Jason Ferguson, the new WPBSA chairman, is calling for the age limit at which players can turn professional to be lowered.
As it stands right now, players can’t turn pro until they are 16.
In a letter to the WPBSA membership, Ferguson cites the example of Luca Brecel, who won the European amateur title at the age of 15 earlier this year.
Ferguson wrote: “Luca achieved a dream by winning the European Championship and qualified for the main tour, only to be told he could not compete as under our rules and constitution he was too young. Whilst there are issues to deal with like child welfare and education, having taken the appropriate advice, these can be worked out. As a former player, I feel that this is a totally unacceptable situation and therefore we will be looking for you to support constitutional change.”
Brecel can play in this season’s PTC events but will have to wait until next year to turn professional.
I was always under the impression that the age limit existed in part because of tobacco sponsorship, which has of course now ceased, although gaming companies also operate under strict rules regarding age.
There seems no logical reason why a 15 year-old can’t play on the tour, just as they are able to compete in other sports.
Many parents would doubtless say they should remain at school and not be distracted by dreams of green baize glory.
Another counter argument is that they won’t be ready, that they need more time on the junior and amateur circuits.
Possibly. But there’s a lot to be said for sink or swim. The fact is, any player will find it tough in their first reason whether they are 15 or 21. This is because it is tough. Really tough.
There have been a few exceptions over the years. Shaun Murphy played in a couple of qualifiers when he was 15 because the season started a fortnight before he turned 16.
This was not, as many people claim, because his father, Tony, was a WPBSA board member at the time. He didn’t join the board until a couple of years later.
It was, in fact, a sensible solution rather than making Shaun wait another year. However, two years ago Michael White, in almost identical circumstances, was barred from playing in two ranking event qualifiers because he was still 15.
The WPBSA administration of the time doggedly insisted no such exemption had ever been given to Murphy or anyone else – despite the evidence in Snooker Scene and elsewhere that it had happened.
Ding Junhui competed in the 2002 China Open as a 14 year-old wild card but was, of course, still an amateur at the time.
It’s impossible to say when a player is truly ‘ready’ to turn professional. You only find out by actually doing it.
If a player like Brecel has qualified for the main tour through a recognised route then he should have his chance.
Ferguson’s idea is therefore worthy of support, although as he says it will require deft implementation to take into account issues around the welfare of the child and their education.