Among the more intriguing suggestions from World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has been his stated intention that all players should start tournaments in the same round.

This is a long term plan and one which will be controversial. It illustrates a divide in professional sport between what is considered ‘fair’ and the commercial realities which sustain the level of prize money available.

An example: the circuit is set to increase to 128 players. However, the Crucible can only take 32 players under its current format.

Therefore, if every player entered the World Championship in the same round we could be left with a field of unfamiliar names.

So what, you might argue. The best will come through, the others will fall by the wayside.

Well maybe. But when snooker is relying on revenue from broadcasters and sponsors, the importance of star names cannot be underestimated. These are the players which draw viewers, interest sponsors and persuade TV companies to screen tournaments.

Ever since a professional circuit was established there has been protection for higher ranked players, but they have earned this by starting at the bottom and rising up the rankings.

For many years the top 32 players in the world were exempt until the last 64 stage, where they usually had to win one, sometimes two, matches to reach the televised phase of ranking events.

This changed around a decade ago after pressure from broadcasters who found several top players were missing from line-ups of tournaments that they (the broadcasters) were effectively bankrolling.

So it was that the top 16 became exempt until the last 32. The knock-on effect of this has been a labyrinthine qualifying system which has arguably made it harder for players to come through, creating stagnation in the game.

Hearn’s argument is that players should not be seeded through to the final stages but earn their place. Top players would doubtless say they have already earned their place by securing such a high ranking.

However, although there is qualifying for Wimbledon, Federer and Nadal don’t get put through to the last 32, they start in the last 128 with everyone else.

The difference, though, is that Wimbledon is televised from this point. For the World Championship to be run along the same lines it would need to be played in a much bigger venue and have its matches dramatically shortened, neither of which would be popular with players or fans.

What has been interesting about the PTCs, certainly the televised ones, is that the top players invariably come through and win. I think this would still happen under Hearn’s radical plan, but many would also fall by the wayside.

This would help new faces emerge but could equally lead to a situation where the general viewer doesn’t really recognise anyone due to there being so many different faces on their TV screens.

A player’s perspective on all this will of course depend on where they are ranked. A top 16 player would, I suspect, be appalled by the prospect. Those further down the list would be more likely to relish it, although the idea of playing Judd Trump in the last 128 isn’t really one to punch the air about.

I think Hearn will find it difficult to persuade broadcasters of this shift, regardless of its merits.

If you are paying millions for the right to show a tournament you also have the right to expect the elements which draw in viewers and – like it or not – that includes star names.

But that is not to say the system cannot be altered to reflect these changing times. Perhaps a couple of ranking events should be played like this, preferably all at the venue with no need for qualifying at all.


Anonymous said...

shorten the 2nd round matches and the time you save hold over a couple of matches from the previous round l64....sponsors choice of hold backs

Ron Florax said...

If you think about it, a couple of ranking events are already played like this, the PTC's are rankers after all. Even though they're short, their results can easily be used to prove the concept. Besides, if it works for Tennis, why not for snooker? Fair point about room at the Crucible though. Maybe best-of 13 first round split over the Crucible and the badminton hall?

Monique said...

I am not so sure that all the currently high ranked players would find the prospect appalling. In fact such a system will render the ranking pretty much pointless, except for the threshold to stay on the MT. That in turn means that the current "blackmail" effect of the ranking system would be defeated to a large extend and that players would actually have more freedom to pick and chose which tournament they want to enter without putting their opportunity to earn money or their chances to win in any specific tournament at risk because everyone would start at the same level.
This of course will not help to ensure that the top players, or indeed the ones that draw the crowds will turn up. Unless the sponsors are ready to pay and, then I would expect appearance money to become commonplace.

Anonymous said...

Complete insanity. This is just bending the rules to fit O'Sullivan in the tv stages since he will be out by the World Championship time

Anonymous said...

have to say if 252 was close to being correct id switch off. im sick of pandering to one guy. ive siad for years the sport would be better off without him. the last year or two hasnt seen him anywhere in non micky mouse events bar one and were going onwards and upwards.

no exceptions. no appearance money. no vulgar players. no problems

Monique said...

The insanity - and obsession- is yours Anonymous 2:52 because such a system will take a lot of time to be put into place if ever and certainly not during the season in progress.

JIMO96 said...

Hearns plan to bring in everyone at the first round is based on his desire to have a "cash earnings" based ranking list, and the only way that this can be fair is to remove the "guarantees" that seeds currently receive.

Would it not be possible to still show the top 8's first and second round matches from the Crucible, whilst everyone else plays at the Academy? Call the Crucible the "centre court" if you like?

Inevitably, the number of frames would have to reduce to compensate this idea, but it wouldnt have to be by much (e.g best of 15 up to last 16, then increasing).

I find myself asking what exactly the BBC give back to snooker, when they drop a ranking event, dramatically reduce the prestige of another (to get everyone on TV), and still only broadcast a few minutes of some of those matches!

I'm sure the reason Wimbledon is covered from the last 128 is because tennis won't bow to the BBC's ridiculous demands.

Witz78 said...

This is something ive long been hoping for so the announcement the tour was going up to 128 players made me put 2 and 2 together, then of course Hearn came out with his plans which excite me.


1) Level playing field for all Pro players

2) A Money based order of merit can fairly be implemented

3) Rankings would no longer be important, though seedings would still be used to determine these draws, but players wouldnt be under the same obligations so could pick and choose events

4) Order of merit would encourage sponsors to throw more money at events to make them more important in terms of ranking, so money in the game could be increased.

5) Win a game to make the last 64 and you get paid, dont win a game, you dont get paid, simples. Currently a high percentage of prize money in events must be handed out to players who dont win a game whilst some lower down win maybe 2 games but dont get a penny. This will eradicate that farce.

6) If it works in tennis with no protection for Nadal, Federer etc then it can work in snooker. Wimbledon wouldnt come to an end if they crashed out early so snooker would also survive.

7) The argument that the "big names" of the elite are needed at venue stages is a myth anyway, lets face it, bar a few draws, the bulk of them are hardly punter pullers and this unfair protection has to be done away with IMO.

8) Worth noting that the PTCs the big names (if they try) invariably still do well in, and also the World Open where players entered at last 64 stage. So whilst some big names will fall early, ultimately if players are good enough they will still do well.

Medicority will no longer be rewarded was Hearns initial declaration and this system will be the ultimate way of achieving this.

snookermax said...

I have posted a money list for the top 16 based on the three ranking events and the PTC's. So this would be the top 16 on a prize money based list.

Anonymous said...

World Championship: First round all 128 involved. 64 matches (Best of 11) - roll-on roll-off - two tables as is - 4 matches each day each table. This will mean all first round matches will be completed within 8 days.

Last 64 also best of 11 frames - again played as above - matches completed by second Wednesday.

32 players still in tournament where on current format only 4 are should still bring in crowds.

Thursday/Friday - Last 32
Saturday - Quarter-finals
Sunday - Semis
Monday - Final

Gerard said...

Order of merit list sounds right for that. Time will tell.

Why do you people who moan about O'Sullivan care so much for moaning about O'Sullivan?

There are more top players who are interesting.

Ronnie's still pretty frakin' great though. At snooker.

Anonymous said...

3.49 spot on! 2.52 has left his brain at the door with that remark,as if such a system could be implemented with less than 4 months to go!!

Anonymous said...

Dave, if this were to be implemented, when would it come into force?

Dave H said...

I'd say it would be several years before/if it happened

Anonymous said...


Cutting the wc down to best of 11 just to accommodate 96 nobodies is quite possibly the worst idea anybody has ever posted on this blog. I wouldn't watch it out of principle. Please take your silly ideas back to snooker island.

Anonymous said...

Another example of how Barry does not realise the difference between Snooker and other sports. I can see a warped ranking list... even more warped than now if he refuses to increase the number of frames played.

Anonymous said...

4:19 AM


Anonymous said...

That idea would kill the game, players have already 'qualified' for later stages by showing consistency and earning a high ranking, so why should they have to qualify again? And if you look at Wimbledon, it's different as you say Dave as they get to televise everything with so many courts so many games can be played. I don't think this idea would work for snooker.

Witz78 said...

Of coure it could work for snooker but i wouldnt accomodate the last 128 and 64 at the venues also as it isnt practical.
Whether these 2 rounds are classed as qualifiers before a tourny or early rounds of a tourney, the fact is the goal for all players is the same. Win 7 games and you win the tournament. As for the 'tv stage' factor, well only a select few games early on could and would be shown, as in tennis. SWSA could become permanent home of qualifiers so fans could attend. Personally my mock tour calendar would look like this.
Mon- qualifiers for ranker1, last 128, 32 matches.
Tue- qualifiers for ranker1, last 128, 32 matches.
Wed - qualifiers for ranker 1, last 64, 32 matches.
Thu-Sat, qualifiers for ranker2, last 128 and 64.
Ranker 1
Ranker 2
Qualifiers for ranker 3 and 4.
Etc etc.
Its so simple a set up to adopt and so much fairer too, rankings will far more accurately reflect who deserves to be where. The PTC order of merit perfect example.

Rob said...

I see a lot of comparisons with tennis but that (actually, only men's tennis) is popular *now* because the top players - at least two if not three of which will go down as all time greats - are coming though week after week and contesting compelling, high quality semis and finals almost every tournament. It's the players that make this happen, not the format. Current women's tennis is dull by comparison because the unpredictability makes for less prestige and less drama, not more.

Snooker hasn't had a consistent dominant few to the extent of tennis's top four for a long time. It may never have because the nature of the game, unlike tennis, means that almost everyone on today's tour, on a good day, is capable of keeping even a great player in his seat.

PTC 11 had two top 10 players in the quarters, PTC 10 had one, and it's not as if the others were all fresh faced up-and-comers. Personally, I think a great line up is one which involves as many as possible of the top players in the world, young and old. We don't get that very often as it is - we'd get it less with a flat format.

kildare cueman said...

Theres only one way to find out. Try it. If it doesn't work reverse it.

Hearn is certainly not going to listen to our (the bloggers) opinion. Hes proved us wrong with everything so far.

Incidentally there is hardly any difference between the money list and the ranking list.

Anonymous said...

In Tennis the Masters series builds up to a masters final which only 8 players take part in. As I understand it these events carry ranking points even though they are only open to the very top players - surely something similar could be used to keep the WC in its current format but with the top 32 taken from the rankings. It would mean no qualifiers, and the end of the preliminary rounds (but seriously, what purpose is served by having a preliminary round for the likes of David Taylor / Less Dodd / David Gray)

I admit we are several years away from having enough tournaments to make the rankings list a proper reflection of the top 32 players, but even if the principle of 128 player tournaments with all players coming in at the first round does come to pass I see no reason why the WC couldn't be an exception.

tatannes said...

instead of looking at tennis, you'd better look at darts, of course.

WC scheduling may inspire BH for snooker.

Anonymous said...

Dave has Ali Carter stated yet whether he is definitely going to retire or not?

JIMO96 said...

1:59- the reason the money list and ranking list shows little difference is that they are so similarly weighted in favour of the seeded players(!) That's what Hearn is trying to get away from.

2:07-you may have hit on a great idea there! Use the WC in the same way as the PTC finals are at present.

2:34- speaking of darts, the BBC show the hugely inferior BDO "World" championship year after year, which contains precisely NONE of the sports big names.

tatannes said...

sorry, I was meaning the way players qualify for PDC World Champ'.

Anonymous said...

There are so many things wrong with the World Darts Champs I don't know where to begin - the fact there are 2 championships (at least the BBC have scaled back their coverage this year) the fact that former champions are given wild cards (Andy Fordham and Eric Bristow) - but worst of all is the drawn out format. The early rounds of the PDC Champs make some of the match-ups in the old World Series of snooker look credible, it remains a mystery to me why people pay to go to Alexandra Palace during the first 10 days.

The World Snooker Championship has nothing to learn from Darts. It is inevitable that the worlds will be played somewhere other than the Cruicible after 2014, but even though the existing format was an invention of BBC TV in the 1970s there is no need to mess with it - it suits the game's showpiece perfectly.

Anonymous said...

i dont see why we have to copy any other sports

were different. totally!

Anonymous said...

Not only change the World Championships early stages drasticly, but also shorten the semi-finals to best-of-seven and the final to a best-of-nine. It's what the elite top 128 will be used to by the year 2015, and it's what the public wants!

Anonymous said...

Oh, no , they don't!

Anonymous said...

oh yes they do!

panto season

Anonymous said...

kildare cueman

hearn has not proves anyone wrong regarding the UK it was only coincidental with the move to york why the UK Was succesfull not and NEVER EVER EVER will be thanks to crappy best of 11s.

Anonymous said...

@Rob, you are almost correct. The difference is, as you said, the nature of Snooker. That any player can keep any player in his seat, and a best of 9 just isn't good enough to get through that, let alone a best of 7.

However there is 1 way around this, at least to minimise the probability factor. Make the game harder. Either by shot clock tournaments, old type cloth, or both. Snooker today is plainly too easy for the professionals. Any player can win. And you will never see dominance again, especially not like Nadal - Fed - Sampras etc etc. It just doesn't happen in Snooker. There were 12 different PTC winners last year....

Anonymous said...

"Snooker today is plainly too easy for the professionals. Any player can win. And you will never see dominance again, especially not like Nadal - Fed - Sampras etc etc."

Fed for the masters.... init!!