I’ve always been a supporter of local wildcards in ranking events such as the China Open but I wonder if the time has come to get rid of them.
They are used for one reason and one reason only: to attract local interest to the event.
However, this did not happen yesterday in what transpired to be one of the most poorly attended days of any ranking event ever staged.
Why? I’d say the tournament has now outgrown the wildcard round. Ding Junhui is firmly established as part of the top 16 and, anyway, the Chinese crowds would rather see Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis than their own local hopes.
This is because they have become fans of the top stars over the last few years, in the China event and through watching snooker on TV.
What happened yesterday gave snooker’s enemies the ideal opportunity to claim that the Chinese snooker boom is a myth.
It isn’t. I know this having been to China several times and seen some of the mania first hand.
But the crowds have become more discerning and aren’t interested in the eight lowest ranked qualifiers against the wildcards.
I have no doubt at all that it will be close to packed for Ding against Joe Perry and O’Sullivan’s match with Marco Fu.
It would have been better all round to hit the ground running with these top players coming in on day one.