Barry Hearn’s Matchroom organisation has indicated it will sue for breach of contract if any of the four players scheduled to play in the Premier League at Haywards Heath on November 13 instead compete in the Bahrain Championship, the new ranking event announced today.
Matchroom has promoted the League since 1987. It is shown each Thursday night on Sky Sports in the UK and many other TV channels around the world.
Steve Davis is managed by Hearn so even if he qualifies for Bahrain it is currently inconceivable he will play in the final stages.
The other three players involved are John Higgins, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui, who now find themselves, through no fault of their own, in an almost impossible position.
Unless something is sorted out, they will be sued by Matchroom if they play in Bahrain.
If they don’t play in Bahrain it will devalue the new event and obviously harm their ranking positions.
Matchroom say they were told by World Snooker in April that they could hold a League night on November 13 as there would not be any other snooker on.
They also say that World Snooker has not contacted them to tell them there is now a tournament cutting across this date.
In a statement, Hearn said: “I am very disappointed that this situation has arisen and I can’t understand why World Snooker has not discussed dates and timings with us.
“Our dates for the Premier League were set in April of this year following consultation with World Snooker, venues were booked and the seven competing players were contracted in May.
“As the Premier League is televised live by Sky Sports I’m afraid that we will be sticking to our dates and insisting that the four competing players on the Thursday night duly honour their contracts.
“It’s a shame that World Snooker made no effort to avoid conflicting schedules and will subsequently be losing four top players from their event.
“I don’t imagine that the players concerned will be too happy either.”
As I always do when there’s a story concerning them I asked World Snooker for a response. As they always do, they refused to give one.
However, Pat Mooney, the manager of John Higgins, said: “John is contracted to play in the Premier League and intends to honour his contract but we will look at the legal position with regards to his ranking points as he will be disadvantaged by not going to Bahrain.”
A lot of people will ask why Matchroom don’t simply move the Premier League night. However, tickets have already gone on sale and they have a contract with Sky to provide snooker on the agreed dates.
If they do not fulfil this contract they may themselves be sued.
So what happens next?
Honestly, I’ve no idea. This is unchartered territory and a very unfortunate situation.
Everyone will welcome a new ranking event but Hearn is a businessman and therefore entitled to ask why he should lose out as a result of it.
One thing I do know, though, is this: if it comes to a straight fight between Barry Hearn and World Snooker then it could end up being about far more than who plays where on November 13.