The new Champion of Champions event announced today and to be staged in Coventry in November promises to be a prestigious affair with £100,000 to the eventual winner.
The 16 player field will comprise the winners of all major tournaments this season. I suspect the last two world champions will be invited if the current one doesn’t defend his title.
The format of play is knockout but played in a sort of group format: two last 16 matches over best of 9 in the afternoon with the respective winners to play a best of 11 quarter-final in the evening and so on until the four semi-finalists are known.
Hearn has gone for a long final – best of 21 or 23 – as an antidote to the shorter formats which have become the norm in recent times. There will be no shot-clock or change to the established rules.
Hearn has conjured this up from nowhere, another positive move under his chairmanship. It is a little like the old World Matchplay he promoted and screened on ITV and today he dropped a heavy hint that ITV4, who recently dipped their toe in the snooker waters with the World Open, will be host broadcasters.
I can’t see why any invited player would turn this down. As a Midlander, it’s also nice to see the area rewarded with a tournament as interest in snooker here has always been high.
Hearn was at the Crucible today and rubbished claims that ‘burnout’ had affected top players at the World Championship, or rather blamed them for not managing their careers better.
I don’t think tiredness comes just from playing so much and the mental reserves it saps. It’s also the travelling, particularly to China, which can play havoc with the body clock.
Snooker players won’t get much sympathy I suspect from hard working people earning far less money but it is becoming a challenge in terms of how many events to play and when to take a backseat.
Then again, it’s nice to have a choice.
Hearn also said that he thought toilet breaks had become excessive. I agree with him, but this will be difficult to regulate.
Some players seem programmed to go out after every frame. Neil Robertson twice went out during frames during the World Championship.
However, snooker players do drink a lot of water, and nerves often lead to even more sipping for want of something to do.
You can’t guarantee when someone does or does not want the toilet. Referees maybe need to use their discretion in monitoring this.
Hearn’s point is a fair one: TV companies pay fortunes to televise snooker and don’t want to be looking at an empty arena or waiting ages for a player to return.
Intervals – which TV never asked for – at the Champion of Champions have been discarded to ensure continuous play.
But...when you gotta go, you gotta go.