The professional circuit will be increased to 128 players under plans announced today by World Snooker.

When Barry Hearn was bidding to become World Snooker chairman among the lies spread by his enemies was that he would cut the main tour to 32.

By increasing it, he recognises the potential for snooker to grow and is also backing the potential of new players to make their marks.

Cruciallly, new tour players will get their ticket for two years, allowing them more time to bed down and relaxing some of the pressure.

This is a vital step because so many talented players seem to have fallen through the cracks, trying in vein to keep their tour cards in one season when the rankings are based over two.

The other change being discussed as part of an overall review - though not yet agreed - is to change the ranking system so that it is based on prize money won rather than the completely arbitrary points tariffs currently in use.

This would peg the rankings to the market value of each tournament, reflecting how much sponsorship money they attract and therefore what they are worth.

It would be a controversial move for many but easier to understand for the general public and arguably fairer.

I think tournament winners should receive considerably more than the guy who finishes runner-up.

One thing, though: if the list is to be determined by prize money then every player on the circuit should be rewarded financially, including those who lose in the first qualifying round.

The precise details are clearly yet to be ironed out, and the players will no doubt want their say before a decision is taken.


Anonymous said...

This seems like a crazy decision. There is not enough money in the system to pay all the players currently on the tour.
How is player No. 128 going to earn a living?
They should be cutting down the numbers on the tour, not increasing them.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with 11.o9, the lower ranked players are struggling as it is. Sort them out financially first, THEN increase the numbers on the tour.

Betty Logan said...

Some good stuff in here. If you have a two year ranking system then it is crazy that players should be judged off one year's performance and lose their place. This has obviously come about due to the disadvantage to some players that the PTC criteria has caused. So I welcome a two year tour card. There is a case of putting the cart before the horse though: the current prize fund clearly can't support a 96 man tour so who is going to get squeezed? They should probably go back to the old style one-year list until the prize fund can support a 128 man tour. Maybe a better way would be to retain a 96 man tour, and allow the top 32 amateurs on the PTC order of merit at each cut-off stage to enter the tournaments during that segment of the season.

A prize money based ranking system has been needed for a long time, and would better reflect a player's success. Obviously a literal prize money list won't work because of the gulf between qualifier prize money and TV money (some players would never drop out of the top 16 even if they lost all their matches), but a point based system as we have now with the top tariff tied to the top prize would work. i.e. the winner of the WC gets 25,000 points; the winners of the UK and World Open receive 10,000 points, China and Shanghai 6000, Germany 4000, Welsh/Aus 3000, PTC 500 and the PTC final 6000 points. The tariffs for the earlier rounds then should be proportionally reduced for each round, so the qualifiers don't get shafted and they should retain the concept of seeded loser points so a seeded loser doesn't get the same points as a someone who qualified but went out in the same round.

Overall though, snooker seems to be going in the right direction. If Barry Hearn has an achilles heel it's going too far too fast, but I suppose he's not a young guy; he's in his 60s, and will he still be wanting to do this in his 70s? My guess is probably not, so I can sort of understand why he's not hanging around.

Sparky said...

If they keep the current prize money, there will be a huge step in points between Winner and Finalist, between Finalist and Semi-Finalist and so on.

Roughly, the runner up gets half the winner's money, SF gets half the money of the runner up, etcetera.

Compare this to our current system, where the finalist gets 80%of the winner's points, the SF gets 80% of the finalist's points and so on.

Clearly, the current system rewards concistency (Selby!), while the new money-based system will reward winning (Robertson!)

Personally, i would like to see something in between. In Tennis, the finalist gets about 70% of the winner's points, and so on.

For snooker, this would mean that in the WC, we would have:

W: 10,000
RU: 7,000
SF: 5,000
QF: 3,500
L16: 2,500
L32: 1,750
L48: 1,250

which I think is about right. (Or multiply everything by 25 to get the money value!)

wild said...

no betty Prize Money Rankings are a load of rubbish only a complete idiot would even consider such a stupid idea.

John McBride said...

Prize money equating to points makes sense however I take it that the Masters, for example, would be exempt due to it being invitational only?

Rob said...

Ranking points are not prizes. The ranking list is meant to be a fair and accurate representation of everyone's standings in the game, at least as far as is possible. This is so you can seed players, and give them a fair chance of getting to a stage which reflects their ability (and the rewards that go along with that) before they run into someone much better than them. They're not just a curiosity for fans, they're important and so it's important to get them right.

A big money tournament should be worth more because everyone's trying hard, all else being equal. But players also try hard when there's more prestige - the world title meant a lot even when the real money was in exhibitions. And when matches are longer then the tournament should carry more weight because fewer shock results makes for a more reliable indicator of ability.

A one frame shootout could easily be a crowd puller and have a big prize pot. Does that mean it should decide who gets seeded for the next tournament? I don't think so.

The existence of a ranking tariff recognises all of this. You can call it arbitrary, but it's actually an attempt to put a value on a player's performance which serves as an indicator of their current standing in the world. In short - it's a system built for purpose.

Yes the numbers are arbitrary to a degree and I think the weighting is wrong in places, but they're not random and they are at least some kind of effort to do the job properly. And if adjustments are needed, they can be made.

Pegging rankings to money earned is just as arbitrary and senseless as picking any other single metric. You could make a pretty strong argument to weight the tournaments by length of matches instead. Or you could do away with weighting (it's arbitrary, after all) and rank players by matches won, suitably adjusted for seeding. Or even forget the rest of the tournaments - if people are good they'll do well at the world's. Simple system, was good enough once.

Or, you could recognise that there are actually multiple factors at play here and at least attempt to reflect that in the system.

Anything else is a lazy gimmick.

Betty Logan said...

A prize money list is clearly a step towards globalising the sport. A money list removes centralised control of the ranking system and will encourage governing bodies to stage their own professional competition—the more money they put into their events, the more they count in the rankings. It's obviously a move that is calculated to franchise the professional circuit, and it's obvious this is a forefunner to China establishing its own professional circuit. The obstacle under the current system is how many ranking points would a Chinese circuit be worth, and how would those ranking points be factored into the overall world rankings? The answer is to let the market forces take care of it: there has always been a strong correlation between performances and earnings, so I don't accept it makes the rankings arbitrary. I hear there will five ranking events in China next year, so it's understandable that China wants its tournaments recognised. If they offer money on a par with the PTC then the effect on the rankings will be negligible, if they offer 20/30k prize money then it is conceivable that British players may want to enter them and have their performances counted in the rankings. It's much more than a gimmick, it's the firmest commitment yet from Barry Hearn to true internationalisation.

Anonymous said...

Well, a money list should deal with the issue of players feeling ‘blackmailed’ about having to play in tournaments for points instead of £.

If all the events were being organised and promoted separately this would mean an arms race between tournaments (bigger prize money needed to attract big names to attract ticket sales / TV / sponsors). In the short term I think it will mean events like the Welsh Open / PTCs will have to put up prize money (for the last 8 onwards anyway) to make sure that the big names continue to turn up.

Sportingintelligence ran an article some time ago with the consultation letter sent to WS staff - it indicated that WS is losing money on most of the tournaments (probably means tournaments like the Welsh Open / World Open, possibly even the UK, IIRC the Paul Hunter classic lost a lot of money one year).

As a company, World Snooker Ltd exists to make profits, and so it cannot continue to underwrite these losses. It is difficult to understand WS could start to offer bigger prizes for PTCs or qualifying rounds of ranking tournaments.

The logical conclusion is that the overall prize fund for these tournaments cannot go up, so any increase to the winner’s cheque will have to be paid for by a reduction in prize money at the last 32/48/64 stages. Most tournaments don’t have any prize money beyond the last 64, which leaves open the biggest question – where is the money going to come from to sustain a 128 player tour and, more importantly, to determine the rankings between places 64-128 on the list?

Anonymous said...

i really dont feel the big deal here

just alter the ranking points so they are closer to the ration of that that prize money gives (ie the winner getting double, or close to, the runner up.

i dont see how £ list rankings is easier than points.

i think the general public can count. i dont see what difference it makes if i say add 3500 points to 6700 already gained or if it was money, add £6000 onto £12350 already gained. imo the general public could do both and if they cant, god help us.

Anonymous said...

If the current way of allocating the prize fund in each tournament is unchanged, a top 16 player losing his first match will receive the same money as a qualifier who has won 4 matches to reach the main stage. A ranking system based on prize money will make it harder for young players to break into top 16.

Anonymous said...

its not meant to be easy to be ranked top 16 out of millions of players

Anonymous said...

A prize money list isn't necessarily a raw list. They can can separate appearance money from prize money, so that the money a top 16 player earns for showing up and losing doesn't count towards the list. There are several easy solutions to iron out the top 16 bias. But professional sport is a profession, the ulitmate aim is to earn money, not win titles and accrue monkey points; so you know, let's keep it simple and assess players in terms of what they are really competing for.