It’s good news that Sky Sports are to broadcast another WPBSA event after losing faith in the governing body six years ago.
The new Sky Shootout promises to be a fast-paced, glitzy and above all gloriously tacky affair in which snooker – so often seen by outsiders as deadly serious – will play second fiddle to entertainment.
There will be a 20-second shot-clock – with no time-outs – and frames will be adjudged to be over after 12 minutes, although it isn’t clear how exactly this will work or what would happen if, for instance, the frame scores were tied at this point.
WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn has already intimated that he wants a ‘Grim Reaper’ to accompany the losing players out of the arena and that the crowd should be encouraged to get involved.
The top 64 will all be invited, the draw will be random and prize money will double each round, meaning a top prize of £32,000, as Hearn says not bad for three days’ work.
The tournament runs from January 28-30 next year at a venue to be confirmed. A big city, possibly Manchester, is likely.
Players will be able to choose their own outfits and be encouraged to project their personalities.
One frame snooker is nothing new. Pot Black brought the game to the British public’s attention in the 1970s and Darren Morgan won a one-frame knockout event in 1991, although the WPBSA bizarrely made the final a best of three.
Sky don’t want a ranking event – or at least not a lesser one – so the sport should welcome their willingness to show any snooker.
However, a 20 second shot limit was originally trialled for the Premier League and it was found that the players could not cope. Some shots require extra consideration, even for Ronnie O’Sullivan and the other fast players.
Playing ultra-quickly does not guarantee high quality snooker. In fact, it could produce quite the opposite.
However, as a spectacle there’s no doubt the new Shootout will be a fun affair.
Snooker needs a range of tournaments and formats to appeal to different audiences. Too many events look the same, feel the same and, frankly, are the same.
And if the new Shootout persuades Sky to take more snooker in the future then it will have done its job – despite the inevitable howl of protests it will bring from dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists.