Time was when the World Championship would end and snooker wouldn’t bother you again for at least three months.

The calendar is now much, much busier, although if you listen to some it’s as if slavery has been re-introduced. There may be snooker now for 50 weeks of the year but there aren’t 50 tournaments.

Furthermore, nobody has to play in everything if they don’t want to. They never have done.

Snooker players are now freer than ever to pick and choose which events to play in. Most will play in all or very nearly all because they need ranking points to protect their various positions. Also, it's their profession. It's what they do.

Further up the list, the top players can afford to be choosier. Two top 16 players – believed to be Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins – have not entered the Wuxi Classic. I understand seven have not entered the Australian Open.

The Aussie Open would have felt like a God-send just three years ago. However, the problem with it is that there is a 46% local tax rate levied on prize money. With the cost of getting there and hotels, players would probably need to reach the quarter-finals to break even.

Some would argue that if players want the tournament to become a big money event then they should support it in its early years but it’s easy to say that when it’s not you that’s losing money.

Barry Pinches, among others, came up with a pretty sound solution: play the last 32 in the UK (barring Neil Robertson’s match and one or two others) and take 16 players to Bendigo. This has happened in the past for non-British tournaments.

Anyway, personally I enjoy watching snooker played well. Who specifically is playing is less important to me. With several top players missing it’s a chance for some of the others to shine.

The Wuxi Classic and Australian Open will be live on Eurosport. As a bonus, so too will be the last three days of the Six Reds World Championship in Thailand, which takes place in between the two ranking events.

What have the players been doing for holidays? Some have been up before the WPBSA’s disciplinary beak for various misdemeanours.

The big one here is Mark Allen, whose case has been heard with a verdict pending legal representations.

Joe Jogia has been suspended until late July before his case is held, pertaining to suspicious betting patterns on his match at the Shootout (which never took place because he withdrew).

Jogia did his cause no good – far from it in fact – by telling the Leicester Mercury that he had been suspended because the WPBSA is racist. The governing body has been many things down the years but racist is not one of them.

Mark Williams was fined £3,000 plus £1,000 in legal costs for his derogatory remarks about the Crucible on Twitter before the World Championship.

The fine seems excessive. It was, basically, a joke, albeit an unfunny one which backfired.

I think Williams’s fine was as heavy as it was because he had been warned previously about his behaviour on the social networking site.

However, the disciplinary committee’s comments that Williams’s remarks “were unacceptable and potentially highly damaging to snooker’s long relationship with Sheffield and the Crucible Theatre” seem to me pompous in the extreme.

Williams is entitled not to like the Crucible. The idea that because he holds this view the Sheffield contract hangs by a thread is laughable.

There have been far worse things written on Twitter. Where are the fines for those?

There may have been some, but this is the other issue I have with the entire process: the selective reporting by the WPBSA of punishments.

Apparently Ding Junhui has been fined £250 for swearing at his press conference after losing to Ryan Day in the World Championship (having been 9-6 up, he was understandably gutted).

If this is the case then the fine should be made public, just as all disciplinary cases should be. All players should be treated equally. If Williams’s fine is deemed worthy of being made public then so should all the others.

Meanwhile, Q School has been and gone. Well done to the 12 qualifiers for the main tour, particularly to those who will make their debuts as professionals.

So good luck to Chen Zhe, Ian Burns, Sean O’Sullivan, Michael Wasley, Martin O’Donnell, Joel Walker and Robbie Williams, whose participation will no doubt please journalists looking for easy headlines.

Walker was identified as a star of the future by (Ronnie) O’Sullivan in the original Riley Futurestars programme and now has the chance to play as a professional himself. Most significantly, these guys will have two-year tour cards and this gives them more of a chance to settle in without having to worry about dropping straight off.

They all enter the fray tomorrow when the Wuxi Classic qualifiers begin, live on liveworldsnooker.tv and affiliated betting sites.

Snooker in June still feels like a novelty but the times they have a-changed. Stand by for another season of drama on the green baize.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back Dave. I'm really looking forward to the season.

Chris Core said...

The tax "problem" has always been more a question of perception than reality. It's a Withholding Tax: the tax office holds on to a bit more of your prize money until you lodge your return for that year. If you haven't earned enough that year to hit the top tax bracket, you'll get the appropriate portion back in your tax refund.

Furthermore, WSL have this year clearly advised the players how to avoid this "problem" and helped create a mechanism to do just that (creating an Australian tax identity - an ABN). The same mechanism was available in the tournaments first year, for those inclined to research it. It was just a detail that was poorly understood by players and media alike.

That said, yes there are other challenges the Aust tournament faces to attract some of the top players. But the fans are there to see great snooker, and if it so happens that some of the pros providing it are only mid-ranked, the fans wont mind at all, and as you've pointed out, what a great opportunity for those players.

Hector N said...

Have to agree wholeheartedly about the selective nature of publishing disciplinary results.

Having discussed the issue with those involved (who are otherwise helpful) 'breaches of the players contract' are not going to be individually reported, and others (more the disrepute type) will be.

However that leaves scope for many discipline offences not to be reported. The reason I have been given for this is that the authorities don't want the player spotlighted, but that is not a good reason, and against the whole idea of naming, shaming, and deterring others.

It is also in stark contrast with other well-run sports which snooker wants to be, and a bit of a return to the dark days of non-transparency under previous regimes.

I can see this being lobbied against by people in, and who understand, the role of the media in sport, and I am suprised that BH would accept this.

HN said...

As an add, and in fairness to the disc committee (I won't make a habit of it!) they have gone against their own new rule by publishing the Williams sanctions in full, and may well do the same with Mark Allen because of the high-profile nature of the comments.

But DH is right about the stated policy, and whether it's high profile or not shouldn't really come into it on principle.

Dave H said...

Two very interesting points.

Chris: I wasn't aware of any of that, so thank you

Hector: spot on - part of being punished is that people know you've been punished

Spabby said...

It's obvious that to call the Crucible a "shxthole" is a very badly thought out remark to publish on Twitter. But £4000? Really? Are players not allowed to have their own opinions on venues? Should MJW and others walk around the 2 table setup waving their cues around, striding in big strides and pretending there's more space than there is?
It's frankly pathetic of World Snooker to imply that Willo has damaged the relationship between the Crucible and the governing body because of these remarks. If he'd posted that about any other venue in the UK (not China, look where that got Allen!), people would have ignored it.

Remember everyone, the 1st commandment of the New World Order of Snooker... "Thou Shalt Not Criticise the Home of Snooker".

kildare cueman said...

Think Williams' fine was about right. Someone of his stature in the game should have the cop on not to put that on twitter. If he wants to call the crucible a kip he should do it down the pub with his mates, not across the world when WS are bending over backwards to promote the game.

I dont think Ding should have been fined. Apart from the context(losing from 3 up with 4 to play), his grasp of English has probably been gleaned mostly in the club or the practise facilities in Sheffield, where many missed pots or positional inaccuracies are followed by expletives. He probably doesn't realise the significance of swears. Remember Drago could curse for the med when he came over first.

Regarding the non shows in Aus, I see it as a positive in that there will be different line ups and seedings in different tournaments. As the circuit expands, there will be more picking and mixing by players giving each tournament a different look. Like golf, the majors will feature every player.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Have you an idea on when we will hear more about the Allen case. The fact legal representatives are now involved would suggest something heavy is planned.

Dave H said...

I was told it would be resolved next month

Anonymous said...

looks like joes jogged away

and allen could be on his mark too

John F said...

Joe "Journeyman" Jogia is just bitter - this would be the same racist sport that is booming in China, is making inroads throughout Asia and the Middle East, and is now giving Africa a place on the Pro circuit, would it?

On another note, am I the only one who finds the adverts on the live scoring annoying?

Anonymous said...

Thank's Dave.

It doesn’t sound to promising at all for Mark. Some are calling for a ban but I think that is perhaps a bit too heavy.
Maybe a loss of prize money and ranking points earned at the World Championships would be more appropriate?

Anonymous said...

Did you know that world snooker originally tried to deny that Ding swore?
Someone I know was in the audience watching that match and was not impressed with Ding's comments after the match reference the audience. In their and many others people's opinion who were there, the audience was not out of order at any time and if they had of been surely the referee would have stepped
in? They sent world snooker an email asking what was going to happen to Ding firstly for swearing during his interview and secondly for being disrespectful towards people who pay good money to go to watch them.
World snookers response was that Ding didn't swear and secondly that his comments regarding the audience weren't deemed serious enough for any action.
If world snooker had genuinely not picked up that Ding swore then that would be fair enough but when you listen to the video of the press conference that world snooker released the sound dips for a few seconds around the time that he swore.
It was only when a link to the video that world snooker released and a second link to a video from someone else who was at the press conference were presented to them that they then stated that the matter was being looked into.
It's not that anyone wanted Ding to be fined but it was the fact that world snooker tried to cover it up that's the problem. How can it be ok for certain players to swear or criticise a venue/audience yet other players are being continually reprimanded for doing the same thing and it is being made public knowledge also.
I seriously think that world snooker need to go back and look at their endless rules and familiarise themselves with the meaning of 'all players' . I'm not aware of any rule that says it's only certain players that will face disciplinary action