The forthcoming Roewe Shanghai Masters will be the tenth world ranking event staged in China in the last five years.

The first of these was the 2005 China Open in Beijing, won by Ding Junhui and the start of the boom that has created snooker fans of millions.

But these millions, like anywhere else in the world, want to watch the top stars. The days when wildcards were needed to prop up interest are over.

This is why the current system of local wildcards for Chinese events should end.

Years ago, an invited player from the host country had little chance of success. Now, the Chinese players, on home soil and without the pressure of ranking points, have every chance of beating the qualifiers, who are on a hiding to nothing – literally, as they get no money for playing an extra match. In the dim and distant past they received £500.

This is supposed to be a new era, a meritocracy.

If that is the case then it is grossly unfair on those who have come through the qualifiers to have to play talented wildcards, some of whom were on the circuit last season, instead of going straight through to the top 32, a place they have earned fairly.

But there is another issue. Any sporting event should hit the ground running with its biggest names.

It tells those watching on TV that this is a proper event and worth following for the week.

According to the format, the first TV match on day one will be Jamie Burnett v Tian Pengfei and the second will be Dave Harold v Yu Delu. The other matches in this round are not any more appetising with the possible exception of Ken Doherty, a big name, who, farcically, will play the only non-Chinese wildcard and is therefore certain not to be on TV.

And the knock on effect is that the last 32 has to be played over two days not three and so TV viewers will not see some of the game’s best known faces early on.

On the second evening, Ronnie O’Sullivan plays Burnett or Tian on the first TV table. Marco Fu, as he is from Hong Kong, will play Mark Davis on the second.

This means that Mark Williams v Ricky Walden – arguably the tie of the round – will be out of range of the cameras.

Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Stephen Hendry are all on the same session so, again, one of these will be put round the back.

Long time readers may remember the utter farce of John Higgins and Mark Selby, playing for the first time since their world final three years ago, being put on table 3.

There is actually a simple solution to this, one myself and colleagues have suggested before: play two wildcard matches on the second day and put two last 32 games on the first day. This way you would start with big names and they wouldn’t then find themselves out on table three.

Needless to say, such suggestions have been ignored.

Wildcards are a good way of growing an event but Chinese tournaments have grown sufficiently and there’s no need for them now.

Their effect is a glacially slow start to the event, big names not exposed to TV coverage and an understandable sense of grudging resentment among a number of the players.

It’s time for them to go.


kildare cueman said...

I would agree with your view on the wildcard situation Dave, and the unfairness it creates in the qualifiers.

A possible compromise may be to have a separate qualifying competition for all wildcard candidates, something along the lines of the B&H championship, where only the winner goes into the first round proper.

This would mean that only one player is being inconvenienced and the Chinese would still see their own players, a day or two before the rest of the field came in.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese can see their own players. They're called Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo.

Anonymous said...

you could use the same argument of meritocracy for the masters.Was it right to give Jimmy that spot .People have watched Jimmy for decades.It should have gone to someone else.

Dave H said...

That's a different argument. I'm arguing against wildcards in Chinese events, you're saying they've gone to the wrong person in a different tournament.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the points you made Dave - things have changed in the world of chinese snooker.

I suppose the wildcards could be looked at part and parcel of the bigger picture of a snooker event in China ;go back over the previous couple of years China were leading the way with sponsers,we wern't complaining then when UK sponsors were dwindling.

Another way of looking at it is the qualifiers will have a game in the arena before they play thier top 16 seed; this could be an advantage - albeit providing they beat the wildcard.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Am all for giving one wildcard per tournament, maybe they could have a old-style b&h championship for each tournament to decide a wildcard for them. I'd enjoy that.

But money talks in China at the moment, and World Snooker need every pound they can take. If the sponsors,tv and authorities decide this is what they want, WSA aren't going to put up a fight. Especially if it comes down to money, which lets face it, this is now what its about.

Even the snooker tables have a chinese contract...

On another note, i remember the wildcards at Bahrain two seasons ago, who hardly put up a fight and Marcus Campbell hit a 147.

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...

Do not so naive to think that the China Snooker Association will listen to you. They always want to introduce 16 wildcards into Shanghai Masters & China Open. You should have to be satisfy that now is only 8.

Dave H said...

So what? That doesn't mean it's the right thing for the game.

And I don't buy that the commercial success of the tournament rests on wildcards. If that were true why is the venue always half empty on day one?

Could it be because fans are waiting to see the top players?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

The other point i forgot to mention, is the obvious;there are so many good chinese players on the tour now, it will not be long before they're making the final qualifying round and having a chance of making the china/shanghai tournaments on merit.

I don't want to see or hear footage at the start of Shanghai on Eurosport of there being a good turnout/full out for the first day ;)


Dave H said...

If there's a good turnout on the first day I shall say so

If there isn't I won't

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

That is what I like to hear - which we don't get enough of in other sports - commentators/observers calling it as it is and not lying or sitting on the fence or even using a bit of spin pr for coverage of a sport.

The fans don't buy these days, eh.

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...


it doesn't matter if theres a full day or not that will have nothing to do with wild cards but the fact they love snooker.

your assessment is on the mark dave but i do think that china association pushes for wild cards still to get the maximum out of the event.

Barry Hearn needs to persuade them its time for change and i think he will.

Anonymous said...

Joe @5:21pm - your coment doesn;t make any sense to me.

Dave ,ok I take your point about small turn out for wildcard/1st rounds without the big names.

Now the same could be said for the turnout in UK for some of the players in the top 16.

Here's my suggestion for bigger crowds: Get a few more like Makela Tab (Sp?) referees in, maby spruce things up a bit.


Executor said...

Like it or not, China will ruin the world of snooker one day, not save it.

Betty Logan said...

Apart from Ronnie who else do the Chinese like that isn't Chinese? It's possible that Burnett/Pengfei will get bigger viewing figures than say Murphy/Hendry or whatever. If you get a couple of Chinese qualifiers through to the last 32 then along with Ding and Wenbo that will probably boost the TV viewing figures for the remainder of the tournament. I'm just surmising here, but I would be interested in seeing the TV viewing figures for the ties featuring the Chinese wildcards and those just featuring British players.

Also, since the Chinese Snooker Association secures the funding (unless I'm mistaken on that point) then their allegiance is always going to be to Chinese players, and they probably couldn't care less about British players being on a hiding to nothing.

Valid points, Dave, but possibly not from a perspective the Chinese share.

Anonymous said...

give o sullivan, drago and white wildcards into the last 16 of every tournament and watch snooker take off.

Betty Logan said...

The only thing that will be taking off are the planes home the next day in Jimmy's and Drago's case!

Anonymous said...

harsh betsy

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Hello Dave
How are you, these no hard feelings at your censorship as maybe they are friends, but the retort was a bull’s-eye that couldn’t be missed?
The “You can’t tell Me anything” attitude Dave is very prevalent in snooker as there are so many Century break merchants from an early age.

The locked door policy in Sheffield is all wrong Dave but a great asset to the Mr Nobodies as paying customers only come to cheer on the Mr Somebody’s.
All the best Dave! I think the apathy for the game in China is still a good year maybe two be hind the TV viewers here in Britain. Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...

I can see why the locals are given wildcards in China in terms of increasing viewers hence revenue.
I don't agree with it though,and am of the opinion that any wildcards should have to earn their place there by qualifying-not that anyone would be able to watch them qualifying if the event was held at the academy though... Don't get me started on that subject...

Anonymous said...

From what I've heard many of the well known british players are well respected by chinese fans - not just Ronnie.

Dave can probably confirm,but I'm sure other pro's have gotten exhibition work over there when on these trips.

kimball said...

Yes, wildcards are unfair but in two years time when China might have
three rankingtournaments, then it will be high time to correct the ab-
solute unfaireness of the current
qualification system.

Maybe we will see an asian PTC tour
and some more smart tinkering by Barry Hearn.

John McBride said...

Interesting question/debate.

Why don't we ask the question, "Why are wild cards given out in the first place & what's the criteria behind given them out?"

If we can establish that point, then we'll have the answers to whether they should be given out or not.

If indeed the answer is Dave, as you put it "The days when wildcards were needed to prop up interest are over", then them days, as you say Dave, are long gone.

I'm not up to speed with what amateur events are held in China, tho I would be interested to see how many people enter a China Amateur Championship & if indeed there is one?

Anonymous said...

i'm sick of having ronnie o'sullivan on a TV table every single time. Mark Williams vs Ricky Walden should be a must on TV.

Anonymous said...

Mr Hendon you are absolutely right. Chinese players are too good nowadays to be given wildcards. In Bahrain it was OK cause they can't play but Tian for example is a super player.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Hello Dave
How are you and Thanks for the posts! The use of wild cards should never be scraped. The Pro’ game Dave is about “Bums on seats” and the practice in the past has proved a winner and could be very controversial to reintroduce in today’s culture of discrimination.

The Barry Hearn’s “Snooker League” has never been openly questioned on choice of wild cards but there has been annual discord behind the scenes.
It’s only a matter of time before the “Do-Gooders” show there muscles in snooker just to remind us that we are living in a multi cultural society.

Discrimination never goes away Dave! But sadly can be confused with “Choice”; whether in styles of head gear or the colour of foot ball boots.
Personal Wild Cards in the future will definitely be part of most sponsorship agreements.
Mr Hey You

Anonymous said...

10.09,youd rather watch ricky walden instead of o sullivan?

Im not one for judging peoples kinks but your obviously some kind of a masochist.

Anonymous said...


It is true that having wildcards for both Chinese events is pointless, however it is the Chinese Association that organises and funds the event. If scrapping the wildcards means that they withdraw funding from the event, that would leave World Snooker in a hole.
Personally I would like to see a wildcard tournament run alongside the main qualifying with the winner to be seeded through to the last 32.
I agree with your points of view Dave, but the chinese might not.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with someone preferring to see new talent such as Walden rather than Ronnie not looking remotely up for the task in China as we have seen all too many times before.
All the cliches being dusted down by commentary teams like "it depends which Ronnie turns up" and "the word genius is used to freely but it applies to O'Sullivan".
Also interviewers not allowed to say that "Ronnie is his own worst critic" as the great man may abort the whole interviewing process at that juncture.
In the new era of the game its boring and tedius to the point of O'Sullivan looking like a 90's dinosaur in the year 2010.

Anonymous said...

It's really a sign of darkness for Snooker in England if Ricky Walden at 30 is seen as a talent. By now, he would have taken his chances on the tour and become a fixture in the top 16.

I think this is in line with the problems in snooker. Too much inbreading, too much England, too much pro tour.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

There is absolutely no reason for awarding local wildcards at Chinese events in this day and age. Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo will be taking part on merit alone, while others aren’t too far behind.
Looking at the wider picture, I really don’t think there’s an argument for local wildcards at any other event, either.
Local wildcards were the major flaw in Pat Mooney’s World Series of Snooker events, televised by Eurosport. No offence, but many of the local players didn’t even come close to being up to the job. The millions watching around the world had never heard of them, for the simple reason they weren’t good enough to be household names. All too often, the matches were one sided, predictable and occasionally farcical. I can’t imagine local viewers or spectators in the auditorium being truly impressed by that.
The only circumstances in which wildcards can be justified at all are if it’s in the interests of television. Inviting Jimmy White to this year’s Masters, for example, made sense: people who used to watch snooker in the past but have gone off it in recent years for whatever reason had cause to tune in again. Those with no previous interest in snooker but had seen Jimmy in the jungle would tune in, and may have become fans of the game as a result. The fact the tournament was being held in Jimmy’s home turf was a bonus.
The same applies to inviting two former world champions to this year’s World Open. One of the biggest mistakes snooker made in the 90s was that it disposed of its old stars before the new generation had become established. Inviting these two former champions will ignite the interest of viewers who haven’t watched snooker for many years. It’s true snooker also needs to appeal to a much younger audience, but incentives such as Power Snooker will help address this.
Making each event look good on TV is of the highest importance, and the organisers of the Roewe Shanghai Masters have made a huge error in putting such unattractive matches on during the first day. The tournament will start with a whimper. Plenty of people will tune in on day one, think of it as a minor or joke tournament, and not bother watching again for the rest of the week.

Anonymous said...

Ricky Walden is 27 and a ranking tournament winner, you ignorant buffoon.

Anonymous said...

Chinese wildcards are a big joke. Dave is spot on on this. They have 100 million youngsters ready to massacre the professional circuit. They certainly don't need a helping hand getting ahead.

We should prevent snooker from becoming the next badminton - not encourage it!

Executor said...

Anon 12:32 PM

Exactly what I had in mind at 7:20 PM.

Anonymous said...

..And you are right Executor. I just hope it will lose its appeal in China but nothing points in that direction. Instead I feel the best thing to do is focus on mainland Europe, use the popularity to bring more tournaments and boost local talent. Hopefully Barry Hearn can help snooker grow strong again in the UK and inspire a large number of young players. Just save us from 50 more Dings.

Anonymous said...

Racist idiots. 50 Dings would be more entertaining than 50 maguires or selbys. the asian revolution is powering on and nobody can stop it, its only a matter of time before the world champs moves to a decent venue in china. snooker will follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Its only ever been an english game. It needs to move forward and if it means chinese players take over which i predict will happen then it can only be good for the game. Hopefully it may become more of a worldwide sport .The english players at last are realising there may be more competition out there. Before anyone has a go about the world champ is australian and Cliff Thorburn , Wattana ,Fu,ding,etc, etc,the one thing is they had to come to the uk to play.Its never been a truly world sport and although i dont totally agree with 8 29 it needs to move on.

Executor said...

Anon 8:29 PM

Don't call me racist, son. You obviously have no idea what I was talking about. And by saying that 50 Dings would be more fun to watch then 50 Maguires or Selbys you have no either what snooker is about, either.

(To be clear with you before I go on, I even am not from UK or Ireland and in my Top 10 of non-British snooker players, you could find Xiao Guodong ever since he first turned up at China Open 3-4 years ago and lost to Shaun Murphy - and I bet you yourself do not remember that, so by calling me a racist ever again you risk sounding incredibly funny, to say the least.)

Ding is surely one of the greatest current breakbuilders and watching him moving around the table is pretty enjoyable, but it's not fun. Liang Wenbo is fun, and maybe Xiao or Zhang Anda (if you close an eye). But not Ding. All other are just as boring or predictable (or funny, depends on how you look on it) as any mediocre player from Mainland Europe or UK.

What I had in mind, was that snooker should never become a mass sport. And if there is a country in the world that could turn it into one, it would be China, like it or not. There is a big difference between mass and global. Barry Hearn, the WSA, even IBSF should try their best to make snooker a global game, no question about that. But they should somehow make sure it does not become a mass game.

It is not to be easy. Every coin has two sides. With the possibility of expansion, comes the opportunity for downfall. For every good news there are always bad news lurking in the shadows. That's just how it works.

Snooker has always had its own soul, history and tradition. (As almost every game & sport, you might say, but snooker's are specific, or at least they feel like they were). Snooker is not a game for everybody. Take tennis. It's relatively easy and accessible even at the most basic amateur level. But to play snooker at your leisure time, you already have to be determined, patient, concentrated, dedicated - and you have to love the game to really enjoy it.

Plus, snooker has always been regarded as a game of gentlemen. Put together one million people and get to know them. How many of them would you call gentlemen afterwars?

Take pool. In U.S., there are pool tables in every stinking bar & barn even in the smallest of towns or villages. Everybody plays it. (In Europe, or around the world, I guess, it's similar; with the only difference being the tables are only in every second or third bar, they are bit less common.) Do we really want snooker to become like that?

What over the years has become of pool, mostly in America, could easily become of snooker over the next years, thanks to China. It's not about racism, it's about human nature. Have you ever thought why Americans do not play snooker at any significant level? It's too thougtful. Too slow. Minimum quick-fire. Minimum adrenaline. For them. In China, it could be a different case. How many Chinese cared about snooker before Ding showed up? Suddenly they have a superstar in a game they previously have never heard of, and suddenly, millions are interested. If now they make it a mass game, and then just as suddenly their interest will cease, what next? Or cease completely? The world of snooker might find itself in an abbys from which it might not be able to crawl back up.

These are very speculative questions/thoughts. I would not dare to say that Chinese should not play snooker at all or that they should have been a quota instead of wildcards, or something like that, either. What I am saying is, that in my opinion, China is not a solution to snooker being raised to a fully global game in the future. On the opposite, it may ruin it - may ruin it's tradition and soul, even if unintentionally.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave/11.58am,

Very good geopolitic points there on the sport.

I've said all along that World Snooker is just that...a world sport - only it never has been.

Yes, think world snooker have to be very careful, where they're going with China and Snooker. Ding has brought it to the masses there like Wattana did to Thailand - then it faded and so did the tournaments. Don't think this is going to happen in China - World Snooker have an office there.

But is it money talking out there, as i said in a previous post, or is the future of the game? Let's hope it is the latter.

Furthermore, the shambles of the Dubai tournament from a few years ago - when the press officer presented Robertson with the trophy - in front of one man and his dog - is on the edge of being revived possibly for next season according to Hearn.

If this and the World Cup is reintroduced, think the threat of China will die down. But it is an interesting subject.

Thanks, joe

Anonymous said...

The "racist idiots" comment is pretty damn pathetic. Like Executor, I am not British or Irish and it is not a question of DNA. It is about having a million chinese robots take over. Why is that so upsetting. Who would enjoy this besides the chinese themselves? No question this should be halted or controlled. The fate of the game should lie with Europe/UK and nowhere else.

Kind regards,

Mainland Europe Dweller