"Such formats are very popular on the WSA Main Tour. The Royal Watches Grand Prix last month also had the same format. It was a great success with the players and fans as it keeps the interest alive throughout the whole week."
So said Neal Stevens, World Snooker's Commercial Manager, at the launch of the Malta Cup, played using a round robin format.
I wonder if Mr. Stevens still believes this following the revelation in this morning's Guardian newspaper that the tournament is under investigation by the Gambling Commission after irregular betting patterns were reported.
Criminal prosecutions may follow if any hard evidence is discovered.
I doubt whether there was any malpractice. The problem is simple and applies throughout round robin snooker: players aren't motivated when there's no chance of getting through to the next stage.
Peter Ebdon, a World Snooker board member, was even smashing the pack against Mark Williams.
Bookmakers who offer betting on such matches are asking for trouble. Anyone who bets on a 'dead' match needs their head looking at.
What it all does, though, is create the idea in the public mind that the game is somehow corrupt.
It isn't but there is only one way to prevent this notion from festering: ditch the round robins.
Contrary to what Mr. Stevens asserts, most players don't like it. There's little evidence that spectators or TV viewers enjoy it either.
The Malta Cup should have been a ranking tournament once plans for one in the Middle East fell through.
It would be a shame if this established event fell by the wayside because of the fallout from last week.
(Guardian story here: http://sport.guardian.co.uk/snooker/story/0,,2255835,00.html)