January is the very definition of ‘something for everyone’ with the Ladbrokes Mobile Masters, eight days of the Championship League and the new Sky Shootout.
The Wembley Masters is now in its 37th year and stands as one of the ‘big three’ tournaments alongside the World and UK Championship.
Thank goodness all urgings to make it a fully fledged ranking event down the years were ignored. Its prestige comes from the fact that it is only open to the elite top 16: one table, big money, huge pressure and it all adds up to great drama.
From tomorrow I will start the build-up to the Masters by looking back at some of its best moments.
But right now I’m at Crondon Park in Essex for the Championship League.
Group one is a stellar line-up: John Higgins, Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Ali Carter, Stephen Maguire and Graeme Dott. Group two will feature four of these plus Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Jamie Cope.
The Championship League is a typical Barry Hearn project: something that was widely derided by those resistant to innovation that became, very quickly, a success.
It’s a pretty simple business proposition: it makes money for all those involved, and the fact that all the top players are once again competing proves its worth, particularly when it acts as a warm-up for a major tournament as this week.
Full details of the websites streaming the CLS are available at the official site here.
The Shootout is not intended to be serious but does carry a first prize of £32,000.
It’s main function, apart from providing entertainment, could well be to tempt Sky back into the snooker fold on a more permanent basis.
Two decades ago the new year would start with the Mercantile Classic on ITV but those were the days when snooker had a regular set of tournaments, sponsors and dates.
The game is effectively being rebuilt right now, which is both exciting and challenging for administrators, players and fans alike.
The good news is, though, that there’ll be plenty of snooker to watch.