21.3.10

IS THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TOO LONG?

The simple answer to that question would be ‘no’ but that doesn’t fill up half a page on the internet.

John Higgins recently told STV in Scotland that he thinks there is an argument for reducing the world final to a single day.

Ronnie O’Sullivan said this year that ‘if we can’t play for an hour and find out who is the best then there’s something wrong.’

When 110sport announced their breakaway tour ten years ago I remember Stephen Hendry saying he thought the World Championship should last 12 days and no longer.

These three great champions have more than earned their right to hold an opinion on this and are worth listening to but I suspect snooker fans may not agree with them.

Let’s take Higgins’s comments. If the world final were reduced then it logically follows that all the other matches would have to be as well, leading to a shorter World Championship.

Times change. Maybe people today prefer a ‘quick fix’ than to sit for hours following sport but the fact remains that snooker, and the World Championship in particular, pulls in viewers because it provides absorbing drama, and this by its very nature is slow burning.

Admittedly, it can sometimes be so slow burning that it almost gets extinguished altogether but the 17 day marathon provides exactly what it should: the ultimate test of a snooker player.

But is 17 days really that much more of a test than, say, 14 days? After all, the World Championship is longer than the Olympics and every major annual sporting event outside of the Tour de France.

Well, if the BBC wants to show 17 days of continuous snooker then I’m certainly not going to talk them out of it.

In truth, some of the matches are too long. The first round would be better as best of 17 frames because this would reduce pull-offs and late finishes. The semi-finals seem to go on forever.

But this format has basically worked for the last three decades and I wouldn’t advocate changing it.

The longer matches provide more subplots and greater drama. This is why six reds, shot clocks et al will never replace the traditional game, even if they do have their place on the fringes of the sport.

Of course, the old sweats from the 1940s and 50s would look down their noses at the notion that today’s World Championship is long at all. In 1948, Fred Davis won the title by beating Walter Donaldson 84-61.

These days you can afford to have a bad session. Back then you could afford to have a bad week.

Society changes and with it so does television. Snooker needs to change as well but its major event is fine as it is. It’s a showpiece occasion that puts snooker front and central for a fortnight every spring.

Snooker’s problem is not the World Championship, it’s the low profile most of the other tournaments have.

This is why I would go along with format alterations for other ranking events. I find it absurd that in finals players play for eight frames, everyone goes away for three hours with nothing to do and then they come back to finish off.

This doesn’t happen in any other sport I can think of.

The Premier League play best of 13 frames right through in one session. This would be better for the likes of the Grand Prix and Welsh Open. You could start at 5 or 6pm and there’s half a chance the audience could get home before turning into pumpkins.

Traditionalists will howl in protest and disbelief that anyone could conceive of changing anything.

Well, when it comes to the World Championship I would agree with them. When it comes to everything else I’d say there is a very strong case to look again, including getting rid of intervals.

All this doesn’t mean reducing every tournament to a lottery but snooker has to reach out to casual sports fans as well as its own diehard constituency. Balancing the needs of both isn’t easy but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t try.

In any case, television will ultimately decide. What they want is what snooker will have to accept because, without TV, the professional game will be back to where it was in the 1950s.

Still, in that scenario we could always go back to three week world finals...

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

your right all 3 aren't worth listening to.

by reducing the UK Final from 31 frames to 19 frames the prestige of that tournament is nowhere near what it was and the same thing would happen to the World Championship.

let them play and mind their own business about what fans want and whats best for the sport we know they obviously don't talking such utter rubbish.

Anonymous said...

9 in first round
13 in all rounds up to the final
final first to 17
sorted

Anonymous said...

yep 202, your opinion is worth more than any of theirs. sure!

there, you got the reaction you craved. satisfied? well played!

Greg P said...

The World semis should go back down to 31. Why they added the two extra frames I don't know. It may not seem like much of a difference but when end of match nerves take hold, the extra requirement to get over the line does elongate frames. It does make a difference. I think we've had too many exhausted players recently in the finals. I'm thinking of 2008 and 2006, and also, Murphy seemed to struggle last year.

Is there any decent argument against having a rest day or two in the World Championship? Specifically, one between the semis and the final. This isn't supposed to be an endurance contest. I'd like to see the players at their best for the biggest match of the year.

But apart from that I really can't see what's wrong with having a two day final. If people don't want to watch such a long match why don't they just tune in for the final session, or the final day?

Anonymous said...

thank 2.15 for knowing that.

Anonymous said...

totally agree with 2:14, the semi final is really like a final (by 1 frame) so come the final, (the next day) it leaves the players burnt out, and imo makes the race to 18 final pointless.

First to 13 would be ideal...

Matt said...

I'd be gutted if they shortened the World Championship, think it works well as it is and being the top prize, should be contested over more frames.

I'd agree that the UK final should be lengthened again too.

Anonymous said...

sorry dave i think boredom is setting in for you, silly article im afraid, the worlds are the only decent thing in snooker at mo, dont mean this in a nasty way mate

Anonymous said...

"First to 13 would be ideal..."

no first to 13 would be hopeless and useless and a glorifies last 16.

Anonymous said...

anyone who thinks only having one frame diff between semis and the final is ideal has blinkers on

snookerbacker said...

Ronnie's comment in particular about finding out who is the best in an hour is absolutely ridiculous and would have denied us many of the fantastic comebacks of the last three decades. The psychology of the game requires not just snooker ability but the ability to match this with your temperament. I'm getting quite worried (as you may be able to tell from my blog) about some of the things being said at the moment. I hope it is just to get people talking and if that is the case it's working. But a one-day world final would really switch me off and I class myself as an informed snooker fan that can still see the potential in the game, in fact, I miss the two day UK final which was always a 'preview' of the big one. Barry really needs to leave those two alone, but with the mixed messages at the moment who knows what could happen? I fear that the 'in bed with the bookies' mentality may be what he is aiming for. Please Baz, this isn't darts, it is, as you yourself have said, more like golf.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the arbitrary lengthening of matches as the tournament progresses isn't necessary at all. The more frames there are, the less importance each frame holds, especially at the start of the match.

They don't play the Wimbledon final over 11 sets, and it doesn't detract from the spectacle.

snookerbacker said...

I'd wholeheartedly agree with getting rid of pointless intervals in best of nines by the way. It might hurry up some of the more comfortable players that look forward a bit too much to their mid session cuppa. Perhaps the semi finals of the world could be tinkered with a bit to a three session match, but not the final. Some of the other events need to change, not the WC, UK or Masters, but we need some spice adding, a doubles tournament might work these days. I've been saying for a while that snooker could have a Davis Cup (Joe? Steve? my hey you?) style ongoing event with in country events and a constantly changing selected team competing for their country on a monthly basis against other nations - this could also be fairly handicapped to give some exposure to new talent. But this rush to quicken everything up to me is not the right direction to go. The Premier League is something as a snooker fan I have no interest in at all.

kildare cueman said...

A rest day could be facilitated between the semi and the final of the world by;
1. shorten both matches slightly to best of 31.
2 Dont revert to one table until the final.

Both semis could be played simultaneously over 3 sessions of 9,9 and 13, ending on saturday afternoon.
The final could be played over 3 sessions starting on sunday night and ending on monday night as it currently does.

This would allow an opportunity to preview/promote the final in the sunday papers and put something on the saturday night like world over 50s, doubles, ladies, anything basically that might suck in a new audience.

I definitely think the mid session interval should be abolished.

In the era of multi channels, it is too easy for a casual viewer to zap elsewhere and not return.

Once the viewer tunes in, it is the presentation, quality and likelyhood of a result that will keep them watching.

The quality[of play]is assured. The other two need to be looked at.

CHRISK5 said...

Another intriguing & very relevant blog.

I'd agree that the earlier rounds of the Worlds Champs should be shortened - but,the Final lengthened slightly.

In an ideal world - have best of 17Frames for the 1st & 2nd round - Best of 19 Frames for QF & then,best of 25 Frames for the Semis - But,my own opinion is the Final itself should increase to best of 39 Frames (getting to 20 being a nice round number) - It's the one match of the year when 'shortcuts' must be out the question.

Other contributors are correct,the UK Final lost a little prestige when it was shortened from 1993, I would like to see to return to best of 31 Frames - However,maybe reduce to best of 11 Frame matches in the earlier rounds of that event & maybe just have the semis at the usual best of 17.

Outside the BIG 2,there are still plenty of events with room for experimentation & radical ideas.
I agree one-session Finals is a decent concept for some of the events that need the increased exposure & their own niche identity.

But,as said,changing the tried & tested Worlds format would be absurd & if so,would make it way too similar to every other event - Which the world championships ISN'T supposed to be & that has always been it's prime appeal.

Anonymous said...

Leave it alone!

Anonymous said...

Barry Hearn isn't sending out mixed messages about the World Championship.

He's already said - on more than one occasion - that its the one event he won't be changing.

snookerbacker said...

To 9.31pm

”There will be changes at the Crucible this year, but it will not be the razzamatazz of the darts, and more will be done off the table to improve the overall experience”.

Anonymous said...

They should keep the same number of frames in each round, but reduce the number of reds from 15 to 10. This will get things speeded up.

Anonymous said...

Lol at the idea of poster 10:08, thats not going to happen...

I am afraid the game is in a terrible situation if the world championship is even been considered to be changed...

Anonymous said...

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Anonymous said...

"anyone who thinks only having one frame diff between semis and the final is ideal has blinkers on"
___________________________________

think tennis think Wimbledon think grand slam.

last 128 has same sets as a final.

moondan said...

He who pays the piper calls the tune, so unless the bbc are unhappy with the present format and can no longer commit themselves to 17 days, then there should be no question of any change whatsoever.
Most snooker fans feel the uk was devalued with the shorter format and lessons should be learned from that.
Its also worth mentioning that the first week of the old uk format was never televised, just the second week.
I would rather the bbc shortened their coverage if that is the problem, not the championship squeezed into a shorter time period. I think it would also boost early round attendences.

I think a few vocal people in snooker are leading snooker down a very dangerous path where their cures will make the patient more ill and snooker will lose its tradition and identity.
I love snooker the way it is, its not ill and its future is bright, and fiddling with the product will certainly alianate far more than it will ever gain.
Snooker should hold its nerve as all other sports are having to do, and when economic growth returns and snooker benefits from the interest worldwide it has created this past decade, then things will look completely different.

I am concerned when people want to change the dress code, apart from anything else I think its quite absurd to think that a player in jeans is going to have any bearing on viewing figures.
The game is the star, its wrapped in its tradition and that for many millions is its attraction.
Times will get better, consolodate what we have and arrive at the end of this with snookers dignity intact.
3 reds, 5 reds, could well find their place but they should never be a replacement because it just isn't snooker and the venues would be even more empty, bit like in pool.
Having watched a few of Higgins promotions and seeing the lack of interest they cause, even on sites like 606 it really does tell a story.

Sparky said...

You say that the WC is "longer than the Olympics and every major annual sporting event outside of the Tour de France".

This is certainly not true. It's shorter than the Champions League of football, the Stanley Cup och Ice Hockey, The Davis Cup of Tennis, The F1 world championship of racing, to mention a few.

Maybe you're referring to events that go on for EVERY day for a certain period of time. How about the 162-match season of Major League Baseball, where the teams play almost every night, and which is followed by a long post-season that will determine a world-series winner? A season which also includes loooots and lots of travelling across North America?

IanW said...

re Anonymous 10;08pm

Why don't you just play the W/Champs on 6x3 tables thus enabling you to have 8 tables in the Crucible at the same time !!!

Should have it over and done in no time.

Anonymous said...

11.58, why the hell should i think tennis

?

this is snooker

theres no reason other than opinion to compare the 2, and i choose not to

if you choose to compare them, then thats your choice

ok, from now on we play snooker outdoors and we take sit down breaks every few minutes to eat a banana

there, thats me thought tennis

*shakes head*

Anonymous said...

IanW, your idea is very silly

it should be played on computers with every player sat in the pit, of course. that way no tables roll off etc.

Anonymous said...

Hearn has already said the World, UK and Masters will not change their formats, it's the other finals that need to be reduced to prefereably best of 13, not the big ones.
Alpha

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I think the semi's should be altered in such a way as it finishes on the Saturday afternoon session. The player who wins SF2 may not finish until goodness knows what time on Saturday night whereas the SF1 winner will have been done hours before and would be fresher. Altering the Final so that the final session time has the chance to end reasonably early on the Monday night will benefit TV viewers who are working on the Tuesday morning and the press would then report to the papers for Tuesday publication which would then benefit the sponsor by having more publicity into the bargain. The World Snooker Final will no longer be news on Wednesday!

Greg P said...

Regardless of what Hearn says, Higgins is barking up the wrong tree here.

I don't know why any snooker player right now would argue to have less days playing snooker..... and why any sport that thinks it needs to be "fixed", would start off by changing the one event that gets by far the highest ratings.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to put a quick reply up to a post in the top section of answers.

Someone said that the interval in b.o.-9 matches could be removed. Perhaps so, however, keep in mind that the interval is also there to give the referee a little rest. The players can sit down, relax and let their mind go whilst their opponent is at the table. for referees, however, this is a no-go (for obvious reasons!).

Cheers.

CHRISK5 said...

Indeed - The flagship world championships only need tinkering with - NOT wholesale changes.

IF the earlier round matches were reduced - which would be desirable - then that would still make it a 14 day championship & still deliver all the plot & subplot drama that it usually does.

At present,17 days & the (needless) ultra-long Semis are a small hindrance to the 'showpiece' main-event Final - where the players should be just a little fresher for that big occasion.

Ali Carter in 2008 & Shaun Murphy in 2009 were both mentally spent & exhausted by the time they eventually got to the Final.

As said,reductions in the earlier round matches - while still maintaining the basic format that has made the World Championships successful - is the best balance overall.

Anonymous said...

Leave the World Championship alone!! There is no need at all to change the number of frames played at all, and the only sensible change (as 10.21 says) would be to start the Semi's on the morning of the final Thursday so that the winner of the second semi gets the Saturday night off.

Also in best of nine's they SHOULD keep the mid-session interval, it's snooker's equivalent of half time, and numerous games change in the 2nd half after the trailing player has a chance to re-group, and maybe get a half-time pep talk.

Anonymous said...

No change needed IMO!

Also, with no intervals, how can Plan B be used???

Greg P said...

Great point about Plan B!

Although if I recall correctly, that particular incident was in the gap between the afternoon session and the evening session in the Masters final. Dave was talking about getting rid of the 20 minute interval in short matches. So I don't know if anyone ever did that.... if they did, it would have to be Plan Q.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

The only thing i would introduce at the moment is no break for best of nine matches. Futile, and when it's a roll on/roll situation it demands it.

Everything else, should be out of consideration for the time being.

Hearn, needs to go back to basics, and that is getting a routine structured calendar for the next few seasons and bringing back staple solid world ranking tournaments;international/british open et al.

We all understand it is going to take time, so let him get the ball rolling with some consistancy. Then once things are in place, look at doing other things.

Let us not get ahead of ourselves.

Thanks, Joe

jamie brannon said...

I totally disagree with Ronnie. The whole point of long frame snooker is to identify who the best are. We saw when pot black was resurrected that one frame snooker was meaningless. Generally only truly great or nearly great players win the world and UK titles, unlike many other events. I'm up for trying no intervals, but actually I think the paying audience do like them.

We can't be totally oblivious to change in society but at the same time we don't need to follow it like lemmings. Test cricket is still popular given the right occasion like The Ashes, and the World Championship is so embedded in the psyche of snooker fans as the one that matters most, that changing it would do nothing for the appeal of what is already the game's most popular event. 17 days is nothing really, it always seems to fly by in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

For the first time, I actually agree with Jamie in the main, no intervals should be tried out in best of nines and the World should really be reduced by a couple of days but otherwise there is no problem.
Alpha

Anonymous said...

What a lot of intriguing ideas. As far as intervals are concerned they should be retained for the sake of the paying spectator- they are the one who needs the break to use the 'restroom' without having to nip out and miss an entire frame they have paid increasingly more money to watch!
The uk final was devalued when reduced - the worlds should not be touched. As these players practice for at least 5 hours a day what is the problem of playing two sessions a day over 5 days to end the tournament. Work on the stamina and cut out the nightclubs!

Anonymous said...

Good point Anon @ 11.41, it'a not just Refs but also paying public who need a break. Them getting up and going to the loo will disrupt the game unduly. Players can go between frames (and during them in the case of some)!!

As for Ronnie stating that the best player would become evident after an hour. What absolute tosh he speaks (as is usual). I am absolutley certain that he would spit his dummy out and want it changed back if he got a bad start - what about the start that Neil Robertson had against him in the Masters? - If Ronnies suggestion were in place at that time, NR would have won. As it was, Ronnie went on to win!

Anonymous said...

Snookerbacker @ 9.55 - more to be done off the table? Is that why he's axed cue-zone?

Anonymous said...

"Snookerbacker @ 9.55 - more to be done off the table? Is that why he's axed cue-zone?"
___________________________________

yes thats a poor decision what was needed was expansion on that maybe personal appearances from the likes of Jimmy.and make it more inviting.

Supaselby said...

A lot of good idea's listed above.

I certainly agree that we need to bring back some of the big ranking events from the late 1980's and early 1990's like the British Open and International. If I re-collect earlier in the season Mike Hallett said this whilst commentating for British Eurosport.

Dropping the Cue Zone was a poor decision, this was graet to get the youngsters involved.

Another off the table feature that should be brough back is the Heritage Room at the Crucible. I have really missed this during my visits over the last few years.

It was also good back in the day when David Vine, Dougie Donnelly and Hazel Irvine fronted the BBC coverage from there.

Ryan

Anonymous said...

Supaselby - who is going to sponser these big ranking events you want bringing back? That's why they aren't here now!!! Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Why do so many of you want to get rid of intervals? The interval has proved pivotel on numerous occasions changing the course of a game. Recently Ian McCulloch beat Jimmy White 5-4 after trailing 4-0. Had there not been an interval that would have finished 5-0. The interval can do strange things to a player.
Plus, what about the poor referee? I bet if you asked all the top refs they would want to keep the interval, the players can sit down when it's not their shot, not the refs. Some of these best of 9's can go on for 4 or 5 hours, I wouldn't fancy standing up that long without a break. Would you??

Anonymous said...

Can amyone explain why the cue zone has been axed, i have heard rumours its because the work in the square won't be finished, and its being moved inside the winter gardens..

Anonymous said...

The comparison with tennis is interesting, but account must be taken of the differences: One mistake can lose you a frame in snooker; in tennis only one point can be lost at a time.

Longer matches in snooker are a way to reduce the impact of chance on the outcome, and therefore have a better likelihood of showcasing the best players in the latter stages, and ultimately finding the best champion.

For me the World and UK Championship were always the best as a viewer because longer matches meant more snooker! QED.