The World Snooker Academy in Sheffield will no longer be used for qualifying matches and PTCs next season.

The space upstairs at the English Institute of Sport was originally used for practice and coaching by the WPBSA led by Sir Rodney Walker but this did not make the association money.

Barry Hearn was lumbered with the facility and has used it for qualifying but it isn’t particularly popular with players, not least because there is hardly any room for spectators and there is thus a sterile atmosphere.

There is also only room for eight tables, so the PTCs saw many late nights as matches overran.

A new venue is being scouted for next season large enough to accommodate more tables and space for an audience.

With the new system of everyone coming in at the last 128 stage, it is assumed that some tournaments will have a round or two played at such a venue.

The qualifiers have pitched up in various unglamorous locales down the years. The most famous was the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool, whose large ballroom saw a bewildering array of names and matches.

In the open era is was graced by the teenage Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, as well as many players who were never quite good enough, some who were but who preferred the Marriner’s pub over the road and fading greats such as Alex Higgins.

Hereford, Burton-on-Trent, Newport...their leisure centres got good use out of the WPBSA, as did the two rooms at Pontin’s in Prestatyn used for qualifying.

So where next? Of course, there is already a first class facility, the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, but it has already been announced that the staging of PTCs here will not continue.

I’ve heard various towns mentioned and some have pressed the case of Preston Guild Hall, former home of the UK Championship, which has a first class arena in which spectators on the upper tier can walk round and watch whichever match they choose.

Wherever it is it’ll have to be spacious. First rounds next season will comprise 64 matches. I understand the first qualifier, for the Wuxi Classic, will be from May 28-30 (dates provisional, don’t book holidays without checking with World Snooker).

To most players, the specific location is less important than the quality of the facilities and the playing conditions.

But wherever the qualifiers end up, room for spectators is a must. Qualifying matches by and large don’t draw big crowds but any atmosphere is better than none at all.


Anonymous said...

If only such a venue already existed...... In all seriousness not all the players liked the SWSA and Gloucester is a bit of a trek even for people in the UK.

That said if it ends up being a tacky darts venue (the Circus Tavern or the Reebok Arena in Bolton) I think questions have to be asked about the breadth of Bazza's 'contacts' and how good they are for the game.

Trevor said...

Hi dave i saw an interview with barry hearn during the masters final saying 8 of the 11 ranking events will have a flat draw.there are 11 ranking events at the moment including the ptc finals that wont have a flat 128 draw surely ?.so that means there is a new ranking event by my calculation any idea what it is dave ?.

Anonymous said...

"To most players, the specific location is less important than the quality of the facilities and the playing conditions." I think many of the UK based players would disagree.

I would love these first rounds to take place in Europe or even China. It's about time, especially after all those years of qualifying matches in the UK.

Dave H said...

Trevor - India would be favourite

Anonymous said...

I think that, as much as possible, the qualifying stages should be held just before the TV stages and if not in the same venue, close to it. Of course it raises some logistics challenges, but it also would allow for a true rolling ranking system and it would remove all the uncertainties about who gets to the venues abroad (in UK terms), therefore allowing better planning when it comes to booking flights, accommodations and getting visas and letters of invitation. Doing all this last minute costs money and is stressful.
I truly believe that it is possible to allocate first round losers some money to make it (more) sustainable without "rewarding mediocrity" and without spending more in prize money than is spent today (with two less rounds to play, the money spent on those can be reused to that effect) . WS should see this as an investment in the future of the game as most players need some time to find their foot in the pro ranks and without any financial support at all it could soon become unsustainable for them. Some older players will also benefit maybe, but why not? The amounts I'm thinking about wouldn't allow them to make a living, just ease the situation by covering the very basic expenses linked to the travels. And let's not forget that it needs two to play a match, the loser plays their part, they do their work, they generate money for sponsors, broadcasters and there are high quality matches where they are anything but "mediocre". It's only just.
And finally, I think the Barbican would be suitable as a venue also, with only the balcony open to the audience.

kimball said...

Dave, Preston turns up pleasent memories from 1985 and the Centennnial celebration of S&B CC.
through the amateur Worldchampionship
in Blackpool and the protournament
qual. in Preston where I were fortunate to se Fred Davis irritate
Alex Higgins by going one all but
Giggins quickly put everything right to final score 4 (5?) - 1.
What I have heard from a solid asian source is that in 2013-14 as
much as possible, all matches in the asian tournaments will be run in Asia.

Anonymous said...

Why can't they (as an example) hold the Wuxi qualifiers in Wuxi? It doesn't have to be at the Wuxi City Park Stadium or wherever the main tournament is taking place.

Anonymous said...

There is room for "loads" of tables & spectators at Alexander Palace.

Failing that I am sure Bitlins or Pontins will be happy to accomodate.

Anonymous said...

Farewell Sheffield - that had me going for a split second :)

Anonymous said...

Do you know if the world qualifiers will stay in the badminton hall at the EIS please Dave?

Dave H said...

Already announced for this season but presumably somewhere else next season

Anonymous said...

Preston is a perfect venue for snooker. Preston council offered to sell the Guildhall to world snooker when Rex Williams was chairman but certain snooker magazines slated the idea cus they assumed Rex would be getting a huge backhander.

Rob said...

Some interesting decisions to be made regarding overseas qualifiers. Fairness to overseas players and true globalisation vs minimising financial and practical strain for the large majority of pros. Not sure what's best.

PaulG said...

So when will this new ranking event possibly in India be announced ?.

Anonymous said...

Overseas qualifying in China? That's a long way to go to lose in the first round at a cost of about £750 to get there plus hotel stay and get nothing for losing. It may be fairer to the overseas players but, surely, it's a no go!

Claus said...

My hear skipped a beat when I saw the headline. NEVER do that again, Dave!

For a splittety split second I thought I had lost the Crucible!

kimball said...

7.28 - they will connect it to one Aptc + a lot of exhibition and coaching possibilities. I don't think
players will feel shortchanged.Of course there is an effort involved for UK players but eventually they will go where the bread is.

Anonymous said...

Agree Dave, spacious spectator space is a must!

I've been to watch a lot of snooker qualifying in the last 10 years whilst doing a lot of odds compiling work, and I'd rate Newport as one of the best which once held the final qual round of the World Chp, as did Telford which was ok, plus The Barbican in York which is as good as any esp for spectator space whilst holding the UK qualifiers and the latter stages.
Prestatyn with all respect was very poor for spectators, esp for the World Chp final qualifying round where ideal seating would be very restricted in numbers which in turn had around 30 plus spectators to be almost hanging from the rafters to get a glimpse of the action lol and Burton - On Trent was not much better.
I also went to a hotel in Torquay in around 03/04 from memory for the final World Chp qual round, but this was not as good as the others mentioned. Another superb venue to consider too is the BIC in Bournemouth.

Anonymous said...

David I may just have found the perfect venue to play host to major ranking snooker tournament opening two rounds, UK PTC events & Q school activites (but for Q School activities it would probably have to be from the 2014 / 15 season). The Tipton Sports Academy just off Wednesbury Oak Rd in Tipton there are two huge indoor rooms that hold 8 indoor tennis courts off to the left of the entrance. Those two rooms are big enough to play host to 16 full size snooker tables, 18 if you wanted to push it by an extra two & there is a room of to the right were that could play host to four full size practice tables. You could televise two of the tables & you could probably have commentary booths as well each table could possibly hold up to at least 750 spectators.

But there are two problems about the venue I live .5 mile away from the venue & Tipton Town FC play @ home @ the same venue every second week for nine months of the season.

Anonymous said...

Dave has Barry said to you how many tables would be required to play the opening two rounds? If he has & it's 16 then he can't use the Tipton Sports Academy because I checked what the length of a tennis court was & I found out it is 27ft long so you can only play host to two tables per the two rooms that I suggested & four over the tournament over the first two rounds