The forthcoming Roewe Shanghai Masters will be the tenth world ranking event staged in China in the last five years.
The first of these was the 2005 China Open in Beijing, won by Ding Junhui and the start of the boom that has created snooker fans of millions.
But these millions, like anywhere else in the world, want to watch the top stars. The days when wildcards were needed to prop up interest are over.
This is why the current system of local wildcards for Chinese events should end.
Years ago, an invited player from the host country had little chance of success. Now, the Chinese players, on home soil and without the pressure of ranking points, have every chance of beating the qualifiers, who are on a hiding to nothing – literally, as they get no money for playing an extra match. In the dim and distant past they received £500.
This is supposed to be a new era, a meritocracy.
If that is the case then it is grossly unfair on those who have come through the qualifiers to have to play talented wildcards, some of whom were on the circuit last season, instead of going straight through to the top 32, a place they have earned fairly.
But there is another issue. Any sporting event should hit the ground running with its biggest names.
It tells those watching on TV that this is a proper event and worth following for the week.
According to the format, the first TV match on day one will be Jamie Burnett v Tian Pengfei and the second will be Dave Harold v Yu Delu. The other matches in this round are not any more appetising with the possible exception of Ken Doherty, a big name, who, farcically, will play the only non-Chinese wildcard and is therefore certain not to be on TV.
And the knock on effect is that the last 32 has to be played over two days not three and so TV viewers will not see some of the game’s best known faces early on.
On the second evening, Ronnie O’Sullivan plays Burnett or Tian on the first TV table. Marco Fu, as he is from Hong Kong, will play Mark Davis on the second.
This means that Mark Williams v Ricky Walden – arguably the tie of the round – will be out of range of the cameras.
Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Stephen Hendry are all on the same session so, again, one of these will be put round the back.
Long time readers may remember the utter farce of John Higgins and Mark Selby, playing for the first time since their world final three years ago, being put on table 3.
There is actually a simple solution to this, one myself and colleagues have suggested before: play two wildcard matches on the second day and put two last 32 games on the first day. This way you would start with big names and they wouldn’t then find themselves out on table three.
Needless to say, such suggestions have been ignored.
Wildcards are a good way of growing an event but Chinese tournaments have grown sufficiently and there’s no need for them now.
Their effect is a glacially slow start to the event, big names not exposed to TV coverage and an understandable sense of grudging resentment among a number of the players.
It’s time for them to go.