The heavily trailed Australian Open has today been officially announced and will be held in Bendigo, Victoria.
This is great news. Even better news is that it is confirmed as an annual event until at least 2013.
There was, as I have written before, an Australian Open announced in 1989, the only snag being that it was played in Hong Kong. The WPBSA discovered that the promoter’s ‘business address’ was actually a bus shelter.
I have rather more faith in this new event.
Pedants will point out that it isn’t the first ranking tournament staged in Australia because the 1975 World Championship, held in Nunawading – also in Victoria – carried ranking points retrospectively.
But that’s hardly comparable. This is a new tournament and most welcome. It represents a genuine attempt by World Snooker to globalise the sport.
And it gets better. In a letter to the players, Barry Hearn has stated that: “we are in discussion for many more events around the world so watch this space” and that “Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, India, Canada etc are all on the agenda.”
Hearn adds that: “I believe a £10m prize fund per season is achievable.”
I hope the players – all the players – support the moves to make our game properly international.
It is the best way of guaranteeing its growth and ongoing success.
With regards to the new Australian tournament, I’m particularly pleased for Neil Robertson, whose world title triumph last year certainly played a major part in this tournament happening.
As you will know, his mother had never seen him play live as a professional before she flew to Sheffield for his Crucible final against Graeme Dott.
Now, his family and friends will surely turn up mob handed as Neil plays in his own country...and snooker takes another welcome step into the future.