On June 20, 1992, a 16 year-old by the name of Ronnie O’Sullivan began his professional career at a sweltering hot Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool.

O’Sullivan beat Jason Scott 5-3 in the second qualifying round of the UK Championship, having had a walkover in the first. It was the first of 38 successive victories, which remains a record.

He spent the summer dismissing opponent after opponent, ended it by qualifying for the Crucible and has, of course, gone on to enjoy a brilliant career.

Back in 1992, snooker was open to whoever wanted to play. All you had to do was pay your money and show up.

It ushered in a new era, with players such as John Higgins, Mark Williams, Stephen Lee, Matthew Stevens and Paul Hunter emerging as major forces among some 700 professionals.

Today, it’s much more of a closed shop with only 96 places available on the main tour.

It’s also much more stop-start: rather than a summer of qualifying, it’s a few days here, a few days there.

Would O’Sullivan have come through the current system? Absolutely, he’s too good not to have done.

Even so, the open system had much going for it, not least the revenue raised which, in these post-tobacco days, would surely come in handy again.


andy said...

Hi Dave,

I remember these open days of snooker, at the time I was practicing with the likes of Jonathan Bagley and Peter Lines in Leeds, who were both about to turn pro.

It would be interesting to know why snooker went back from the open system to a closed system, were there any reasons that you can remember for this??

I think snooker would benefit from multi-pro tours the way golf does, and the best players can come together to play each other in a couple of "majors" per year. In China alone, there must be room for a separate tour. Although this kind of change would be pretty radical when compared to the current system.

Nice story about Joe getting his memories back on tape!

Take it easy.


Anonymous said...

I think the cost of staging such a marathon qualifying campaign, what with venue costs, referees and officials fees etc meant that the WPBSA made a loss on qualifying events, and decided to limit the number of players involved.

I'd love to see the game thrown open again, and for a qualifying event played immediately before each ranking event (preferably in the same city), but don't know what would make it more economically viable for the WPBSA.

Maybe the joining fee back then (£525 joining fee + £175 annual membership + about £100 entry to each event) was in reality too low, and attracted every Tom Dick or Harry. Maybe there were a lot of guys hungry for success back then, whose hunger outweighed their ability....and that these days an "open" tour would only attract about 200 or so realistic hopefuls instead of the 700+ back then?

One things for sure...the open era brought a lot of talent who have become household names. And OK, the likes of Ronnie, Higgins Ebdon & Williams would have made it under any qualifying system....but would the likes of, say, Swail, Hamilton, Perry etc have had the patience to keep knocking on the door of a 96-man tour?

I think the current introduction of new blood is at a trickle, and it's time to open things up again.

Anonymous said...

Hamilton would have made it through any system. The best player to have never won a tournament from the 1992 generation.

Dave H said...

The tour has been reduced for financial reasons

It's worth pointing out that of the 96 professionals on the circuit, only 64 are guaranteed to earn any prize money

Anonymous said...


I cannot see them reconstructing the system now.

I remember when it was an open democracy in Snooker, journalists used to pay their money to enter qualifying for the World Championships. It would be a good sports feature for the paper - so numerous hacks would do it.

It would be nice to see the rankings changed as well as the qualifying, but it will not happen, unless the WSA have a board change to make quicker decisions.

I do see snooker, like golf; you cannot predict a winner for any event. More and more journeymen players are having their day. Would it have happened in the old days?

Thanks, joe

Dave H said...

I think it comes down to two things:

1) the standard has risen across the board

2) there are fewer tournaments, so momentum is hard to come by

Anonymous said...


I think both points are true. The players are getting younger and much better. But whereas in the 80's it was the odd one, the 90's a handful, now they're coming through in bucketloads...and are so competetive.

Maybe if we could get a younger WSA board then thinks would really pick up for snooker in general.

Thanks, Joe