Mark Selby has won two PTC titles in the last season and a bit but could still end up as world no.1 without having won a fully fledged ranking title in the two-year cycle.

There have been only eight players to have held top spot since the world rankings were introduced in 1976: Ray Reardon, Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson.

The rankings have only really held weight since the mid 1980s when a substantial number of tournaments were used to formulate the list, which was worked out based on two season’s points up until last year.

Now it is a rolling list but no less accurate for that. The fact is, Selby is incredibly consistent – last season he appeared in two finals and three semi-finals.

He can take over from Williams when points are deducted at the next seedings cut-off point in a month’s time.

The old points system seems rather quaint now. Winners of ranking tournaments received six points (ten for becoming world champion), runners-up five, losing semi-finalists four and so on until we got into merit points.

This system may look antiquated but it always seemed to produce a pretty accurate list.

It all changed in 1993/94 when the tariffs were upped to the several thousands. Legend has it they were worked out by then WPBSA chairman John Spencer on the back of a fag packet, a story which ought to be true even though it probably isn’t.

The problem with both systems is that good performances took a long time to be rewarded with a rankings climb, so that winners of the UK Championship Doug Mountjoy, O’Sullivan, Stephen Maguire and Ding Junhui still had to qualify for the Crucible.

They remain arbitrary, though. I don’t see how the excellent German Masters is any less of a tournament than the Shanghai Masters, yet the winner receives 2,000 fewer ranking points.

It would be so much simpler just to scrap these tariffs and rank the players based on money won in each ranking tournament.

Because prize money – the amount sponsors believe a tournament is worth – does reflect on the importance of an event.

Personally, I can’t say the rankings excite me too much. A player’s stature comes from what they’ve won, how much they’ve achieved, rather than the number next to their name.

When Mark Williams dropped out of the top 16 he was still Mark Williams, with the aura and he class he always had. It was just that his form had gone walkabout.

When other players played him then didn’t think, ‘I’m playing the world no.22.’ They thought, ‘I’m playing Mark Williams.’

And it isn’t so much about a player’s ranking position as the band they end up in.

There is no material benefit to being ranked, say, sixth over seventh but there is a very dramatic difference between 16th and 17th place.

Whatever the system, success should be rewarded. Winning a tournament should mean a significant improvement.

But remember, the rankings is a game of snakes and ladders: every player has a chance to go up but they equally are in danger of sliding down.

As ever, performance on the table will determine a player’s position, whatever system is in place.


Anonymous said...

Mark Selby will probably indeed become n°1. It will be the first time in the modern era that a player who has never been World Champion, or even UK Champion, will be n°1. Mark in fact has only won one ranking title, that was in 2008, nearly 4 years ago. Nearly 1/3 of his points last season come from the PTCs.
Yes, he has been mega consistent, but at the end of the day he hasn't achieved what really matters: winning titles.
Being n°1 should mean that you are the best. Is he the best? Certainly not in my eyes.
What this tells me is that the new structure of the MT, in particular the weight of the PTCs with their nearly random draw, combined with the current ranking system reward more dedication and consistency, than it does excellence. Maybe that's right, maybe it isn't, it's debatable. But nobody should be deluded about what the current ranking means, or does not mean and being n°1 does not mean that you are the best, or that you have been the best at any point of the previous two years. Not anymore.

garymoss87 said...

Nice piece Dave. It does seem a little strange that we could have a world number one without a full ranking title to his name last season - but all league tables reward consistency.

5 times to the semis or beyond is no mean feat given the current competitive field.

Anonymous said...

It would be so much simpler just to scrap these tariffs and rank the players based on money won in each ranking tournament.

It really is the best idea for reforming the ranking tariffs. A money list is easily the best method for combining the factors in determining what a performance is worth: each stage of the event; the length of the event; the motivation in winning the event. Most players would rather win the world title than maybe three/four regular rankers so why can't the rankings reflect this?

A straight money list wouldn't actually work though, because there is too much of a gulf between qualifiers and the TV stages, so I think a point based money list would be best i.e. the points are equivalent to prize money for the televised stages, and formulated for the qualifier stage.

wild said...

No Money won is the most stupid way of Ranking Players it Depends on how Many Cash Sponsors Fork out.

Shanghai Masters winner gets 60,000 and German Masters Winner gets 40,000 aprox.

Totally inacurate reflection on a Players Ability and consistancy.

The Only way a Money List would Work if its Consistant from Event to Event.

Anonymous said...

i rather think the pros were like:

im playing mjw, thank *** hes playing crap these days

back when he was falling like a ton of feathers

i dont like money lists....

it would be quite easy in the not too distant future to have a couple of tournaments coming close to the WC, especially if the format was worked out properly....the winner could take home the same as the WC winner, but the rest of the prizes reduced.....meaning both winners gaining the same ranking £

thelhc.tf said...

Seems to me to be similar to many sports these days, the women's Tennis #1 Wosni...Wazne...Mrs McIlroy has never won a major, we've had at least two recent golfers holding the top spot who have never won a major (Westwood and Donald), even the Danish are now apparently the best football team in the world. Granted Selby's lack of ANY win in nearly 4 years does look very unusual but as has been said he's very consistent (and presumably enters almost every tournament he can). Maybe there should be a larger bias of points for event winners?

Witz78 said...

the PTC order of merit is an example of a system where the winners and those in the latter stages success is rewarded far greater than the rest.

This is probably one end of the extreme but in many ways the current ranking set up in the main tour rankings is at the opposite end of the scale with far too much emphasis and importance still based on winning your opening game to protect your position. The reason for this is the teired rankings and qualification set up. A more flatter level playing field like the PTCs and German Masters qualifying would address this flaw whilst offering fairer opportunities to the tour newcomers.

Theres one major flaw in a money list being used for the rankings under the current set up. It would protect the elite even more as the top 16 would always get last 32 money as a minimum added to their total so would be hard to dislodge, in theory Luca Brecel could win 4 qualifying games all by 5-0 then get beat 5-4 on the final black by Higgins at the event and hed still only recieve the same prize money / ranking points as Ebdon the seed whod lost 5-0 to someone.

I think the ranking points rather than money is the way to stay but tweaks have to be made.

Id make all non major rankers 6,000 points tariff instead of this fluctuation between 5-7000 we see. Id raise the UK to 9,000 to winner and the Worlds to 12,000 to the winner so there was a clear distinction as to the extra importance of these events, as in this ever busier calendar a good run at the Worlds no longer counts for much in terms of rankings at least.

Id keep the PTCs tariffs as they are.

Id like to see the rankings updated more than 3 times a season though.

The ultimate flaw this season is that the top 16 automatic qualifiers for the World Championships will be determined after the Welsh Open in Feb when we still have the China Open, World Open, PTC Finals and possibly an Indian ranker to play before the World qualifiers even take place. Thats potentially 22,000 ranking points at stake so the provisional top 16 could be totally different by the Worlds meaning some form players miss out being in Sheffield. Now the whole idea of ROLLING rankings was to correct this error of the previous fixed year system but by failing to update the rankings after these tournaments before the WC qualifiers, World Snooker have missed a trick. Mainly being that it would create a great deal of interest and excitment in these pre-WC events as every point would be vital so there wouldnt be the usual half hearted efforts from a lot of players who claimed they were "saving themselves for the Worlds". A so called Race to Sheffield in March would have been a great climax and build up to the World Championships.

So, time to get these rolling rankings properly rolling i say with far more updates.

Witz78 said...

Also Dave you say success should be rewarded etc so players end up where they should be.

In the case of Williams he dropped cos he had poorer results than a lot of players so he couldnt complain with where he ended up.
Its almost as if you were advocating some sort of protection for him just because of his previous achievements.

Fair play to him, hes recovered well and put that blip behind him but with an attitude like that you could just as easily say Jimmy and Davis should remain seeded high despite their form just cos of who they are.

One last point i forgot to add to my previous post.

Is there really any need for SIXTEEN players to be seeded through the last 32. The PTCs have shown that theres a lot of talent out there we dont normally see, mainly because of this restrictive hierarchal state in snooker when the reality is the fans are more than happy to view players other than the so called big names.

Im starting to think a top 10 or top 12 rather than a 16 would be better and have 20 or 22 qualifiers would be fairer as itd be less of a shut shop set up to the rest of the tour.

Ultimately the cream would raise their game and rise into a top 10 or 12. Im mainly thinking of Ronnie who now seems content with just keeping his head above water and the top 16 trapdoor.

Sparky said...

The China Open and Shanghai Masters were priced up to 7000 points a couple of seasons ago, (when there were only 6 rankers), so that each season would consist of approximately equal amount of points.

But why aren't they being priced down again, now that there are more rankers on the circuit? At least the Shanghai Masters should definitely not be worth more than, say, the German Masters (which was your point also, Dave).

Winning 3 Shanghai Masters is worth more than winning 2 World Championships (21,000 v 20,000). Of course everye player would choose the 2 Worlds.

So here we go:
WC 10000
UK 6000
CO 5000
SM, GM, WoO 4000
WeO, AGO 3000
PTC 1500

YES, the Worlds should be worth LOTS more than the others, because it is BY FAR the most important tournament.

And there are too many PTC Points on the tour.

wild said...

Rankings should always Reward Consistancy Yes The Aim is to Be World Champion nothing can take that away from you But if you play All Events AND Consistant over a 2 Year Period you should be WN 1.

Over the years The WN 1 Has Reflected that.... in 1985,1986 or 2002 Would it have been Right that thoes Players was WN 1 ? because although they won the Biggie they werent consistant.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't see the point in changing the ranking system. In every sport rankings reward consistency first and foremost - it is the same in tenniss, it is the same in any other sport. And that is absolutely coorect, if only because getting decent results in every tournament is much harder than winning once and and then losing the first round 5 times.

Steve Davis was world #1 not because he was world champion but because he was consistently performing. ROS got to #1 in seasons he was displaying results over periods of time. The fact that Selby can become #1 without winning major rankings for 3 years is not the problem with ranking system - it's problem with today's snooker in itself. Now we simply don't have a player who is consistently winning tournaments and getting good results like Hendry or Davis were doing. And rankings adequately reflect that.

We can change ranking system every month. Now you don't like the prospect of Selby being #1 - ok, let's change everything so he won't have a chance. What next? Create a system in which Higgins will be #1 for next ten years even if he retires by then? Create a system where no player older than 30 will be able to get into top 16? Create a system where everything depends on event's sponsorship - now that one will become funny the moment we get sponsorless World Championship.

In sport results is what matters - and results should be rewarded.

jamie brannon said...

Kind of agree with you Dave about the rankings.

I know you enjoy your Test cricket, but what was more enjoyable getting to no.1 or winning the Ashes in 2005? I know it's the Ashes for me.

However, to be no.1 is no fluke and it still commands respect.

Don't think players view Hendry in the way that they did when Williams was drifting.

In football, we wouldn't be dancing in the streets if we were ranked no.1, but if we won the World Cup it would be sheer enjoyment.

Dave H said...

England are actually ranked 4th(!) by FIFA, which is a joke based on the last World Cup

Winning any Test series is better than a ranking position, although when England got to no.1 it was a great achievement

I remember Stephen Hendry saying in 1991/92-ish he'd rather be world no.1 than world champion, but I'm not sure how widely shared that would be, particularly now when the rankings change after every tournament

Like I say, it's just a number

Witz78 said...

I remember Stephen Hendry saying in 1991/92-ish he'd rather be world no.1 than world champion, but I'm not sure how widely shared that would be, particularly now when the rankings change after every tournament

Funnily enough i remember Hendry saying in 2006 when he was ranked number 1 again that hed rather have won a tournament than been no.1

Dave H said...

He did win one: the 2005 Malta Cup

Witz78 said...

true but it was always regarded as even less prestigious than the Welsh Open.

Hendry admitted enough at the time that he didnt feel like the number 1 at that point cos it was over a year since hed won that ranker and he was getting fed up falling short at quarters and semis. That was his early slump setting in, now its in full swing hed bite your hand off to get further than the last 16 in a tourney.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Dave, but year ago, I even looked up the date - 15.09.2010 - you said something like "think it's better that a player who wins a tournament receives an immediate benefit from that success" - and it was a word in defense of a new rating system.
Now we see something like "Whatever the system, success should be rewarded. Winning a tournament should mean a significant improvement" - and it's clearly a criticism. More than that, it's almost an other point of view. Because if winning of matches should bring immediate success then Selby should have the 1st place despite the lack of major tournaments winning.
I hope that you're criticizing the ranking system because you want to see the best playing and the most consistent player on the top of the list, not because you simply want to see there a certain John Higgins as some of your tweets suggest - I still believe in objectiveness as long as there is no evidence to the contrary in this blog

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Selby himself would rather swap the world no.1 position for winning the German and China Opens he narrowly lost last season.

Greg P said...

Maybe some of the other team's ranking points didn't quite make it over the line or something.

Anonymous said...

@the football fans: it's not the Danish team that's currently world #1 but the Dutch team and that's kind of a MAJOR difference XD).

IMHO, rankings should reflect consistency of form. If we then look at Mark Selby's record, he's been into semis and quarters in almost every event he has played in.

Indeed, so there are many more events to play in nowadays but that goes for ALL the players. To then put in performances like Mark is consistently doing merits a rise in ranking. For him that would possibly now mean he's world #1.

Just to show Mark's consistency...have a look at the latest PTC in F├╝rth: apart from Stephen Lee and RoS, no one took a frame off him. Not only that, until his quarter final, he'd not been at the match table, involved in a match, for longer than 49 minutes.

To me that says he's playing well AND consistently at a high level.

To claim that the current ranking system is flawed purely because Mark's not won a bigger ranking title is besides the point. He's proving to be consistent enough to continually make it into quarters and semis...none of the other top-16 players is doing it as consistently SO it's only logical he'll top the Order of Merit soon.


wild said...

Plain and simple the reason John is not no 1 he was banned for 6 months and missed 12 Event+ the PTC Grand Final.

when Hendry was no 1 in the 90s it would not matter how consistant Selby would have been then he wouldnt have been no 1 because Hendry was taking home the trophies.

my concern with Price money is its to top heavy that its not spread evenly even down the Order and new pros would be strugling even more than they do at the moment.

take the PTC even if you win one event and lose last 128 of the other 11 you in the finals.

its ok with something like the PTC or Golfs european Order of Merit for Ryder Cup but it does not indicate who the Better players is ranking wise.

Anonymous said...

Let's make it democratic and let the players vote in a number 1.

Anonymous said...

lets make it democratic and let the players vote out the guy whos took the p out of snooker for years....

Anonymous said...

The ranking system is fine as is, except for the difference in points in certain tounaments (German Masters/Shanghai Masters being the obvious example of injustice).

The money thing seems appealing at first but it lacks a clear structure if we get some winner-takes-all events and such. Keep the points system.

jamie brannon said...

Don't know about any Test series. You would rather be number one than beat Bangladesh!

In team sports, the rankings carry less validity.

You seem even more ambivalent than me about rankings.

I still regard the achievement as a high one in individual sports, but like you perceive winning the majors of more significance when analysing a players legacy.

Anonymous said...

Currently a top 16 players gets more points for losing a 1st round match than a player ranked 65 - 96 gets for winning one match , bearing in mind the standard isn't this a bit ridiculous?
Here's another gem , if a top 16 player were to win 8 1st round matches a player ranked 65 - 96 would have to win 40 matches to equal their points tally !
The draw structure needs changing if snooker wants anything near to a fair ranking system .

Anonymous said...

top 16 beat better players, more experiance players.

there needs to be a slight change but the bottom line is if they cant beat their peers to reach the top what chance have they got to beat top players.

thoes 40 matches are the aprentaship/confident building needed to compete at the highest level.

Anonymous said...

If you think about it makes sense for a top 16 player to get more points than the 64-96 player: if a club in the Premier League loses all its matches it doesn't get relegated to the amateur division does it? It just goes down a tier. That's basically how the rankings in snooker, and any sport, should operate:

If a top 16 player loses a match against 17-32, then that is really on par with a 32-48 performance. On that basis he should roughly get the same points as the 32-48 player, maybe slightly less if you favour the 32-48 player for qualifying to that stage; but he should certainly get more than 65-96 player because his performance is still probably higher even though he lost.

Anonymous said...

Ask any player on the tour the difference in the standard between a guy ranked 60 and a guy ranked 16 and the answer will be not very much .
Also if a tennis pro ranked 5 loses his first match he gets the same points as a guy ranked 55 because they all start on an even playing field .
When pro golfers play in an event the top players have to make the cut the same as the bottom pros . The ptcs have showed how closely bunched the standard is , why should a guy ranked 65 have to win 4 tough matches just to face a top 16 player ? 15 years ago the top 16 may have been elite but times have changed .

Anonymous said...

The PTCs show jack because you don't get get journeymen pros winning the proper tournaments do you? The PTCs are a great opportunity for the Ben Woolastons of the world to get a foot on the ladder, simply because these events don't inspire the same degree of reverence in the top players. If these things awarded 100k to the winner instead of 10k then I doubt you'd have to look past the top dozen players for the winners.

As for why no. 65 has to play four tough matches to play a top 4 player I don't fully agree that he should have to, but I don't see how dumping a top 16 player off the tour resolves the situation. Presumably number 65 moves up a few places, and someone becomes the new number 65 that has to win four matches. If a top 16 player loses his matches then finishing 32-48 is about the right level if he faces a 17-32. You don't solve the problem of a tiered system by pretending all players are equal, because you may as well just have unseeded tournaments then. Last time we had one of those the top two ranked players contested the final lol!

Anonymous said...

snooker isnt tennis!

i dont know why when people want to argue their opinion they habitually compare the two.

apples and eggs!

Anonymous said...

It's an absolute joke that if Kacper Filipiak beat Igor he should get more points than Higgins losing to Ryan Day

Alan M said...

I think that a major weakness in the rankings is the losers points being so high, i.e 50% of the points for that round.
They certainly needed to be before the rolling system was introduced, as being in say the top 16 could also have been a bind if a player framaticaly lost form, wheras nowadays, he'd quickly drop down and have a chance to beat weaker players (unless he's lost it so badly that he can't beat anyone on the tour - unlikely)

I'd suggest giving 20% of tariff for losing, and changing the allocation of points, like men's tennis did a couple of years ago.