Morrissey once sang that ‘America is not the world.’
In terms of a strict geographical observation Mozza can’t be faulted. But some people in snooker need to be reminded that the UK is only one country of many. There is a whole world out there and it needs to be explored.
Snooker was invented in India, albeit by British army officers. The professional game was born in the UK and grew here but for snooker to go forward it needs to grow elsewhere as well.
There have been forays to Australia and New Zealand, to Canada, to continental Europe, to the Middle East and to the Far East.
Many of these tournaments have simply fallen by the wayside, taking much of the local interest in snooker with them.
Meanwhile here in Britain the boom has passed, snooker clubs have shut down at an alarming rate and pro-am competitions are vastly reduced in number.
I support keeping the Betfred.com World Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield because of the great history of the place but, in general, there needs to be more tournaments outside British shores, not just for snooker’s credibility but for its future survival as a top level sport.
This is the best way of encouraging participation around the world and ensuring global TV coverage.
The BBC, which has done more than any player to popularise the sport, is still hugely important to the professional game but snooker needs to be seen in households far from British shores as well.
I understand the PTC grand finals will be held outside the UK, a good start.
Barry Hearn was recently in China and Thailand talking to promoters about new events in the Far East. I know he has also spoken to representatives of other countries so it is very likely players will be racking up the air miles soon.
Good. For a sport to have global pretensions it actually has to travel the world.
Most top players are still British of course – and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – but it’s a little odd for a ‘World’ Championship to include only a handful of none British faces.
Ding Junhui has of course been the standard bearer of the Chinese snooker revolution and Neil Robertson has, to his credit, been getting himself in front of every TV camera going in Australia since becoming world champion.
Interest is huge in Eastern Europe. Regular readers of this blog log on from countries such as Russia, Poland and Lithuania in large numbers.
So step forward the 12bet.com World Open...this tournament, whatever its faults may be, at least includes a few exotic names.
There’s Igor Figueiredo, Brazil’s first professional, who plays Mark Williams tomorrow.
And there’s Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un Nooh, who tackles newly crowned Shanghai Masters champion Ali Carter today.
The World Open will foreground a total of 43 players. Some of these are familiar, some are established lower rankers and some will be completely new to most viewers.
The format is quickfire, probably too quickfire for many players. Stephen Hendry said the other day that he didn’t think ranking points should be given to a tournament of best of fives and he’s probably right.
But I’d rather World Snooker tried something new than tried nothing at all.
The BBC will probably still go with three tournaments rather than four next season but the World Open will at least have been showcased and, unless it’s a total disaster, which I don’t think it will be, I’d expect to see it somewhere on the calendar in 2011/12.
Hearn has been canny using the word ‘World’ in the title, immediately adding prestige to the tournament for any overseas promoter keen to take it on.
And at least the rules of the game haven’t been messed with. It’s still snooker, just a more cut-throat version.
Some will still prefer best of nines, others will enjoy seeing more matches and players. I’d imagine the gambling community will largely steer clear.
Players higher up the rankings may feel they are disadvantaged. There are no seedings and they know the lower ranked players have a better chance of beating them over a shorter distance.
But if Hearn’s global vision does come to fruition – and it will take at least a couple of years to do so – this tournament will be just one of many.
My advice to players in coming seasons: keep your passports handy, you’re going to need them.
World Open TV times:
Eurosport International: 6-10pm
British Eurosport2: 2.55-4.30pm, 7-10pm