I’m pleased to see the World Open qualifiers have already attracted more than 500 entrants from the UK.
In recent years, participation levels in Britain have fallen, even though snooker remains a popular television sport.
Snooker clubs are not just places to go to pot balls. They are social hubs.
The smoking ban in the UK certainly hit them hard with many now closed down. The general decline of the sport’s image has also had a negative effect.
The World Open is being touted as the FA Cup of snooker as it gives 20 players the chance to take part in the pro qualifying rounds in August, with a chance to battle through to the TV stages.
This development, along with the new Players Tour Championship, also open to amateurs, may well help to reignite interest in the amateur ranks.
Snooker, like the black pudding industry, relies on a steady supply of fresh blood.
There is much competitive snooker going on that is barely reported but it serves as a training ground for stars of the future.
The champions of tomorrow need to believe that all the effort is worthwhile. They also need to have stars they can look up to.
Ronnie O’Sullivan would accept he has not always been the perfect professional but his mentoring of Joel Walker through the Rileys Future Stars scheme gives that youngster an enviable insight into the game.
Ronnie, at his best, is an inspirational person to be around. He can help improve Joel’s game but also help build confidence, such an important commodity in any sport.
It is also another link between the pro and amateur games. For too long they have existed in isolation. The fact is, it’s one game and deserves recognition at all levels.
Usually at this time of the year there is nothing happening. This year there is a sense that snooker is beginning to get back on its feet with new ideas and – crucially – more playing opportunities for players wherever they are in their careers.
The World Open is a controversial addition to the tournament calendar but what it does do is open the door of top level snooker to hundreds of hopefuls and give them a peek of what is waiting inside if they ultimately make the grade.