The first staging of the Players Tour Championship is now at an end.
Going purely on player participation and the opportunities at has afforded them it has to be judged a success.
Without the players, the PTC would have been an expensive folly but the vast majority of the circuit has embraced them for what they are: the chance to keep match sharp and earn money and ranking points.
Mindset is crucial going to any tournament and the PTC is no different. Those players who turned up feeling negative about it did not do well; many of those who went into the tournaments relishing the extra opportunities to play and earn money have got the rewards.
It’s amazing how complacent people can become very quickly. Let’s go back to a year ago. There were six ranking events and a series of downmarket, poorly subscribed Pro Challenge Series events played in clubs, one with only six reds, which fizzled out due to player apathy, which was largely due to the fact there were no ranking points available.
Next season World Snooker will stage at least 29 events. The PTC accounts for 13 of these. It represents a huge increase in playing opportunity for professionals and amateurs.
The set up and conditions have not been perfect but this was the first year and mistakes were inevitable. To have got the concept off the ground so quickly was actually a very creditable effort.
Would any player – hand on heart – want snooker to go back to how it was 12 months ago?
The bottom line is this: if you don’t want to play in the PTCs, don’t play in them. Sit at home. Do something else instead.
Barry Hearn has made good on his stated objective which was not to spoon feed players ‘guarantees’ and leave them nicely cosseted in a set ranking position. No, he said he would give them all opportunities and what they did with them was up to them.
For a very small number of players – Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis would fit the bill – the PTCs are a come down. I can well understand why Hendry, for instance, doesn’t like them after the majesty of his career.
But try telling Marcus Campbell they’re a bad idea. Try telling Barry Pinches or Tom Ford or Michael Holt.
Players have previously had months – literally – between matches but now they have the option to play pretty much every week. And, again, if they are successful they are rewarded.
Among the smears and lies spread by Hearn’s coterie of enemies was that he would cut the circuit to 32 players. In fact, far from being an elitist he has set up a series that has mainly benefitted players lower down the rankings.
It’s true that expenses take their toll, particularly when travelling abroad. The other side of that coin, though, is that it’s £10,000 to the winner, so, again, those who do well reap the rewards.
I commend Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby in particular for their attitudes toward these events, including playing in them when it was obvious they had already qualified.
Big names competing will in itself grow the sport because it acts as a spur to amateurs and those junior players in the various European locations. They will have been inspired by the chance to play some of the leading lights of the sport and will be hungry for more in the future.
Hearn and his team can learn from this inaugural staging of the PTC. I think he would accept in hindsight that it was a mistake to stipulate players had to enter at least three PTCs and EPTCs in order to qualify for the grand finals. In the cold light of day it’s crazy that Ding Junhui and John Higgins, who won titles, cannot now go to Dublin next March. I expect next season’s qualification to be based either on, say, the best eight results or purely on the money list.
The set up in Sheffield is not perfect, not least because there is no room for spectators. Hearn has been saddled with this facility by the previous board but it seems unlikely all six British PTCs will be played there next season. The excellent South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester must be a leading contender to host a couple in 2011/12.
The EPTCs were open to spectators and it is these that have the capacity to grow into bigger events in years to come. There may well be some in Asia in the very near future too.
Snooker does not just exist at the very highest level. It doesn’t revolve exclusively around the Crucible and Wembley. Any sport needs a proper structure that runs from the very top right down to the grass roots. The PTC can play its part in this.
Ultimately playing snooker for the 96 main tour players is a profession. There’s a clue there in the job title: professional snooker player.
There is not a market or the finances for dozens more major ranking tournaments but the PTCs have provided much needed matches, money and points.
Fine tuning is required but this innovation is a welcome addition to the calendar.