Of the 12 qualifiers for the pro circuit through Q School, seven will be making their debuts as main tour professionals.

They will be in Gloucester tomorrow alongside the biggest names in the sport when the last 128 of the Wuxi Classic gets underway.

They are Elliot Slessor, Hammad Miah, Ahmed Saif, Ross Muir, Ryan Clark, Alexander Ursenbacher and Chris Wakelin.

Ursenbacher is from Switzerland and Saif will be playing a Qatar solo as that country’s sole representative on the tour.

The others are all British. The amateur scene in the UK is not as thriving as it once was – indeed there aren’t as many snooker clubs as there once was – hence there are fewer young talents but this does not mean there are none at all.

Wakelin’s story is certainly interesting and, in its own way, inspiring. In his final Q School match he was up against Adam Wicheard, who somehow managed to snap his cue during the match, after which he conceded.

Wakelin had struggled mentally in way which suggested his snooker career was over before it had begun. He told worldsnooker.com: “I developed the yips and it got so bad that I couldn’t deliver the cue.  At one point if I had a straight black off the spot I would have to play it with the rest because otherwise I had no chance. Then as I got better I decided to go to the English under-21 qualifiers in Leeds and I got through. That gave me some of my belief back and I decided to enter Q School. Three months ago I would have said it was impossible for me to qualify for the tour but now here I am.”

I like stories like that because it underlines how hard it is to get to the position Wakelin is in now.

He plays Peter Ebdon, one of the greats, in the first round. Right now he’ll be like a kid waiting for Christmas.

In years gone by, new pros would turn up at a tournament and start playing without any advice or instruction as to how to be a snooker professional. Thankfully, the WPBSA is more enlightened these days, chiefly thanks to its chairman, Jason Ferguson, who has instituted an induction process.

I don’t know exactly what this entails but the players should be told that this is only the start. They haven’t made it yet. A lot of new pros over the years have assumed it will be easy. They look at some of the old stagers in the qualifiers and assume they will roll them over, but these hardened match players have been around for years for a reason.

That said, these are undoubtedly exciting times to turn professional. The opportunities are unparalleled. The seven new pros have a potential ten ranking events, eight European Tour events and four Asian Tour events plus the PTC Grand Finals ahead of them.

That’s a lot of snooker. It’s also a lot of money, both to lay out in expenses and to potentially win back in prize money.

Mark Allen told the BBC before the World Championship that the new system would “decimate the tour” although neither he nor the journalist who wrote the story seemed to know that decimate means one in ten, which would mean a drop off of 13 players.

The truth is that sport is the survival of the fittest, so not everyone can earn £200,000 a year. The new system at least means if a player wins a match then he receives prize money, which is surely as it should be.

Quite what the likes of Ursenbacher and Saif will make of it all is fascinating. They have come from countries that don’t have the snooker heritage of the UK but must be good players to have made it through Q School, although neither actually seems to be in the Wuxi Classic.

Good luck to all the newcomers. Every world champion you’ve ever seen had to start at the bottom and work their way up to the top. Their early careers are littered with matches against long forgotten players, a mix of wins and losses which helped make them the players they became.

My advice: be professional, treat the game with respect, work hard and, above all, try and enjoy it. You won’t beat everyone and there will be moments of intense disappointment but this is your chance – go and make the most of it.


Monique said...

I don't know for Ursenbacker, but Saif certainly will need a visa to work in the UK. Let's hope he - or they -will not be delayed for months erring in arcane administrative processes like some of his/their predecessors.
That's maybe something Jason Ferguson could try to address (yes I know, the man is doing a zillion things already) and have WSA to help/support those newcomers from "exotic countries".

JIMO96 said...

Monique- surely in the case of Ahmed Saif, having already 'worked' in the UK to actually qualify via Q School, his visa application should be straight forward?

Can't get my head round some of the entries for the first 3 events; for example, why would Saif & Ursenbacher take the trouble to come to the UK and play in Q School, then decide not to enter the first 2 ranking events just a week later?

I can't understand either why the likes of Josh Boileau and Shane Castle, both high enough up the Q School Order of merit to receive an invite for both Wuxi and Australia, actually play in just one of them (the least prestigious one at that).

Reanne Evans....I'm guessing she must have other commitments, otherwise why would she turn out for Wuxi, yet reject an Australia invite?

My guess? World Snooker haven't put the OoM list together properly, and some players who should have been offered a place in the Wuxi draw, haven't(!)

Dave, any news on whether some of the proposed new pros are actually going to take up their places? I'm referring specifically to Mohammed Asif & Saleh Mohammed, both destined for endless visa issues? How about Figueiredo? His name seems to have been scratched from the Wikipedia list of new pros? Any confirmation yet on who the 4 Chinese ATC qualifiers are?

Sorry Dave, World Snooker just create more puzzles than definite answers these days!

Dave H said...

I don't know and as Monique and yourself point out, it's becoming a bigger and bigger problem for non-British professionals.

Monique said...

to JIMO96

I'm not sure. Coming to play in the Q-school for a pre-determined amount of time is one thing, coming and get a "work permit" (or whatever it's called in UK) for an undetermined duration in another matter. They might have got a 1 month visa, maybe even a touristic one, for the Q-school; after all they were still amateurs. But being pros yields a different situation.

JIMO96 said...

Thanks for the explanation Monique; if localised qualifying becomes the norm (and I hope it does soon!), then some of this may be alleviated. It may mean some UK pros having visa issues in some places, but at least these difficulties would be shared around, which shouldn't be a problem in this 'pick and choose your events' era. It's certainly better than the same players being punished time and time again, and of course, a fairer qualifying system.

Anyway, good luck to all the new pros next week.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know if the Iranian is actually going to play this year?

Ray said...

The stark reality of snooker (as with all sports)is that very few will make a decent living out of it. Even less will win a tournament and to be a multiple winner will be exceptional. You should be immensely grateful for doing something you love for a living and do your best at all times. Enjoy it and the rest is in the lap of the gods.

Anonymous said...

As far as I cam understand, they can play in the Q-school because Q-school is not a paid tournament. Therefore a "working visa" is not necessary.

It is totally different for the professional tournaments because they belongs to "paid" work and therefore a working visa is needed.

John F said...

This is something that really needs sorting - you begin to wonder just how far the likes of Hossein Vafaei, and a little further back, Lucky Vatnani could have risen if visa issues had been sorted.

I hope Igor Figueiredo does make it back on the tour - he was a good laugh last time (and a pretty good player).

12.27 Anon - didn't Vafaei end up playing in the Asian PTCs in China? I'm sure he definitely appeared in at least one.

Anonymous said...

@3:02 The few Chinese players who entered Q-School still didn't manage to get the necessary clearance to play though.

Anonymous said...

"Mark Allen told the BBC before the World Championship that the new system would “decimate the tour” although neither he nor the journalist who wrote the story seemed to know that decimate means one in ten, which would mean a drop off of 13 players."

Priceless! :)

Anonymous said...

Do tennis players and footballers have "visa issues" like this? You never seem to hear about it, so why is snooker beset by them? Maybe World Snooker should be put in charge of UK border control, because they sure seem good at keeping people out of the country!

Anonymous said...

Qatar solo (groans) save your bad puns for the commentary box Dave!

The one thing about the flat structure is that the abolition of starter points means there are some poor players in the top 64 and some strong ones stuck outside it. What this means is that you could get 1st round matches like Ding -v- Advani or Robbo -v- Brecel, but then end up with Dunn -v- Khairy in the same round.

What I'm wondering is whether it will ever even out - i.e. have they said how many players will be kicked off the tour at the end of the year?

Anonymous said...

Dave, do you know what is going on with players like Floyd Ziegler from Canada, a waste of a tour place it seems. Also Ben Judge from Australia, why wouldn't he enter the Aussie open, do these guys actually play or have they basically pulled out of the tour?

Daniel said...

Does anyone know where I can find the Q School 'top up' list?

Anonymous said...

"do you know what is going on with players like Floyd Ziegler from Canada, a waste of a tour place it seems."

Hence why there are 131 players on the tour, so not a "wasted" place really.