Mr Watterson, a former professional snooker player from Chesterfield who is famed for taking the game out of dingy clubs and presenting it to world via live television coverage from the BBC, passed away on Friday night.
His great-nephew Ryan Watterson announced his death on Twitter yesterday, describing him as a ‘lovely man whose influence on the snooker world cannot be overstated' adding, ‘RIP Mike’.
Tributes have poured in for Watterson following his death.
World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn and WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “Mike made a huge contribution to the history of our sport. Without him, the World Championship may never have been staged at the Crucible, and he played a vital role in the creation of many other tournaments. On behalf of World Snooker and WPBSA we send our condolences to his family at this sad time.”
The Chesterfield FC PFA, an association for former players of Chesterfield FC – a club which Watterson was once chairman – said: “Sad to hear the news that former Director Mike Watterson has passed away. In 1983 it was his money that stopped @ChesterfieldFC being wound up & he later became Chairman. Away from football, his contribution to changing the sport of snooker cannot be underestimated.”
Marcus Stead said: “Mike Watterson's legacy as a sports promoter is a wonderful one. Events he created will continue to entertain millions for many years to come. On a personal level I found him a no-nonsense straight talker and a man of great principle. I shall miss him hugely. RIP.”
Alan Biggs said: “Such sad news. The world of snooker - & all the players - owes this man a lot. Had the vision to bring @WorldSnooker to @crucibletheatre & gambled his own money on promoting it. More than that, a kind man & a friend. RIP Mike Watterson.”
Gary Kelly wrote: “Sad to hear of the passing of Mike Watterson. Big snooker promoter who we're indebted to for originally bringing the world championship to the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield in 1977. He could play a bit too. May he rest in peace.”
Known affectionately as Mr Crucible, Watterson is credited for saving snooker – which in 1976 had no venue, no promoter, no sponsors and no organiser – by renting the space and bringing the game to its now-famous stage in the city centre for the 1977 championship a year later.
A handy player himself, he turned professional in 1981, and created another of snooker’s biggest events, the UK Championship, as well as the British Open and the International Open.
He also turned his hand to darts, creating the system of sets and legs to create a thrilling climax every 20 minutes or so and make it appeal to the masses, and breathed new life into bowls, too, by hosting the UK Indoor Bowls Championship at the Preston Guild Hall from 1981.
Watterson went on to become Chairman of Derby County Football club, but in 1983 was ousted as promoter of the Crucible championships.
That same year he became Vice-Chairman of Chesterfield later returning as Chairman for over a year.
He also enjoyed commentating for Sky at various snooker events and managed players such as Cliff Thorburn and Kirk Stevens.