When the Welsh Open was staged at Cardiff International Arena, as it was from 1999 to 2003, it was one of the best tournaments on the circuit.

Crowds were large, the venue was superb, the tournament’s reputation was strong and the snooker was high quality.

Only the latter now remains true. The Welsh Open, through no real fault of its own, has gradually been made into the poor relation of the circuit.

The enforced loss of Regal as sponsors and general WPBSA mismanagement meant a change of venue, first to Sofia Gardens and now the Newport Centre, where the Welsh Open began life in 1992.

Prize money is lower than for any other ranking event and even the length of frames was reduced two years ago to best of sevens until the quarter-finals.

This year’s genius idea to further degrade the tournament is to make several top players pre-qualify, thus potentially depriving spectators of recognisable faces.

Ali Carter, who has just won the German Masters, will have to play in a soulless cubicle in Sheffield with no room for an audience, as will Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen and all but six of the top 16.

Parochially, four Welsh players, none of whom are in form and the youngest of which is 32, have their matches held over to the venue.

The decision to change the qualifying structure for this tournament makes no sense because three of the sessions in Newport are not even being televised, whereas last year every match was broadcast.

Why does the Welsh Open keep getting hit like this?

Many decisions are, quite correctly, made due to financial restrictions and realities. Others seem almost deliberately designed to deal a fatal blow to what is the third longest running ranking event on the calendar.

Wales has a wonderful snooker heritage and has produced several legends of the game. It is a stronghold which should be nurtured.

I don’t doubt the tournament will still produce some good snooker and close matches but the Welsh Open currently bears the air of a tournament not far from being put out of its misery, which is a great shame for those of us who remember its glory years.


Ray said...

You're right Dave, the Welsh Open should be held in Cardiff because there's a bigger catchment area and it's much easier to get to. The idea that the top players are playing in cubicles in Sheffield is ludicrous. Are they putting on the tournament under sufferance or what?
Despite the wonderful Welsh snooker heritage,the powers that be can't even bring the Premier League to Wales.
Come on, open your eyes and bring the tournament back to Cardiff and re-kindle interest in the game by extending the current boundaries of the Premier League too.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how much Victor actually paid to sponsor this? Last minute deal brokered by a third party who will also be taking a cut. 50k? The worst venue on the tour by a country mile.

As you say Dave, when it was in Cardiff it was a great setting, but sitting next to a council swimming pool isn't going to attract the blue chip suits.


jamie brannon said...

I've got to be honest the Welsh Open was pretty enjoyable last year.

The tournament is lacking a little bit in prestige but it will still be counted as a major ranking event, so I think it is an event to look forward to.

BBC Wales pulling the plug could perhaps be the events death knell though.

Anonymous said...

If Ronnie was welsh then this tournament wouldn't have been let slide

Anonymous said...

Newport is a shit-hole. It's in the bottom right of the country and access is difficult for those fans from the West. Cardiff is better than Newport but even then, it's less than 20 miles away so the geography's not much better.
Swansea is a large city and that would give fans a better chance to get to the venue, and, more importantly, get home at a more reasonable time. It would make a change for people from Newport and Cardiff to travel.

If it wasn't for BBC Wales, the Welsh would have been buried years ago.

Hang your heads in shame World Snooker. Amateurs!!!!

Trevor said...

You sound like a man Dave that has prior knowledge of this event being axed.a bit like you knew well itv would show a new event this year.

Anonymous said...

i) The Newport Centre isn't great, but it isn't that different to the Barbican (have been to both - not sure why the perception of them is so different). Also I think Newport Council pay £100k to host it (so they are effectively the tournament sponsor) but this arrangement is both keeping the tournament alive but draining it of life;

ii) Do BBC Wales decide whether the TV Deal is extended? If so do they see it mainly as daytime TV filler (as this seems to be the only reason for having a best of 7 tournament start at 10am on Monday)

iii) Can't heads be knocked together and this tournament taken back to the CIA, as a 5 day tournament - possibly with a 4 or 5 table set up like the German Masters?

iv) when you interviewed Bazza at the RAC just after he took over didn't he say he wanted it back in Cardiff (IIRC he said he didn't understand why it wasn't there). Surely its worth taking a bit of a risk on for 1 year?

Mics147 said...

1. The Welsh Open have grown up this year, total prize money from £200,000 to £250,000; winners prize from £30,000 to £50,000.

2. Why is a shorter format bad for the game? Best of 7 isn't too short and even best of 5 in the CLS works very well.

3. Because there are only 2 tables now in Newport, much more matches are shown on TV, even when there are 3 sessions without TV production.

4. The lower importance of the tournament is because of the growing other big events.

5. Dave, why do you say "The format and structure isn't important because the best players always win because they are the best!" and then complain about the flat structure. Sounds paradox ;) As Murphy says, it is the fairest possible format.

Anonymous said...

Sir Barry has downgraded it, just as he has the UK. He wants the sport played primarily now outside the U.K. i.e. China, so is devaluing the U.K. events. It's all about money for Sir Barry and he's already shown he doesn't give a toss what the players think.

Anonymous said...

Well if it wasn't all about money for the players they could have kept the Walker regime. Or they could resign their pro membership and go amateur again like Darren Morgan. I think the flat structure idea is a big mistake, but fair play to Barry, the game is moving upwards and onwards, and if the Welsh Open becomes collateral damage then that is unfortunate but perhaps inevitable.

Anonymous said...

There has certainly been worse venues than Newport with regard to it holding qualifying matches there from a public viewing perspective.

Agreed though, it's not in same class as the Cardiff International Centre, which I was fortunate to work at during the World 9 Ball Chps in 2002. I think it would be the perfect venue to have a similar open plan set up, similar to that of the recent German Masters with no table divides.

If they had the open plan set up, they wouldn't have to try and cram so many matches i.e 8 matches on 2 tables for the first 4 days from Monday!

PTC'S are fine for best of 7's but this is a prestigious "World Ranking Event" and could then be played properly over the minimum best of 9. It would also be better for the general public viewing wise, and create an even better atmosphere for the players in general.

Going even further with the 8 events next year which have 128 starting set up, this set up could be increased in viewing tables and would be a big improvement to the "cubicle" set up with the "one man and his dog" watching.

Anonymous said...

Glory years indeed!

Remember the late Paul Hunter winning at 80/1 in 98:), and O'sullivan appearing in 3 Welsh Open finals all going to 9-8 with him winning 2 of them versus Davis and Hendry and losing the other to Selby.

Match wise, O'Sullivan v Wattana in 99. O'Sullivan made a 144 first frame, then followed it with 147 in frame 3!

Anonymous said...

They should bring the Welsh open to aberystwyth

Andre said...

Yes I agree with you Dave, it's a shame really that our third longest event in snooker history has fallen to this kind of level.. I think the place and the venue are a huge factor in it like you say. And having 6 players from the top 16 to play in cubicles is absolutely ridiculous. I do understand their decision to bring the welsh players into the venue, but even that in recent years hardly atttracts more crowds, just in Williams, Stevens and Day sometimes. It still produces good snooker I think, but the venue is just awful for me and has been a huge factor in making this prestigious tourney the one with less prize money, less crowds, etc. At least BBC Wales and Eurosport do show us some good coverage of the event.

D.Smith said...

I've been attending the Welsh Open for over twenty years, and I've never had a problem in all the time it's been held at Newport. IMO the venue is fine - no it's not a glamorous location, but it does the job that it's meant to do - stage a snooker tournament.

I assume that the decision to exempt some of the top 16 from qualifying outside of the venue was done fairly recently? As my tickets, booked a few months ago still display a 1.00 pm start time from Tuesday onwards. Not everybody would check the internet prior to the tournament, so hopefully on the Monday they'll make it clear about the revised start times.

This is a little bit of a shambolic way to run things, but that's down to World Snooker, so I wouldn't choose it as a club to beat the Welsh Open with, as I'm sure that others will.

By the way, if comment moderation is active, then I would have though removing the comment at 2:51, or at least the first sentence would be advisable.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that Newport is a shit hole D Smith. Moderation IS active because nothing goes public unless vetted by David Hendon. It's freedom of speech, doesn't include profanities so it should stay. You have YOUR opinion and 2:51 and I have ours.

Anonymous said...

Watching Robertson playing now on the live stream (FFS). World Champion and probably the second best player in the world on form, but he's playing in a cubicle so they can hold over Dom Dale's match to the venue.

I was in Newport a couple of years ago on an afternoon where Williams, Day and Stephens were playing, and they didn't draw much of a crowd. They wouldn't put Alex Bogdanovic on centre court at Wimbledon, why does world snooker think this is the right thing to do?

Anonymous said...

7.19PM "and if the Welsh Open becomes collateral damage"

What?? Not only are you using totally absurd language to describe the potential loss of the Welsh open, but are you saying you want another ranking event in China (which would make 6) to replace it?

Anonymous said...

I've said it a thousand times before , unless crowd participation is more encouraged in snooker we will never get big live audiences . If you think Neal Robertson ( I'm a fan of his ) , Ali Carter and Mark Allen will draw a big crowd in Newport you are living in a dream world . Some of the top players have a very over inflated view of their value to a tournament . The fact is there are only a very small handful of players who can draw crowds in , not 16 of them .

Anonymous said...

Close the roof and take the Welsh Open to the Millennium Stadium.

Anonymous said...

Carter already out before TV starts...

Anonymous said...

@146 At the moment I would rather see new Chinese and European tournaments replace the PTC events, but if the calendar becomes so full that the Welsh Open starts to compromise increased investment in the game or expansion into a new territory then it will have to be dropped. If there is nothing to replace it with I doubt it will be dropped unless the funding is pulled.

The Welsh holdovers are absurd. I can see some value in holding over Williams since he has a higher profile than most, and possibly Dale/Wells since it's a derby, but allowing Stevens and Day through to the venue stage at the expense of Robertson and Murphy is outrageous. There are only two or three players in the game that can really pack them in, and even though Robertson and Murphy aren't among them they are more likely to rise to the occasion than Stevens and Day; that's the bottom line as far as broadcast sport goes: you want good TV.

Anonymous said...

Ditch it and put a proper Scottish Open on instead of farcically calling what was in Ravenscraig before Christmas Scotland's premier tournament.

Ray said...

I was very impressed by the respect Duane Jones gave the game yesterday. You don't often find this in young players - they usually go for anything and everything and safety is not in their vocabulary.
He has a similar style of play to Robertson's which bodes well for the future. This match should give Jones the utmost self belief and enable him to take his game forward and add to the list of great Welsh players.

Anonymous said...

A couple of questions which I'd really like answers to from my fellow readers.

To 1.56pm "unless crowd participation is more encouraged in snooker we will never get big live audiences."

Question 1- what do you mean by crowd participation?

Question 2 - if what you say is the case, how have the last three major tournaments all been virtual sell-outs from start to finish?

To 1.45pm "Ditch it and put a proper Scottish Open on"

Question - How would scrapping a ranking event in one country, where the regional BBC channel is willing to show a tournament, make it feasible to put one on in another country, where they are not?

Honestly, I'm genuinely curious.

Anonymous said...

Local matches being carried over, they may even draw a crowd early doors and are surely far better than creating wildcard rounds that everyone moans about.

Moving forward with players having to play from Rd 1 onwards it is FACT that the more glamorous names will need to play in cubicles - if they can't win through to the TV stages they shouldn't be on the TV to start with.

Enough moaning everyone, the game is changing, embrace it or see it die