It looks like there will be at least one wildcard for January’s Wembley Masters but, for the first time in years, there is no outstanding candidate.

One of the reasons for this is that the new ranking system ensures that the top 16 going to Wembley are, by and large, deserving of their places.

There is nobody who has won a ranking event since the last Masters not in the top 16.

So who should get the nod this season?

Before I run down the likely candidates, a history lesson...

The Masters wildcard was instituted in 1990 for one reason and one reason only: Alex Higgins had dropped out of the top 16 and organisers wanted him in the tournament.

Pretty quickly, the sponsors, Benson and Hedges, realised that if they also ran a qualifying event they could get additional media coverage and name penetration.

That qualifying event has now been scrapped and I would say rightly so: the way you qualify for the Masters is to get in the top 16.

Some people have argued the Masters should be a ranking tournament. They are wrong.

Its prestige comes from the fact that it is just for the elite. Giving it ranking status would just leave it like all the other events.

The wildcard should do one of two things and, in a perfect world, both.

Firstly, and most importantly, it should get publicity for the Masters. So a popular, well known player or someone with a story behind them would be the choice.

Second, it should reward a player outside the top 16 who has done something of merit.

So assuming there will be one wildcard this season, who is on the list of possible recipients?

Last year it went to Jimmy White. This was controversial given his form but he brought a huge crowd to Wembley Arena, including contestants from the reality TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here.’

White failed to produce a performance anywhere close to his best and there are no real arguments for inviting him this season outside of the fact that he would, again, draw a crowd.

There would be greater grounds to include another veteran, Steve Davis, who caught the imagination with his run to the World Championship quarter-finals last April.

Davis is a snooker legend, a three times Masters champion and more popular than ever.

But what would it say about the game to invite someone past their best who has had more than enough Wembley outings already? Also, as he is a WPBSA board member, it would look dodgy, even if it wasn’t.

I’d prefer it to go to a younger player.

Liang Wenbo would have been in under the previous ranking system but has already lost his top 16 place.

He has done this because of his own failure to perform but I have sympathy with him and he would add something to the tournament.

Judd Trump won the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany but, like the other players who have done well on the PTC, will have his own reward by playing in the grand finals next March.

Tournament organisers could decide to go with a player who will bring publicity to the Masters regardless of their playing record.

Reanne Evans is the first woman to compete on the circuit in 14 years but has so far failed to win a match.

Luca Brecel of Belgium is just 15 and has already been invited to Power Snooker but is yet to make much impact on the PTC, even though he did win the Plate event in Bruges.

Igor Figueiredo is Brazil’s first ever professional and, though his match against Mark Williams at the World Open lasted only 39 minutes, he proved himself to be a likeable character with an entertaining playing style.

Jamie Burnett reached a ranking final in Shanghai just last month but is unlikely to be invited given that a decision is still pending on whether Scottish authorities will press charges over betting patterns surrounding his match with Stephen Maguire at the UK Championship two years ago.

There are others just outside the top 16 – Ricky Walden, Matthew Stevens, Barry Hawkins – but nobody who can be said to have a claim on the place.

With this is mind, an idea occurs to me. Barry Hearn is a populist so why not let the public decide on who the wildcard will be?

World Snooker could pick six or seven candidates – maybe some of those mentioned above – and run a poll on their website.

The winner then gets to play at Wembley.

Snooker depends on the fans for their support so why not let them decide for once?


David Caulfield said...

the poll is a good idea as long as it isn't opened the same way as the poll they had for how popular the World Open was - everyone was able to submit multiple votes. stupid!

Of course the wildcard should go to someone more deserving - I don't dispute that - but the old romantic in me would still love to see Jimmy go on one last run on his home patch. But that's subject to if he could actually concur the nerves unlike last year.

Matthew Stevens would also be good

kildare cueman said...

Some of the players you mentioned, Hawkins, Stevens, Walden and Wenbo to be precise, are all good enough and are potential winners of the event.

The problem is, none of them capture the public's interest, let alone imagination.

You can catch any, or all of those at any ranking tournament and as such will not add that little bit of magic, nostalgia, or even curiousity that a wildcard should do.

White and Davis, whether we like it or not, still capture the public's imagination and draw crowds.

Figueredo, Brecel, and Evans are in my opinion, also suitable candidates.
You would be much more likely to watch any of them taking on Fu in the first round than say, Hawkins or Walden.

Everyone will have an opinion on this but I think the wildcard should be given to someone a little bit different from the norm.

I think a poll might see Jimmy reinstated comfortably.

Anonymous said...

why not just ditch it?

Anonymous said...

I would like to see Liang.

Betty Logan said...

If the public decide then the two players that will be picked will be Jimmy and Davis without a doubt - Mugabe and Ahmadinejad couldn't combine forces and beat those two in a popularity poll! They don't deserve the places really on current form, but as pointed out these places were allocated for people who don't deserve to be there. So I say give them to Jimmy and Steve, two icons and they will ensure big crowds for their matches. Without those two, you will in reality only have one box-office draw in Ronnie. The only exception being if someone outside of the top 16 wins the UK, then they should be there as a current title holder.

At the very least, the wildcards should go to major tournament winners - inviting Doherty and Davis for instance would ensure that all the professionally active world champions are present. I don't think the places should go to players who still have it to prove - that's what the ranking circuit is for! Matthew Stevens and Ken Doherty would see all the world finalists from the last decade there. But I say no to Burnett/Trump/Evans/Hawkins and every other non-entity in the sport.

Anonymous said...

The 2 most reasonable choices will be White and Davis, no others.

The likes of Liang and Stevens certainly not deserve the wildcard. They are not in because of their own fault.

Colin M said...

I'd like to see Steve Davis get awarded the wildcard. He deserves it for his fantastic WC run.

Anonymous said...

Personally I would have said Davis but i'm sure he said in the past that he didn't want a wildcard. But for me, he's the only deserving candidate, White has done nothing for too long,Trump has yet to acheive anything of meaning, Evans isn't ready and Brecel's not even really a professional.



Anonymous said...

An early reprieve for Quentin Hann?

I feel we need a controversial candidate.

Anonymous said...

If there was a poll Jimmy would win anyway

hegeland said...

Brecel or Evans are the ones I'd like to see the most. White and Davis I've seen a million times already.

jamie brannon said...

The poll would be a bad idea, as clearly Jimmy White would win, which is a little unfair as he always gets these invites.

Personally, two wildcards would please all parties. The one goes to say the romantic old-timer like Jimmy and the other too a young player like Liang or Judd Trump.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

An online poll for a place in the Mosconi Cup has been run by Matchroom Sport in the past. Not a bad idea, David.

Anonymous said...

Igor and Liang for me

Anonymous said...

davis or Igor-

Anonymous said...

I think they should have a public vote and we set up a facebook campaign for Tony Knowles.

Dave H said...

When people say Jimmy White would win the poll, they mean in the UK.

I've noticed they have the internet in other countries too, including China where Liang Wenbo may get a couple of votes.

Anonymous said...

If you like your snooker with a bit of borderline racism from the old boys at the Beeb you should look no further than Thanawat Tirapaipongboon.

Anonymous said...

Igor Figuiredo for me. That huge smile and character would light the place up.


Anonymous said...

the wild card was born because of Alex Higgins now that the Great Man has passed on maybe its time to also put Masters Wild Cards to sleep.

Anonymous said...

martin gould!

Betty Logan said...

Let Virgo and Thorne have them. When they get annihilated maybe they'll be a more restrained with the criticism in the commentary box. The most disgraceful commentary I ever heard came from that pair during the Williams/Joe Perry 2nd round match at the Crucible in 2004.

Anonymous said...

What About current World Amateur Champion Alfie Burden a local man who has regained his place on the tour this season.

kimball said...

Right anonym.!

There are only one red hot candidate Martin Gould!

Anonymous said...

Anyone noticed the latest poll on the WS website? It's about the World Open and at the moment shows about 90 % anti the event. Strange because I felt reaction was pretty positive. Who's been casting multiple votes?.....

Janie Watkins said...

If there are two wild cards then my vote has to go to Igor and either Davis or White, but on balance Steve, because of his legend status, performance at the Crucible and obviously being a Londoner he'll draw a good crowd, although maybe not quite so large as Jimmy.
So a mix of the future and sentiment gets my vote!
As an outside consideration I'd also think of Daniel Wells. He's the leading amateur on the PTC., a young personable player and another "face for the future", but not the same international viewer potential that Igor would supply.
I can't tick a box for Wenbo this season as he hasn't really done anything so far this season.
I don't see any reason why it has to be a pro that gets the wildcard.

Anonymous said...

9:14 PM

Steve Davis ruined the World Open with his talk of reducing the World Championship. genuine snooker fans was appalled by that and has voted accordingly.

Eurig Jones said...

It's down to simple maths. Who can draw more of a crowd? That's all that's important.

Whether it will be Jimmy or Steve or Liang, I wouldn't know myself.

Anonymous said...

I'd go with Gould as he deserves it and seems to have captured the fans attention. Then have a televised match between the Nugget and Jimmy as a warm up to the tournament for the further wildcard.

Anonymous said...

judd trump

Anonymous said...

pay not attention.
one sad imbecile voted many times.

Anonymous said...

he must feel far stronger against the World Open than people feel for it to vote many times.

Anonymous said...

Gould has more chance of getting Bond elected to the board than he has on being given a wildcard for Wembley given the current circumstances.

Personally would like to see it go to the person out of the 16 who ends the highest ranked in the PTC. Surely he would be a fitting wildcard.

Anonymous said...

in order.........

luca brecel

judd trump

martin gould

mike hallet (just to see how bad he is now and wonder what hed say in the "box" about his own play.)

Anonymous said...

If we're going to have the wild card selected by public vote, why don't we just have the results decided in the style of The X Factor?

The panel could be made up of Rory McLeod, Michaela Tabb, Reanne Evans and Rob Walker. After the players have a few frames, the panel could vote on who had won, while the crowd boo, hiss and occasionally applaud. Then they could all go to the tabloids and slag each other off. Looks like Shaun Murphy's started that bit already.

You could keep the Masters qualifying competition and televise it in the style of the auditions, before moving on to Boot Camp, at the Academy in Sheffield.

Actually I might come to regret putting up this comment. The way the BBC's going, they'll probably think it's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Gould has blown his chance by getting involved with the rebels. Foolish young man. Lots to lose and nothing to gain.
Janie, nobody wants to watch amateurs apart from their parents and you.

Anonymous said...

Give it to Kirk Stevens and Jimmy White.

Anonymous said...

David Roe should get it he must have more bottle now going to work in iran.

Anonymous said...

Quinten Hann is very funny idea. If it was the Premier league I would go for Tony Drago. He is always fun to watch, but it seems he is out of form. I'm for "the legend wildcard" thus either Jimmy White or Steve Davis. Martin Gould will be there next year.

Anonymous said...

"Gould has blown his chance by getting involved with the rebels. Foolish young man. Lots to lose and nothing to gain.
Janie, nobody wants to watch amateurs apart from their parents and you."

politics should NEVER EVER be a issue regarding who plays in tournaments.

Anonymous said...

hi Martin G @ 12.40pm

Anonymous said...

dave this is a suggestion about the blog. it is not on topic and no need to publish


have the two most recent blogs side by side at the top

i find the 2nd or 3rd most recent blog gets few replies as people move on too quick to the new one and you have so much content it sometimes leaves behind a good subject early.

Dave H said...

It's a good idea but I'm not sure there's a template on blogger to do it

Anonymous said...

ok dave, thanks for the reply.

frustrates me that excellent blogs dont get comments running their course as another up to date story is live, yet sometimes it peters out quicker than the 2nd last....

jamie brannon said...

Wenbo would win the vote in China, but White has broader appeal worldwide.

A wildcard in any sport is implemented with the intention of pulling a lrager crowd, Wenbo would not achieve this.

Also, one other suggestion, couldn't we just do away with wildcards? If it is an event for the elite then leave it as such.

Dave H said...

I think there is an argument for scrapping the wildcard but if there is going to be one - and I'm told there is - then they have to bring something positive to the tournament and create publicity.

Jimmy wouldn't win a vote if I was running the poll because he wouldn't be in it. My six would be: Davis, Liang, Trump, Evans, Brecel and Figueiredo.

The PTC players will have their own reward next March and with all respect to Martin Gould, I'm not sure a second round appearance at the Crucible and quarters of the World Open really merits a Masters wildcard, although as a Londoner he would at least bring some people through the gate.

Anonymous said...

Why not have 8 wildcards playing seeds 9-16 in the first round.

The six you mentioned could all play with Jimmy and maybe the ptc winner or best newcomer. It would add a bit of colour to the tournament.

Anonymous said...

I'd vote for Stevens...he was just outside the 16 the last update and is moving up! c'mon Matt!

mathmo said...

You should have a poll on your blog :-)

Anonymous said...

davis and white have had fair share of invite favours already,
evans or figuredo would be too leftfield,brecel already has the power snooker invite.
the only logical choices are liang or juddly,one was top 16 start of season the other won a ptc,both will make lots of masters appearances on merit in years ahead

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to think of a second name to come off balanced but my heart says Steve Davis. I would love see him there although, unlike other wildcard candidates, I do not see him as a possible winner.

Anonymous said...

jamie brannon said...

A wildcard in any sport is implemented with the intention of pulling a lrager crowd


i actually disagree with your opinion on this so much that i think youre talking poop.

there are many reasons, in many sports for wildcards.

my opinion is to generate interest (but not first and foremost an attending crowd)

if ****** was interesting he could generate 50,000 more viewers on tv than ******2, despite *******2 being able to pull in a crowd at the venue which the former couldnt.

theres a bigger picture in most things outside your world jamie. open your other eye (and stop using the other for loving ronnie pictures)

jamie brannon said...

In tennis Grand Slams they have wildcards to allow home players direct entry in, which clearly boosts attendances on the outside courts. Why were they giving Alex Higgins wildcards? For exactly the same reason Jimmy gets them to put bums on seats.

Can't see why Jimmy wouldn't be in your poll, I have to be honest his entrance at the Masters last year had my hairs standing up, and I was only watching the highlights!

Guessing you don't like the special treatment Jimmy gets, which is understandable, but he has done so much for the game, does he not deservve a wildcard on his own patch?

Personally I would do away with the wildcard has I feel Jimmy will get and you just know there will be a vast amount of vitriol on here coming his way, which is totally unjust as it is not his fault for being popular.

Dave H said...

I agreed with Jim's wildcard last year but I think someone else should have the chance this year

Anonymous said...

12.28, I think you only had eyes for Wenbo last year Dave.

jamie brannon said...

Fair call Dave, if there has to be a wildcard the heart says Jimmy, but the head goes for Luca Brecel, hopefullly he could make a similar impact to Shaum Murphy and Ding Junhui who were also presented with a wildcard at a tender age, and both I think won a match, certainly Ding did.

jamie brannon said...

One more thing, the wildcard decision should be left until after the UK Championship, as you never know a player outside the top 16 might reach the final.

Anonymous said...


this is snooker. not tennis

also the wildcard was introduced about a 1/4 of a century ago. times change.

jamie brannon said...

Yes, but you can make analogies between sports and the purpose of a wildcard is still to generate interest, if you actually read Dave's post it says this.

No point handing a wildcard to a player who is not going to generate either more press attention or increase the attendance.