31.10.11

UK FORMAT: WHAT DO THE PLAYERS THINK?

The final stages of the UK Championship has been played over best of 17 frames since its second staging in 1978 but this year is reduced to best of 11s.

Many observers have had their say about this, myself included, but what do the players think about it?

With the qualifiers getting underway next week in Gloucester I asked some of them to find out. It’s not really a representative sample, but their views are still interesting.

Mark Williams won the UK title in 1999 and 2002. He was runner-up last year to John Higgins.

He started out fiercely deriding the format change: “I think it’s terrible. There are a lot of tournaments now and there’s no reason to mess with the big ones. Will the World Championship be next?”

The change saves money on outside tables and allows the BBC to cover every match from the last 32 onwards.

Williams is glad the tournament will now be played entirely in a TV set-up, but is still against the reduction in frames.

“I think it’s right to play it on two tables because nobody wants to be in a cubicle,” he said. “It’s probably fairer the way they’ve done it but it should have been left as best of 17. Best of 11 is another sprint and there are enough sprints already.”

Dominic Dale, a student of snooker history, had no time whatsoever for the changes.

He said: “I think reducing the frames takes a lot of the prestige away. Maybe they should give the tournament fewer ranking points if there are fewer frames. All of the players will be against it because it makes the tournament more of a lottery, but as usual the players come second.”

In fact, not all of the players are against the alteration in the format. Stuart Bingham, this season’s Australian Open champion and a generally positive sort, had no problem with it.

He said: “It’s good because the last 32 will all be televised. I’ve heard a few other players talk, saying you shouldn’t change the UK and World Championship because it means anyone can win them, but the World Open was best of fives and the final was Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan. The UK has always been the second biggest ranking event. Some think it’s harsh to change it but you have to get with the times and I think it’ll be good.”

In theory, a shorter format gives players outside the elite a better chance, although most tournaments are won by the best players regardless of the format.

Andrew Higginson, who won a PTC earlier this season, should, by this logic, be all for the changes. Except he isn’t.

“I understand why it’s been done, so that all the last 32 matches can be shown on television, but in my opinion the prestige of the tournament has gone down,” he said.

“There are certain tournaments you shouldn’t change and this is one of them. I say that even though under a shorter tournament you have a better chance against the top players because they have less time to settle.”

It’s seven years since Stephen Maguire won the UK title at York. The tournament returns there this season after a gap of five years but the Scot is aghast at the best of elevens.

Maguire said: “They’ve ruined it. I can understand it from a TV point of view but the UK Championship used to be the second biggest tournament on our calendar. Now it’s been reduced to 11 frames and the person running the game said he wouldn’t change the big events. A year in and he has.”

So there we are, a flavour of player feeling, albeit from a very small group of players. I agree that best of 17s gave the UK Championship a certain prestige that will be lost by making it more like a bog standard ranking event.

But regardless of whether players, pundits and fans agree with the format changes, I imagine everyone will just get on with it when the tournament starts on December 3 and if the quality of snooker is high, as it usually is, then there's no reason why it can't be an enjoyable week.

30 comments:

ad1892 said...

Doesn't make sense that they've done this. Mind you I've got a feeling that the top 16 will do well with this new format as they will be familiar with the cameras and the arena setting. Some of the least experienced qualifiers always tend to crack under the main table situation. Saying that, with all the PTC's now, all the players on tour have had a taste of a more competitive environment.

1 player you always think has a chance in the longer format is Matthew Stevens. Although he has adapted well in recent times to playing sprint events, his UK and World Champs record is fantastic. It's a bit unfair on someone like him who obviously thrives on the longer format.

I have no doubt that there won't be the same amount of drama as I would hope but I just hope that the quality of snooker isn't compromised. But wasn't one of the greatest matches of recent times between Neil Robertson and John Higgins in the 2009 Grand Prix played over 11 frames?

Still this was a different situation and I am certainly against these changes. To only have 1 "long format" event in a year is a bit demeaning to the history of the sport

wild said...

point is session snooker has a different feel to it and eliment you dont get in one session matches.

they keep banging on about tournament having their own identity and they make the UK Like all the others Best of 9 or Best of 11 no real difference Best of 17 is different.

kildare cueman said...

I think the long matches suit Stevens because he struggles to get over the line. In a best of 19 or more he can build an unassailable lead and eventually fall over the line. In a best of 9 you can lose a couple of frames from 4-1 and find yourself under pressure.

Regarding Dales comments, well of course the players come second. While their opinions should be taken on board, the viewing public must be entertained or there will be no players.

The second biggest tournament should not be held in England anyway. In a global sport the title of UK champion is about as prestigious as the Thai or Scandinavian champion. Why not hold a long frame major overseas and name it European, commonwealth or Asian championship?

Colin M said...

I totally disagree with the format change but as Dave says, we as fans will just need to accept it. Of course, if the product isn't right then fans can always not buy tickets and can decided not to attend in person.

On the plus side, I heard that "Pot Black" rounds will now be the best of 35.... :-)

Seifer Almasy said...

The UK is a major... it is 1 of the 3, and now it is seriously degraded. A first to 9 minimum round was what I would call major ranking.

This is not.

Seifer Almasy said...

but the World Open was best of fives and the final was Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
--------

How very typical. Using 1 anomaly to suggest it is the general rule and excuse. ABSOLUTELY TYPICAL.

Exceptions DO NOT MAKE RULES.

The PTC has had a huge variance of later stage players but that's all cool because they are minor ranking. THIS IS A MAJOR.

And using world open is absolutely desperate. I made the point at the time that Ronnie being in that final was a BAD thing, because it gave certain sections the smoking gun they needed to rip the calendar up.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to fear the day the BBC tell Hearn to reduce the format of the World Championship and Hearn rolls over like he's done with the UK.

Anonymous said...

It will still be an enjoyable week, but it won't be the UK Championship as we know it. Even if they'd kept best of 17s from the quarters onwards instead of the semis, that might not have been too bad.

I understand money has to be saved, but if we're going to abandon 30 years of history just like that, is it really worth it?

What makes it even more disappointing is that, as Stephen Maguire says, Barry was very clear about "ring-fencing" the big three and has now gone back on that.

And on the other hand, even if we're very generous with the benefit of the doubt and assume that the BBC insisted on this, it's yet another reason to think things doen't bode well for a new contract come 2014.

Either way, a very sad moment in the game's history.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, no snooker tournament really has a long history behind it (snooker has only enjoyed the profile it has now for 30 or so years).

The long format at the UK doesn't draw the crowds, and for all the talk about the importance of having long format tournaments the UK just doesn't produce the same drama as the worlds (you probably have to go back to a Davis v Higgins and Davis v Hendry as the last 'great' matches).

Really it needs a fixed location. Hearn realised the importance of having the right venue in darts - there must be another theatre somewhere with a thrust stage that could make the UK a similar atmosphere to the cruicible?

wild said...

"The long format at the UK doesn't draw the crowds, and for all the talk about the importance of having long format tournaments the UK just doesn't produce the same drama as the worlds (you probably have to go back to a Davis v Higgins and Davis v Hendry as the last 'great' matches)."
-----------------------------------

best of 31 finals were more memerable because they meant more sweat and effort to win.

reduction is just nailing down a coffin.

RIP UK.

Anonymous said...

An absolute disgrace and a joke to do this to the so called second biggest tournament on the calendar. People who have some sense should be installed to run the game.

Ray said...

I've said before and I'll say again - it's a disgrace. Still no explanation off Hearn after all this time. Presumably he didn't consult the players on this crass decision. Why hasn't anyone in the press asked him what the reason for change was. BH has done marvellous things for snooker since he came on board but he's got it wrong this time. I thought he was running the sport not the BBC. Give me strength!!!!!

Betty Logan said...

What I don't understand is that the BBC had a single session format event which they dropped, why didn't they just drop the UK and keep the Grand Prix if that is what they wanted? I just don't get the logic, because basically all they've really done is drop the UK and rebranded the Grand Prix as the UK!

The most interesting part of the format change will be the effect on viewing figures. If audience numbers are reduced from last year then hopefully it will bury this—what I believe anyway—misconception that fans want shorter matches. I'm getting tired of being told what fans "want", when these claims aren't borne out by figures; the World Open numbers were down IIRC. I'm glad the Masters hasn't been tampered with though since that's my favourite event, and at least the WC has been left alone for now, small mercies and all that.

Anonymous said...

i think the changes are shite

ive gone right off barry hearn (i know outside factors come into it)

Anonymous said...

im wondering if ian doyle is free

Anonymous said...

Reading some of the comments on the blog that are obviously from players just show how little they understand the business of snooker. They complain because the television people request changes but do not understand that without television there are no sponsors and without sponsors there are no tournaments and without tournaments there is no game. They say that as usual the players come second, absolutely correct, the game comes first and they have a responsability to ensure the game survives especially in the current financial mess business and the country is in. Critism by players does the future of the game no favours at all, support is whats needed but thats been the problem in snooker for a long time now players thinking they own the game when they are only the custodians and should ensure the game survives for future generations. Changes in format are inevitable from time to time to retain interest in snooker. The changes recently have shown that snooker in a shortened format is very popular.

Anonymous said...

thanks barry @ 716

sure theyre obviously from players

90% of fans

and 90% of players

will think this decision sucks

so, how you know its players posting is beyond me, unless you have them all bugged?

Anonymous said...

The changes recently have shown that snooker in a shortened format is very popular.

Care to back that up with actual facts?

Anonymous said...

Back in the dark ages when snooker was known as 'a sign of a misspent youth' and there were only a handfull of professionals who played for minimal prize money made up entirely of the admission fee paid by the spectators. To bolster this prize money, matches were played over countless frames and took a week or more. General interest in the game was nil. When a short tournament was introduced, {pot black), television immediately became interested because a short format in snooker is tailor made for T.V. You see a start and you see a finish. With the advent of T.V. more players had the opportunity of becoming professionals and general interest in the game increased dramatically, sponsers came forward and the game thrived. Over the past ten years or so interest has wained. Now we see that shortening the format even more has increased television coverage (eurosport) and snooker is becoming more and more popular again especially around the world. Tournaments over shorter formats are the future of the snooker and the players have got to accept that. A round of golf takes a few hours, tennis matches are usually over in a couple of hours,a football match is over in 90 minutes.In cricket 20/20 matches are becoming more and more popular. All these sports carry great interest from the public Snooker has got to keep up despite what some players think.

wild said...

Lets get one thing straight the Good Barry has done has not been canceled out by the UK Debacle.

its a black mark on a otherwise great period for snooker on the Building Process.

Anonymous said...

Dave I've asked before but please can you try and collar Hearn for an interview? There seems to be a lot of issues at the moment and we need to hear the reasoning straight from the horse's mouth. Or maybe you've asked and he's refused?

Tim Sandle said...

Terrible decision. Snooker needs some longer matches to bring out the best in the players. In my view, best of 17 is the minimum number of frames to show the true class of a player.

Furthermore, the best matches in snooker's history have been the long games.

Gerard said...

There have been many more memorable moments in snookers peak years, when unfortunately I was to young, but there's been some great stuff in recent years as well (2002, davis in 2005, 147 in decider of semi in 2007, last years final) ... There should be some consideration for the history of the tournement.

However, a change suggested here earlier sounded very good and in fact imperative for snookers future: create a new proper tournement abroad, introduce 17 frame matches in China, Germany or Australia.

Another suggestion: swap the new BH for the old; Benson and Hedges.

Dzierzgul said...

I am not happy with the changes, but let's remember one thing: semi-finals in the UK will be best of 17 and the final will be best of 19. Format of those matches has not been changed. Therefore, mourning the loss of the opportunity for some great matchplay seems strange to me: after all, early matches in any tournament, regardless of their quality, are rarely considered great and classic - because they're early matches. We can all name a couple of terrific quarter finals (Higgins vs. Selby in 2009 WC comes to mind), but generally only semis and finals are lauded as classics because of the higher stakes.
So, although I think it would be nice to see long matches all the way through in the UK because I like long matches, I still don't suppose that because of the shortening of the format we're loosing the opportunity to see some some outstanding snooker. Even if we would, it would still come down in history as somehow second-rate, because we all mostly look to the last three matches of any tournament for real thrills.

Seifer Almasy said...

semi-finals in the UK will be best of 17 and the final will be best of 19.
--------

You're point... misses the point. best of 17 is still not good enough, and by the time it gets to the semi finals, the earlier rounds may have already produced numerous shocks.

How can you not see that?

Anonymous said...

What's wrong in having shock results in snooker? You get them in every other sport, that's what makes sport interesting.

tatannes said...

4:10 PM

what's the point with mouth watering first round 17th frame if nobody can't watch it because on table 3 & 4 ?

half of first rounds were not on telly !
Do UK championchips players deserve to play round 1 & 2 in cubicles ?

Janie Watkins said...

to 4.10pm

No one is playing in cubicles in this year's UK championship.

It is open plan tables, with all tables open to spectators.

Additionally there are two tv streaming tables.

Tickets are available at just £5 to come and watch some of the world's greatest ever players.

We're looking forward to welcoming the spectators back to the South West Snooker Academy.

And we'd love to fill the place. It's nothing less than these players deserve. So come along and watch them.

you can buy tickets from just £5 through our website or ring 01452 223214 to do a payment over the phone.

Anonymous said...

The fact is barry hearn is going back on his word. i cannot remember his exact quote but it was basically i will be making a lot of changes but the bigger events (worlds uk masters)will remain the same.when i heard the uk was the best of 11 frames upto the semis i was stunned and felt betrayed by hearn.currently watching higgins v maguire on eurosport.higgins is 5-2 down and more than likely out but upto 9 its still wide open.the list of world and uk champs is a whos who of the game with very little surprises but if we are going down the road of shortening everything then im afraid it will become more of a lottery.im not against change but keep the big events AS big events.thats why they are special.paul dunfermline.

Anonymous said...

The game has been WRECKED