There will be five ranking tournaments in China next season, beginning with the Wuxi Classic, upgraded from invitation event status, in July.

A new Chinese ranking event in October will carry a top prize of £125,000. In addition, the Shanghai Masters, Haikou World Open and China Open will return.

Players unenthusiastic about travelling to China can of course opt out but it will cost them precious ranking points, not to mention the chance to win big money. As a snooker territory it is here to stay.

China first staged a ranking event in 1990 but it wasn’t until 1999 that it held another.

I was there. It was the China International in Shanghai and featured an all Scottish semi-final line-up.

Billy Snaddon beat Stephen Hendry in one semi but then lost to John Higgins, who beat Alan McManus in the other.

There had been forays to China long before this, some involving Barry Hearn’s Matchroom stable. One time Hearn had been savvy and invited the then WPBSA chairman Rex Williams along, which led to Rex turning up for a photo-shoot on the Great Wall resplendent in a posh cashmere coat.

When Barry reminded him the dress code was supposed to be casual, Rex responded, “dear boy, this is casual.”

Anyway, by 1999 there was clear interest and tournaments were staged again later that year, in 2000 in Shenzhen and back in Shanghai in 2002.

All went quiet as the WPBSA’s resources dwindled but by 2005 the China Open had been revived in Beijing.

This is possibly the best snooker event I have ever attended. It is hard to explain exactly why to those who weren’t there but everything about it was an eye-opener, from seeing the sights of Beijing itself to the snooker and the emergence of a new national hero in Ding Junhui.

That we are now at the stage where there will be five ranking events in China is down to Ding.

He turned 18 that week and was a revelation, beating Peter Ebdon and Ken Doherty in whitewashes before his 9-5 defeat of Stephen Hendry in the final.

It was an incredible triumph and the nation immediately took him to their hearts. More significantly, major companies started to see snooker as a sport they wished to become involved in.

Here in the UK it is still seen as something of a working class pursuit, hence it mainly attracts sponsors associated with perceived working class activities (smoking, drinking and gambling).

In China snooker is regarded as a bit of a cut above, an activity that appeals to the moneyed. Actually, the truth is that is has always been a game enjoyed by all different types of people but China’s image of snooker has led to serious investment and fully funded, underwritten ranking events.

The TV viewing figures are huge and growing the more they show. This is a genuine boom. I have been to a Star table factory in China which runs 24/7 to meet the demand.

Snooker clubs are full and more and more youngsters are taking to the game.

There seems to be something in the national make-up which makes snooker a sport the Chinese take to.

The new Welsh Open sponsor, to be announced soon, has apparently come about due to moves from the company's Chinese office, due to viewing figures for this tournament being so strong.

However, ordinary Chinese people do not earn fortunes and ticket prices for tournaments are high, so when you turn on Eurosport to watch the China Open the hall seems half empty and the assumption is understandably drawn than not many people in China like snooker.

I can assure you this isn’t the case. I’ve seen unlikely players chased down corridors for their autograph as if caught up in Beatlemania.

It’s a little different to schlepping past the swimming pool at the Newport Centre unnoticed.

Chinese tournaments traditionally start with a red carpet parade. The media go nuts when snooker hits town. And sponsors are clearly willing to invest big money for more and more events.

Not all players like this. I have sympathy with those who dislike travelling full stop. Not everyone enjoys flying but the British players should see how lucky they are: Chinese players have to leave their home country for most of the year to come and live in the UK, away from their families, to play qualifiers and PTCs. This is far more of a sacrifice.

I’m afraid there is also a degree of cultural ignorance. More than once I’ve heard a player complain that ‘nobody speaks English over there’ or that ‘the food is all different.’

Actually, in the hotels in which the players stay almost everyone speaks English and you can get just about any sort of food you like.

I once heard a group of hangers-on complaining that the beer in the official hotel was too expensive – as if the thought of going outside and experiencing the varied and remarkable sights on the streets of Beijing was just too much of an adventure.

A more justifiable complaint is the cost of actually getting to China for all these tournaments, although prize money for the Chinese events is on the rise.

The bottom line is this: snooker’s growth and sustainability depends on it becoming a properly global sport. There is money in China, and company bosses want to spend it on snooker.

The circuit remains predominantly British in terms of player representation but it can’t remain this way in terms of the spread of tournaments.

Not everyone in snooker is happy with the fact, but it remains true: there is a whole world out there, and China’s green baize bubble shows no sign of bursting just yet.


Sparky said...

There was a lot of fuzz last season about all the changes that were made to the World Open.

Amateurs could compete, including women. International players and junior players were especially invited. There was a 64-man draw, and matches were best-of-5 frames.

All this contributed into giving the tournament a "special" feel, and it deserved the name "World Open".

But this season, there is LITTLE or NO fuzz at all, about all the changes that have been made, namely turning it into a completely ordinary ranking tournament!

Why do they even bother to call it "World Open"? There is nothing special "worldy" about it.

And why is the reigning World Open Champion, Neil Robertson, not seeded no1? Well, because it's not "the same tournament" anymore. So again, why the name "World Open"?

wild said...

as long as other avenues are explored and not concentrating only on china then im happy.

Australia,Brazil and proberbly India shows Barry is spreading the net whitch im happy about.

Anonymous said...


Any idea of how next season's calendar is shaping up generally?


Witz78 said...

Good stuff to see these new tournaments confirmed, espec the 125k top prize one as ive long said the money on offer in China was paltry compared to the supposed massive interest there etc.
On the 'empty' arenas you allude to, yes this is always apparant so surely theyd be better having a full house at reduced admission? It seem to echo Brazil where the average man in the street is priced out of attending live snooker which is surely wrong.

Anonymous said...

Dave, any idea about where will the new event in October hell?

Anonymous said...

There seems to be something in the national make-up which makes snooker a sport the Chinese take to.

Probably the same thing that makes them want to eat their lunch with wooden sticks!

Anonymous said...

Oooh a tournament in China in October? I hope it's near my birthday. What a birthday treat that will be. :D

Anonymous said...

so next season that means so far:

10 major ranking events(World,UK,Welsh, 5x China, German, Australia)

PTC finals plus weekends (is this structure changing at all)

plus the Masters, Premier League, Shoot-Out etc.

is there any news yet on ranking points changes or how the tour expansion to 128 will work (I'm guessing that like the darts the qualifying school will have 30+ places available from it)

Stefan said...

Hi Dave,

do you have any information if this will result in an Asian Swing of multiple tournaments in China within a month? Seems to me to be the only way to incorporate 5 Chinese tournaments into the calender.

My first comment after 1 year of regular visits to your page.
Great page and keep up the good work

Stefan from Germany

Dave H said...

There doesn't seem to be an Asian swing as you describe. Scheduling of tournaments depends to a degree on TV companies. The calendar is I believe still taking shape.

Anonymous said...

The wildcards should be made up of local businessmen who pay for the privilege of competing on the big stage.
All other budding entries should play in the Q school to gain entry.

Anonymous said...

"There doesn't seem to be an Asian swing as you describe. Scheduling of tournaments depends to a degree on TV companies. The calendar is I believe still taking shape."

lets hope players wont be coming out with.

"im away from nappies too long"

Anonymous said...

Is the World Open keeping the old claret jug from the Grand Prix (or will Robbo get to keep it - along with the ship from the Bahrain tournament)?

Why do they bother with wildcards? If they really want an extra day's play(?) then just hold over some games from the qualifiers. I say that assuming the money for these tournaments will be ok (prize funds need to be £500k + so that decent money is being paid to last 48 losers as well as last 32).

Good news if the Welsh Open has a decent sponsor - the organisers (and BBC Wales) deserve credit for keeping it going through the lean years and it would be a real shame if it was to fall off the calender. The Newport Centre could help out though - I think the area used as the player's lounge overlooks the arena, and it seems crazy that they don't use it for hospitality. Secondly they could set up a separate ticket desk for the week (having to queue behind people paying for swimming doesn't make it feel like a world class event).

likahokeith said...

It seems that the format of Premier League will have been changed.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it would better to hold the qualifiers and the UK PTCs in China now. If they're going to have five major ranking events there as opposed to three in the UK it makes sense to base the tour there now, and travel to the UK for the tournaments here.

Anonymous said...

You refer to the Welsh Open sponsor to be announced soon. Do you not mean World Open Dave?

Anonymous said...

This is not great news if you are a Ronnie fan(atic)

Janie Watkins said...

and that's just China.

The markets in Europe, particularly countries like Poland, Germany, Bulgaria are growing very quickly.

Apart from the German Masters I guess they'll initially host in the (E)PTCs but I don't think it will be long before we see more full ranking events in the European territories also.

My tip for the quickest European growth country is Bulgaria - you read it here first!

Now I'm off to my Chinese Language Lessons!

Maja said...

I would have liked to place the World Open to different countries every year. But now it seems to become a second China Open. A wasted chance in my oppinion.

Trevorp said...

Was it not reported there would be 6 ranking events in china next season. Or is that it,will there be any more events announced in other countries ?

Anonymous said...

Very good article. Fascinating the game is viewed in a completely different cultural light.

Does anyone know if players get subsidised flights/hotels to China? I imagine it would be hard for someone who has qualified and doesn't earn that much, to have to stump up the best part of a grand to fly over. I guess the ranking points are as much as an incentive, but I'd be interested to know, particularly as there will be so many Asian tournaments next season.


Witz78 said...

Talking of tournaments next season, doesnt anyone else feel like the German Masters should be upgraded to a full weeks tournament instead of the 4 day affair it was last season.

I know its a massive arena, hence they have 5 tables on the go at once, but for me that just gives it the feel of a glorified PTC and im sure the fans cant really get into a match as such as there too busy looking all over the place at tables. Plus the main TV table (the best game) is the furthest away from the fans and lacks an atmosphere on the tv.

Itd make sense to just have 2 tables and played as a normal ranker, plus surely Hearns not daft enough to realise that 7 or 9 days income from 2,000+ paying punters is better than 4 days. Im sure the enthusiastic Germans would easily fill the arena for a week, given the interest theyve shown in PTCs too, even when theres lesser names playing.

Thomas said...

This announcement substantially adds status to the Snooker Tour. To minimise on travel costs I would look to introduce 'periods', as applied winter sports.

Clusters of three events together over consecutive weeks, with breaks in between these periods for non ranking tournaments, or qualifiers.

It makes finical sense to stay out there for three or four weeks rather than commuting back and forth.

Daniel said...

This is great news. With around half of 'proper' ranking tournaments now being in China, is there scope for regional Q Schools?

Growth in Asia and continental Europe is great, but these new markets could do with some of their own domestic professionals to follow. Germany especially.

I’d much rather follow the progress of Kacper Filipiak and Luca Brecel over whats-his-face British player #57 in the national pecking order, no matter how decent they are.

Anonymous said...

888? Did they not do any research into how big snooker was in China when they stopped sponsoring the worlds (The profile of the game in China surely cannot have changed that much in the last 3 years)?

Seriously though, this news calls into question some of the things that were said at the time about 888's decision to drop the worlds being nothing to do with the WPBSA. Amazing what a difference it makes having someone at the top who business people can do business with.

Anonymous said...


The sport is a predominantly British sport. It is what it is. I counted through the ranking list and 2 out of the top 16 were non UK or Ireland. 5 out of the top 50 and out of the full 128 I think I counted 18 non UK and Ireland players. Hence, let's recognise what it is. Let's serve the fans who love the game most which are here. Yes have events in China because they have a great following too. But it is what it is and play to your strengths. Don't waste time or resources trying to promote it where it's a waste of time.

Everyone said the World Open was a huge hit when it was in Glasgow around September 2010, good crowds, good format. What's the point of such good response then taking it elsewhere after that and not replacing it with a similar ranking event in central Scotland?

Anonymous said...

6:43 - at the very least WS should be able to put on a PTC in Scotland, but I'm not sure the BBC will ever go back to covering 5 tournaments which pretty much rules out the possibility of a BBC ranking event in Scotland

Anonymous said...

6.43pm good point. The game isn't a global game, certainly not in terms of it's players anyway. 90% of tour players come from the UK. All the qualifying takes place in the UK. China might have 50 odd million fans or whatever, but they are not what makes the game. It's the broadcasters, the players, and the fans in the UK that make the game. What they all want to see is ranking events in the UK. At the moment, it's a British sport on tour. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. The loyal fans in this country are being somewhat forgotton. Yes, encourage a worldwide sport. But don't be ashamed to say the UK is the home of snooker, because it is and it always will be. The game's administrators are from the UK. The UK is the sport's nerve centre.

The fans want to see ranking tournaments in the UK.

Anonymous said...

If you had it your way anon, the WSA would be staging snooker tournaments in Bognor along with the new James Bond film.

Anonymous said...

It's very sad to agree with yourself anon @ 6:43pm and 10:06pm and also a very closed minded point of view indeed.

Anonymous said...

Dave. In your article, you say that the soon to be announced sponsor of the Welsh Open "has apparently come about due to moves from the company's Chinese office, due to viewing figures for this tournament being so strong". Do you not mean the World Open?

Dave H said...

No I meant the Welsh Open - which is being sponsored by 888's Chinese gaming site

Anonymous said...

Snooker in Bognor? Ooh, yes, please!!

Anonymous said...

If you look at the world rankings only one Chinese player has made a true impact on the game - Ding Junhui. Out of a population of over a billion in China, that's *quite literally* one in a billion. Based on that stat, it's possible every country in the world has at least on Ding Junhui type player but he hasn't taken up the game.

In all honesty, it's possible, indeed extremely likely, Ding would have been a top player even if there were little investment in Chinese snooker and Chinese snooker events. Australia is hardly known for snooker events (!) and the country produced Neil Robertson which does prove that it's more about random chance than huge investment in overseas events that produces new foreign stars.

Anonymous said...

It's a flawed argument anon. Just as Higgins/Williams/O'Sullivan are really a product of the 80s snooker boom, Ding is a product of mid 90s snooker when the game was small fry in China. Just as the 80s produced the strongest generation of players, the true Chinese invasion will only begin when the youth players of the last 5/6 years start to emerge. Chinese players that were 10 in 2005 when Ding won the China Open and the game went big time will start to emerge in about five years when the first wave of the "Ding generation" start hitting their 20s. It's about a decade too early to gauge the depth of talent in China.