Jason Ferguson, the chairman of the WPBSA, has written to the players to ask their opinions on changing the miss rule.
At the recent Shootout event in Blackpool players had ball in hand (i.e. anywhere on the table) after every foul.
This meant there was no need for the miss rule and some players felt it made a refreshing change.
Ferguson has asked the players to consider the following:
1. Retain the miss rule as it is – YES / NO
2. Abolish the miss rule in place of the following:
For all fouls or failing to hit the ball on:
a. Ball in hand in the “D” Only
b. Ball in hand with a free table
3. Ball in hand with a free table after 3 misses have been called
4. I would be willing to trial amended rules for one ranking event.
5. Any other comments
The rule was introduced in its current form because players in years gone by were not making good enough attempts to make contact in escaping from snookers.
But the miss rule still sits uneasily with many. It was never intended to produce snookers that can be worth 30 or 40 points.
One of the main problems as I see it is that it is applied uniformly no matter what the position of the balls.
So the rule is the same if there is 15 reds on – where it is easier to make contact – just as when there is just one red on.
Make no mistake, though: laying snookers and getting out of them is one of the main skills in the game. To abandon that is to effectively negate a side of snooker that should be lauded.
For this reason, the ball in hand alternative seems a leap in the wrong direction but I would offer a couple of caveats to that.
Firstly, it would be far less draconian a rule than the current three misses and you lose the frame automatically. At least with ball in hand the opposing player would actually have to pot the balls they needed.
Second, ball in hand is no guarantee that the frame would be over. It would to a large degree depend on how many balls were left on the table (and where they were) but also on the ability of the player with ball in hand to clear up.
Given the option to put the cue ball where they like actually puts them under pressure: in their minds they’ll be thinking they really must make the most of this chance.
Having the cue ball in the D after a miss may not be any advantage at all. In fact, it may be a disincentive for the striker to make contact because cue ball in the D may not leave a pot on.
People say the referees should have more discretion when it comes to calling a miss but I’m not sure they want it.
At the moment they operate under the strict letter of the law. If they are given more wriggle room over what is a miss and what isn’t then they are laid open to much greater scrutiny – by players, TV commentators and the audience.
It could even lead to a situation as exists in football where referees are routinely accused of favouring one team over another.
Personally, I have no problem with the miss rule being scrapped for one tournament a year by way of giving that event a particular identity.
But should the miss rule be changed for all events?
It isn't perfect but at least right now everyone - players, referees and spectators - know where they stand and it protects a certain skillset required to play top level professional snooker.
So on balance, I would say that its current application is the worst possible solution.
Apart from all the others.