The Partypoker.com Premier League, which begins again this week, is now one of snooker’s longest running events.

First held in 1987, it was the brainchild of Barry Hearn, the Matchroom supremo, who has taken snooker to parts of the UK not served by tournaments ever since.

The league’s current format is a series of live six frame matches featuring seven players under a 25 second per shot time limit.

Under this, Ronnie O’Sullivan has been unstoppable and starts favourite again this year.

It’s the perfect event for O’Sullivan, but the shot clock is only a small part of this. What he particularly likes about the league is that it is just a one night deal: he turns up, he plays, he goes home. It means the hanging around that you get at tournaments – and which he hates – doesn’t come into it.

There is also usually a great atmosphere because Premier League crowds are traditionally very strong and O’Sullivan, like most top players, revels in such an environment.

And don’t forget the not-so-small matter of £1,000 a frame and £1,000 for a century, making the league potentially more lucrative than a number of ranking tournaments, even though the top prize has been reduced by £20,000 this year.

Joining O’Sullivan in the 2009 line up are world champion John Higgins, world no.3 Shaun Murphy, Hong Kong’s Marco Fu, Aussie Neil Robertson, seven times Crucible king Stephen Hendry and Judd Trump, who won the qualifying tournament, the Championship League.

This isn’t the field everyone would have picked but Hearn is the promoter and he can choose whoever he wants. If it wasn’t for him, the league wouldn’t be taking place at all.

Which of these players can stop Ronnie this year?

Robertson, like quite a few players, did not adapt well to the shot clock on his debut a couple of years ago. If he can get used to it, he has every chance of success because this event favours attacking play.

The same therefore applies to Murphy, who I would expect to reach the play-offs.

Trump is still inexperienced on the big stage and this will be a big test for him. Will he sink or swim? Time will tell.

Hendry hasn’t impressed in the league in recent years and Higgins hasn’t won it since 1999, although both are obviously capable of doing the business.

For me, though, Fu is the dark horse. He won the league in 2003, albeit before the shot clock was introduced. He has a metronomic style but isn’t slow.

And, unlike most players, he has a superior head-to-head record against O’Sullivan.

But, the likeliest outcome is still victory for the world no.1.

No wonder Ronnie once described the league as his favourite event outside the World Championship.


Monique said...

It's not just in the arena that the atmosphere is great. It's also backstage. Only four players means it can be kept cosy and everything is done so that everyone can relax and feel at ease.

Anonymous said...

I think the Premier League is one the best events on the snooker calendar.

Since it's interception back in 1987 under the name of the Matchroom League Barry Hearn and his team have taken snooker all across the UK, indeed to area's that see little or no professional snooker.

I went to my first League game back in 1991 at the Link Centre, Swindon which pitted Stephen Hendry against Tony Meo and try to attend at least one evening each season. This season's trip is to Weston-Super-Mare in November.

I also think the new format of the 25 second shot clock and the general atmosphere Sky Sports drum up is great!

I agree it is tough to see past Ronnie O'Sullivan winning the 2009 event finals at the home of World Bowls in Novembef but, it should be so competitive in the run up to Hopton-On-Sea.

I'm also going to predict John Higgins and Shaun Murphy to qualify but, the fourth spot is tough to call. I have a slight feeling though, and being from Bristol slightly biased, if Judd Trump can get off to good start Thursday against Neil Robertson and with the format to suit his game he could grab it.

Thumbs up though, whatever the result, to the Premier League - long may it continue!


PS - Barry Hearn if you read this blog how about running the Premier League Bowls next year on the same format as the Snooker and Darts?

Matt said...

In fairness to Hendry he did make the semis last year (somehow), and the year before actually did play well in the group stages, winning four out of his six matches.

Finished second in both 2005 editions too though that is going back a bit.

Anonymous said...

"This isn’t the field everyone would have picked but Hearn is the promoter and he can choose whoever he wants. If it wasn’t for him, the league wouldn’t be taking place at all."

Very diplomatic! Marco Fu in, Mark Selby out is an absolute disgrace and that's being kind!

porridge said...

thanks Dave for reminding. quite surely i would have missed the start. although it might be that this year the streams on betting sites aren't free as one probably has to place a bet to watch or whatever. well, remains to be seen.

i really like the premier league, shame that it has always been so "exclusive" for uk viewers when it comes to television. i remember that way back in early 90s the league was shown on eurosport. but to have that kind of luxury back must be out of question in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

i agree Monique. its been very relaxed for years backstage at this event.

Betty Logan said...

I'm glad to see Robertson come back in since he's miles more exciting to watch than dullard Selby! Not sure about Fu replacing Ding though; I appreciate they want a Chinese player to sell the TV rights in China but I think Ding is probably still a better draw than Fu in that respect, even in view of his sub-standard performances these last couple of seasons. In fact I think I would have been tempted to give Wenbo a trial run since I think he would go down a storm in the League.

I think I would have brought back Jimmy at Hendry's expense too. The man's a legend and is still the biggest box office draw in the game!

Anonymous said...

i see some people still think their opinion counts more than the person who runs the event and think that their opinions on who should be there are better based than that of the person in control.

if youre so great and your opinion counts for anything, run a similar league and invite the rest of the guys you think should have been picked. problem solved.

or, otherwise, keep on bumping your gums because you dont agree with someone who matters choices.

Anonymous said...

imho the 25 second shot clock was far too biased in favour of Ron and having a 30 second shot clock with an extra time out per frame would still see the night take roughly the same time. that extra 5 seconds is a massive difference, but then again, if Ron wins its great publicity as he is what all true snooker fans want to see (;)) - super quick play. honest.

Anonymous said...

Snooker The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear David
That is a great permutation of players Barry Hearne has on show this year.

It was very loyal of Barry to carry Steve so long but it must have been very embarrassing lately for Steve as snookers new SPA Union man and Shop Steward

Mr Marco Fu will add one or two extra viewers, Barry just needs a first class American Ronnie and he has every corner of the world covered. Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

an american ronnie, even though the thought give me the boak actually doesnt sound any more annoying than i find "our" ronnie.

shame that, seeing hes so talented (but not soooooooo natural that everyone keeps saying)

Anonymous said...

Hearn cutting the first prize by £20k? Shows that he needs the cash to bolster the ever increasing prize funds for darts.

Anonymous said...

it shows nothing of the sort 6:13

Anonymous said...

The League is about to start but there are still meaningless opinions coming out.

Just not watch it if you are not happy with it. That's all.

southerner said...

I don't have Sky, and I've never seen a match with a shot clock, so I still don't understand how it works.
What happens if they run out of time?
Do they forfeit the shot, or what?

As for Barry Hearn taking snooker all over the UK, I don't think he has ever brought it down here!

Anonymous said...

all over the uk doesnt mean every single town in the uk, it means widespread (and in most cases to places where main WS events dont go to)

Dana said...

to southerner: register at the bet365.com and watch live stream, you will see what will happen :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Do you know how long Sky's contract with this competition is for as it enter's its 5th season?

Just like with the Dart's ITV is alledgedly looking at Snooker again.

And bare this trivia in mind. When the Champion's Cup and Nation's Cup were being filmed in the late '90's/early '00'S it was being crammed in one channel's schedule.

Now, that channel, has added 3 more. That's when Dart's has come along...Snooker next?

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

I dont know Joe but ITV4 would be perfect for snooker

Speaking of darts - the BBC's new presenter now Stubbsy has jumped ship is one Rob Walker!

Anonymous said...

help ma boab!