The World Series event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia scheduled for March 6-7 has been cancelled.
Organisers say this is because Eurosport have been unable to obtain the necessary licenses to broadcast from the Middle Eastern kingdom.
The same scenario has occurred for golf tournaments in Saudi so I am not disputing this explanation.
However, the fact remains that World Series has failed to deliver on its early promise.
It was launched in 2008 by John Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney. The idea was to capitalise on the growing popularity of snooker in Europe by promoting a series of two day invitation tournaments in various countries.
A deal was signed with Eurosport, the main reason for snooker’s growth on the continent, and four events were staged.
These were generally regarded as a success. The tournaments were laid back affairs which gave the snooker public a chance to get closer to the big name players.
In 2009, a grand finals was held in Portugal. Two further events have been staged since but there is currently no schedule indicating any more tournaments.
One of the stated aims of the World Series was to develop local talent in each country it visited.
This is laudable but it resulted in a series of mismatches between top players and local amateurs, who were always going to be outclassed.
Reducing frames to six or ten red contests could not prevent the one-sided nature of most of the matches.
Top level sport has to be competitive to maintain the interest of television audiences. One slap after another was never going to do this.
World Series organisers did not enjoy any support from the WPBSA. Indeed, certain figures from the governing body gave the impression they couldn’t wait for it to fail.
Ultimately this attitude backfired because Mooney helped to orchestrate the coup to remove most of them.
However, his own enterprise faces an uncertain future. I think he would admit that he underestimated the sheer difficulty - not to mention money – involved in getting a venture like this off the ground and then keeping it going.
Newly installed WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn has pledged to work with World Series bosses and use any future tournaments as a ‘battering ram’ to get snooker into countries where it is popular.
I hope he ditches the local element and instead takes eight top names to each country to ensure a competitive event.
Perhaps the leading amateur could play Higgins in a big exhibition the night before each event begins? This would work as a way of launching each tournament and incorporating a local element without detracting from the event itself.
A model could be the Masters series in tennis – though this would take years and years to emulate – and effectively develop an invitation circuit for the top players alongside the ranking circuit.
This may look like two fingers up to the lower ranked players but everyone has the same chance to become a top player. You do it by winning matches/tournaments.
The World Series can only obtain credibility by developing a proper structure – with an order of merit – so that it means something to the wider public, rather than existing as a series of dislocated events.
I wish Higgins and Mooney all the best with this and am sure Hearn will do his best to revitalise the project. Regardless of its problems, World Series is still a good idea.
But without actual tournaments, this is all it will remain.