Many already take the Barry Hearn revolution for granted but to have a professional tournament in Bulgaria, as we do this week, is a remarkable thing indeed.
The previous WPBSA board did nothing whatsoever to take advantage of the European snooker boom caused by Eurosport’s coverage. This goes to 60 countries and that’s a lot of people.
The idea ten years ago that people in Bulgaria would even know what snooker was, let alone want to stage a tournament, was so remote as to be laughable.
But the great and the good are off to Sofia for the latest Betfair European Tour event as yet another new market is explored.
I met one of the high-ups from Bulgarian snooker last season. He looks exactly like Stephen Maguire, although that isn’t strictly relevant.
It takes enthusiastic people with a bit of something about them to pull these tournaments together. First efforts don’t always go without a hitch so I hope any teething problems are forgiven by the tsunami of opinion online which now accompanies every move in the snooker world. Without trying there is no hope of succeeding at anything.
It’s the usual mix of top stars, solid professionals, hopeful amateurs and complete unknowns.
There are now just three events left, including this one, which count towards the final order of merit.
It’s already a cracking line-up for the Grand Finals. Here’s the top five in that order of merit: Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen, John Higgins. Judd Trump is eighth, Ali Carter 14th and Mark Williams 16th.
Ding Junhui, at 21st, and Shaun Murphy, who is 22nd, are currently in the top 25, which is the group which will qualify alongside the top seven in the Asian PTC order of merit.
If you win one of these you’re in, so players much further down the list still have a chance of qualifying.
In other news, Power Snooker will return next March with its first event in 16 months and the Shootout will have its shot-clock reduced from 20 seconds to 15 for the first five minutes, down to ten seconds for the second five.
I enjoyed the first Shootout, which was a fun novelty event but the second staging didn’t seem so entertaining, possibly because novelties soon wear off.
There was a lot of PR nonsense said about how both Power Snooker and the Shootout would revolutionise snooker but in fact neither has, or ever will.
The traditional game has gone from strength to strength in the last two years. There never was anything wrong with the game itself, just how it was being run.
So good luck to all in Bulgaria as snooker – real snooker – touches down in another new territory. I hope the local fans enjoy their first taste of the sport close up.