It takes a long time to get from the UK to Hainan for the Haikou World Open and, for that matter, a long time to get back again but this doesn't matter so much if you come home with the £75,000 first prize.

This tournament seems to be being treated as a brand new event. I vaguely recall it was actually staged last season and won by Neil Robertson, who is nevertheless not being regarded as defending champion.

Of course, the format was different in 2010/11: best of fives up until the final, which was best of nine.

Given the trek to get there, this would surely have been too short a length of match and so the World Open has now fallen into the accepted format for ranking tournaments in China: best of nines up until the best of 11 semis with a best of 19 final.

I have no problem with any of that, unlike the wildcard round which seems to go against everything Barry Hearn believes.

He has stated - correctly - that sport should be a meritocracy. Those who have qualified for the World Open have done so on merit, so to have to play unknown and likely very dangerous local invites is a slap in the face.

The one caveat to this is that Hainan is a new area for snooker (outside the invitation event won last year by John Higgins) and support has to be built up.

However, regardless of the rights and wrongs of wildcards it is a spectacularly bad decision to play them all on the same day, as is happening on Monday.

Shortly after Hearn's ascension to the reins of power, and recognising his genuine efforts to build bridges with the media, myself and a colleague met with a World Snooker representative to discuss a few ideas for improvements in how tournaments are run, with particular regard to formats.

One thing we impressed on them was the need to hit the ground running: to start events with star names.

Not all TV viewers follow the intricacies of the circuit. If you tune into a tournament on day one and don't recognise any of the players you could be forgiven for believing it isn't a major event at all and therefore not watch a single further minute all week.

Television is the sport's shop window. The top players are its star attractions.

At least two last 32 matches should be played on Monday to provide pulling power for broadcasters. This could easily be done, indeed was at last season's China Open following our suggestion, but was forgotten at the Shanghai Masters and has been forgotten again this week.

The knock-on effect is that the last 32 is concertinaed into two days and well known faces are thus forced to play on outside tables.

Sorry, but this isn't good enough. I will support any new event, evangelise the sport in the face of any doubter and fully support Hearn in his attempts to globalise the game, but more thought needs to go into scheduling.

Put simply: why should a top player, who has climbed the rankings through the force of their own hard work and hard won results, schlep all the way to Hainan Island and play a match in a cubicle which nobody back home will see while an invited player enjoys full TV exposure in a match which, pride aside, means nothing to them?

There is TV and streaming coverage on Monday but the World Open starts properly on Tuesday with the last 32: a seven day tournament which lasts six days.

There is, of course, not actually a full field. Ali Carter and Ronnie O'Sullivan have withdrawn, affording byes to Marcus Campbell and Tom Ford respectively.

Otherwise it's the usual faces and the winner will most probably come from the group of ten or so players who are the main candidates for any big title.


kildare cueman said...

What happened to the S.P.A? Surely the injustice outlined above is the very thing that a players union should be championing.

Witz78 said...

Arent you answering your own question really though Dave.

I raised similar concerns about the German Masters schedule and big names on TV tables then and you just stated that TV dictated the schedule etc. so its clearly the case again here.

For the record though i wholly agree, those who have qualified deserve to be in round 1 proper.

And i really dont see the advantage of wildcard rounds full stop now, especially in regions like China where the sport is established. Its almost like positive discrimination and inverted racism as if its a notion that the Chinese wouldnt be interested in watching a tournament without "some of their own" involved.

Worth noting too that the prize money in the World Open is down too from last year, despite the obvious additional expenses players will incur.

Having attended the World Open last year i really enjoyed the 1 table best of 5 format and also the opportunities it gave to club players and amateurs. Id like to see this format reintroduced in some capacity in the future.

Sparky said...

I find it difficult to understand why Neil Robertson isn't regarded reigning champ of the World Open? He should of course have been seeded #1.

If it's regarded a new tournament, then why did they keep the name World Open?

Grand Prix/World open is one of the oldest tournaments on the circuit, so it's name and history shuld have been "kept".

Anonymous said...

I look forward to you putting these points to Mr Hearn in your next interview with him!

Anonymous said...

I can easily imagine the matches featuring Chinese players get higher ratings, after all, Henman used to get the highest ratings on British TV for his matches. Having a line-up of Chinese players on the first day may be the best way to launch the event, at least for the host broadcaster; after all, the broadcaster isn't going to insist on screening matches that no-one wants to watch, is it? Unless you have the audience figures handy Dave—and I mean for the Chinese broadcaster not Eurosport—then we can't really second guess Barry can we? He wouldn't make a mistake like that unless it's been taken out of his hands.

Anonymous said...

and breathe.......

NewsBrain said...

is it really that big a deal?

I can see the argument of course but this blog regularly talks about the huge advantage UK based players have. This despite the fact Hearn has failed to get one new tournament in the UK.

The sympathy on here for people who go round the world hitting balls never ceases to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

You get British wildcards at Wimbledon, so it's hardly a snooker anomaly. At the moment the wildcard system is the only chance Chinese players have to enter a tournament in their own country, so you can't really scrap it unless you install some kind of qualification system in the host country.

I'm not being funny here Dave, but how would you address the problem? Would you advocate maybe 16 Chinese wildcards so all the qualifiers have to play a Chinese player? On one hand that would level the 'unfairness' but on the other it would drag out the wildcard round even longer, which you perceive as a real problem. You could go the other way and only have 8 British qualifiers to complement 8 wildcards, but then just moves the problem up a level by resulting in easier matches for some of the top 16 players. Ditching the wildcards altogether seems inherently unfair if there is no way to qualify for a tournament in your own country.

Dave H said...

These players are not professionals. If some plan in the future can be worked out so that there is a Chinese qualifier for Chinese players that may be different but just parachuting a load of players in (not all Chinese) does nothing for the event as a TV spectacle.

And it's not at the behest of Chinese TV. Why would they show a Thai player over a Chinese (as is happening tomorrow)?

The actual answer is that World Snooker has merely gone down the draw by match number.

Anonymous said...

Dave I know that Dougie Donnelly does a lot of golf work out in far east, why not team up with him for Eurosport?

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous 9:29am

7 years ago when the China Open first held in Beijing, there were actually 16 wildcards offered. All the qualifiers need to play one more match. But that was the only time doing this.

kimball said...

Does not entirely agree with you Dave,Hossein Vafaei is the current
IBSF world champion and still a junior, seems a good opportunity to
flash the game in Iran and there are four new chinese players that might be interesting to watch.
Asia is getting stronger in Billiardsports by the day, so why not play ball when it seems to be in the long term interest for the professional game?

Anonymous said...

In response to a few points above...

"I can easily imagine the matches featuring Chinese players get higher ratings, after all, Henman used to get the highest ratings on British TV for his matches."

Yes, but that was Henman. What sort of ratings do you get for British players outside the top hundred?

* * * * *

"You get British wildcards at Wimbledon, so it's hardly a snooker anomaly. At the moment the wildcard system is the only chance Chinese players have to enter a tournament in their own country..."

The British wild cards at Wimbledon go into the first round, so nobody who's earned a place in the draw by right has to play an extra match as a result.

Plus, they don't play their matches before anyone else. At Wimbledon you get the defending champion first up on Centre Court on day one, which is the sort of attention-grabbing start any event could do with.

And the wild card system isn't the only chance Chinese players have. They can play their way on to the tour and then go through the qualifiers.

* * * * *

Just another point this all raises though; next season it looks like there'll be five major ranking events in China - possibly as many as the rest of the world combined, and two more than Britain.

So should all the qualifiers still be played in Britain? Is there an argument for having a month of qualifying competitions for the five Chinese events, in China?

I can see the arguments on both sides, but it's something which perhaps merits talking about.

As for the wild cards though, that really does look like an outdated idea now.

For sure, Ding Junhui got in that way seven years ago and famously went on to win it, which was a great boost for snooker there.

But they've become more and more of an anomaly as the years have gone on since then, and the time is now probably right for them to be scrapped.

Dave H said...

Hossein Vafaei's match will not be shwon on TV, in Iran or anywhere else

Tomorrow's TV matches:
Sam Baird v Jin Long
Robert Milkins v Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon
Jimmy Robertson v Zhou Juelong
Joe Perry v Rouzi Maimaiti

Gerard said...

The comparison with tennis is not really fair. Snooker has 90% of its top players living in /coming from the UK. As a Dutchman I would not be intetested in seeing a bunch of Dutch wildcards in the manner it's happening at the W.O. now.

But that is not the point anyway. It's the lack of showing top players on TV in the early stages, to get people interested and watch the rest of the tournement.

I also don't understand why Robertson isn't defending champ .. it's still the world open. Could it have something to do with the BBC dropping the Grand Prix maybe? What 'status' will this event have in the future?

Anonymous said...

It's almost as farcical as David Gray between stripped of his number 1 seeding when they renamed the Scottish Open. I doubt Robertson cares that much: he's in the easiest quarter with what looks like a straight run to the semis. Higgins as the top seed will most likely have to navigate Ding/Maguire in the QF.

Anonymous said...

Not sure Tom Ford will get a bye as he is 1-3 at the break!

Anonymous said...

if i was bazza and some asians wanted to put money into a comp where the WO used to slot in the calendar id let them use the name they wanted and choose whether its a new comp or a continuation of the old one.

dont think thats rocket science.

we either have a WO or we take what was on offer.

we took what was on offer and its better than not having any snooker on and watching someone rattle around a bobsleigh course on the top part of a skateboard

Anonymous said...

Its pretty obvious that its a different competition. Different slot, different country and different format.
The World open title is used to give the tournament a bit of credibility. The previous World open, or Grand Prix is now defunct. This is a new tournament.
Unless your Neal Robertson, It shouldnt bother you where hes seeded.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason they haven't seeded the defending champion is because they probably see it more as a continuation of the Hainan Classic, which it has replaced, and which Higgins won.

Anonymous said...

9.07. These cows are small. Those ones are faaaar away. Different tournament, no defending champ. World champ is seeded one.