The Royal London Watches Grand Prix has a new venue and will revert to a knockout format this year.
It will be moving from the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, which has staged it for the last two years, and is heading to the SECC in Glasgow, a first rate venue that hosted the 2004 Players Championship.
For the last two seasons the early stages have been played in groups. This received a mixed response from snooker fans but most players were against the round robins.
World Snooker’s official press release states: “We would like to thank all the staff at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre for their co-operation and assistance during the last two years. Snooker has a rich history with the AECC and the Royal London Watches Grand Prix has been well supported during this time.”
This is being kind to say the least. Crowd figures were very disappointing – the main reason the tournament is moving to Glasgow.
Aberdeen is a bit out of the way for many – and the venue is not in the city centre – but it attracted huge crowds for the Scottish Open from 1997 to 2002.
Interest failed to pick up again, although some put this down to poor marketing. I well recall Ronnie O’Sullivan coming into the press room at the 2006 event demanding to know why promotional posters for the tournament had only been put up the day before it started.
He had a point.
I think Glasgow will be better supported as it is more accessible and it is good to see this tournament, which began in 1984, continuing.
This was by no means a certainty just a few months ago when it was very nearly turned into a World Cup event.
Most would welcome a World Cup but would not want to lose one of the few long running tournaments the game still has.
But here’s my suggestion: let’s do something different and use a random draw format – like the FA Cup – instead of having seedings.
It would give it a unique identity and cause great excitement for players and fans alike as they wait to find out the various pairings.
This format was used three times for the British Open in the early 1990s.
People often say it didn’t work because Bob Chaperon ended up winning the title but they ignore the fact that the other two winners were Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White.
I think this would, together with an excellent new venue, re-energise the whole event.