Sir Rodney Walker, who is battling to remain WPBSA chairman, has said there will be “a minimum of 15 professional ranking tournaments, plus invitation events” played in the first year of a new World Snooker Tour.
He says these events will be ‘phased in’ next season.
World Snooker Limited has entered into a new partnership with IMG, the leading sports, entertainment and media company.
They say they will “will work closely with independent promoters worldwide in the planning of the World Snooker Tour and replicate the success of established tournaments in the UK and China.”
Walker said: “We have brought forward today’s announcement of the proposed World Snooker Tour in response to misleading, inaccurate and downright untruthful comments about the sport which have been made in the past few months. In the last five years, the sport has progressed from an uncertain financial position with a history of turmoil, to a sport with financial stability, renewed long-term worldwide broadcast contracts and new sponsorship agreements.
“Together with IMG we believe the time is now right to build on these underlying strengths to put in place a World Snooker Tour. We hope the players and promoters will recognise the opportunities of being part of this ambitious plan and help in bringing it to fruition.”
Bearing in mind there are only six ranking events currently scheduled for this season, it will mean a 150% increase if 15 – a minimum figure, remember – take place next season.
However, I welcome World Snooker’s partnership with IMG. Many will wonder why they didn’t enter into such an arrangement five, ten or even 15 years ago.
IMG are, after all, world leaders in television production and distribution, although they are no longer World Snooker’s sponsorship agents.
If snooker does – at long last – become a global sport in the manner of golf and tennis as a result of this arrangement then it will be the most significant development in the professional game since the televised circuit as we know it was established in the early 1980s.
But, interestingly, the official press release does not make any mention of the deal being off if Walker is voted out as chairman.
And World Snooker hasn’t announced a new tour, they’ve announced ‘plans’ for a new tour. They say the ‘intention’ is to put on these events, that they ‘envisage’ 15 ranking tournaments and that it’s ‘anticipated’ the events will be phased in next season.
What this tells us is that this is a plan – potentially a very good one – but I remember Walker announcing ‘plans’ for an Asian Tour of China, Thailand and Macao and only the Chinese event went ahead.
I guess time, as ever, will tell as to whether this latest ‘plan’ leads to snooker becoming the professional sport we all want to see. If it does then Walker can remain chairman forever as far as I’m concerned.
But the more pertinent question right now is this: will today’s announcement be sufficient to keep him in his job by this time next week?