Green light for snooker
Although it seems like football is the name of the game these days, snooker is ready to kick off a new season, an even busier season than the one that had its conclusion at the Crucible in May this year.
World Snooker Ltd. Chairman, Barry Hearn is ready to continue his “snooker revolution” in order to revive the cue sport that had its days of glory back in the 80s with a season that has more ranking events than ever and implies travelling all around the world.
Some very important changes have been made in certain tournaments’ structure, probably the biggest one being the Wuxi Classic, a snooker event that has its roots in China in the city of Wuxi, as the name itself suggests. The first edition of this tournament took place in 2008 under the name of Jiangsu Classic with local-boy-star Ding Junhui winning it after a tight 6-5 match against Mark Selby. Two years later the tournament changed its name into Wuxi Classic and until this year it was staged as a non-ranking one.
The change started with some very busy four days of qualifying rounds held at the World Snooker Academy from Sheffield in June, where the cue-masters tried to get a plane ticket to Wuxi to play in what is the first major ranking event of this season and that kicks off this week with Mark Selby as defending champion. But the changes don’t stop here and since China is such an important market for snooker, Hearn decided to stage no less than three Players Tour Championship events (PTC) this season.
The PTC events could be easily described as the first step to revive snooker, their implementation happening very shortly after Hearn’s arrival at World Snooker Ltd. The series consisted in 12 events partially held in the UK and partially on continental Europe (under the name of EPTC – European Players Tour Championship), thus trying to develop the interest for snooker also outside the UK’s borders.
However, this year their number has increased to 13, with three mini-tournaments being held in China (under the name of APTC – Asian Players Tour Championship), four in the UK and six on the European continent (Germany – two events, Poland, Belgium, Bulgaria and one more country whose names haven’t been revealed yet).
All the PTC events carry ranking points, although not as many as the major ranking tournaments and are a great opportunity for amateur players to meet and play against the heavy names in the snooker business, but also for the last named ones to test their endurance as they have to perform in at least three matches per day.
China will also be the home of snooker in November when a brand new ranking tournament will be “born” here under the name of International Championship, this practically being the country’s fifth snooker ranking event along with the Wuxi Classic, the Shanghai Masters, the Haikou World Open and the China Open, if we don’t count the three APTCs.
The travelling continues at the beginning of July (2th-7th) with the SangSom 6 Red World Championship from Thailand, but also with Bendigo’s Australian Goldfields Open (between 9th and 15th) where the second edition of this tournament is taking place with Stuart Bingham as defending champion.
The Premier League, or better to say snooker’s way of being played under pressure, will continue to travel high and low in the UK bringing the most successful snooker players in front of the cheering crowds, while the Shoot-Out tournament is bound to return in January 2013.
Still, there’s room for surprises on the calendar as we have two potential invitational events on the list, one at the end of September and one in October, while next year in March, a ranking event might just see the light of day.
But putting aside the calendar’s structure probably one of the biggest surprises with the start of the new season is the reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan’s absence from the tour. The Rocket is yet to take off as he clearly said on June 6th on a statement that reads: “I have decided not to enter any tournaments for the time being including this year’s Premier League and forthcoming WPBSA ranking events.”
“I have not signed the player’s contract as I feel the contract is too onerous and am in a stage of my career where I don’t wish to make this commitment.”
“I still want to play snooker and visit those places around the world such as China where snooker is enthusiastically received and adored.”
“I hope to remain involved in the sport in some way in the future.”
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) released a statement stating that until a player signs his new season contract he’s not eligible to play in any of the WPBSA tournaments.
O’Sullivan’s absence from the Premier League has been filled by John Higgins, the Scottish player entering as a wild card since he didn’t meet the condition for qualifying for this event, which is to win a ranking tournament in the previous season or the win the Championship League.
So, with the current world champion on a break, but at the same time, with a packed calendar, snooker is retaking its place in the sport world with the 2012/2013 season.