all the costs for the event, selling the table on made us a small profit so that pleased us.
Torfiq invited Bob and I down for lunch to his Budaiya garden house shortly after and he had built a special extension to his house for the snooker the table!
Snooker is big business today and the Dubai Open is a regular event on the calendar. I like to think we had a little bit to do with bringing professional snooker to the Arabian Gulf.