World Series: Levelling up the playing field?

During yesterday’s four quarter-final matches at the World Series event from Prague there were a total of 21 frames in which the local players scored an average of 12.6 points per frame. It makes me wonder whether the current format employed in the competition is really going to develop interest overseas and if not, what could be done to make the World Series weekends more appealing…

The World Series of Snooker has come a long way since its inaugural event in Jersey, securing a three-year sponsorship deal with and taking the sport to locations such as Warsaw, Berlin and the Algarve.

18 months on however and arguably one fundamental flaw remains – the day one mismatches as the main tour professionals are put up against local players and more often than not win comfortably. In fact since the World Series began there have been just three matches in which a professional has been defeated by a wildcard and there have been 16 ‘whitewashes’ where the local player has failed to get a frame on the board.

While I think that any initiative to take the game overseas as the World Series has done has to be a positive thing, to me this amount of one-sided matches does not seem to be the most effective way to sell the game to a new market. I may be wrong on that, it’s just how it appears to me.

It is a tough problem to resolve however as I can certainly see why the organisers would want to incorporate a local element to proceedings as not only does it give the supporters somebody to get behind and support, but also it gives the players concerned some experience against the very best in the world. When they are being regularly beaten 5-0 however, it makes me question how valuable that experience really is.


So how could the problem be resolved?

The one that has already been trialled is having fewer reds on the table, either six or as has been the case in Prague this weekend, 10. The theory here being that there is less to do for a player to win a frame so if they can get in first with a good scoring opportunity, there is more chance that they will be able to leave their opponent needing snookers.

If this week is anything to go by however then playing with ten reds does not seem to be much of  a leveller, while even with six it has been the professionals who have still been able to win. There is also the possible criticism that promoting a six-red version is not really what we should be looking to do when it is the fifteen red version that has proved so popular in the UK over the years.

Another alternative is of course to simply remove the local element and take over eight professionals to contest each of the eight events. There are obvious pros and cons to this avenue but in reality it is something of a non-starter as showcasing the talents of the European (and beyond), players is a big part of what the World Series is all about!

One more feasible option is to give the professional players a handicap, perhaps by giving their more inexperienced opponents a 30 point headstart in frames. Not only would this give the pros more work to do but it would also leave the local players with less balls to pot in order to get over the winning line. Alternatively they could give them a frame advantage but in many ways this would be merely delaying the inevitable.

Or instead could there be some form of round robin stage? Perhaps two groups of four with best of three frame matches between the players involved. This would not only open up the opportunity for more matches, but it would guarantee that each of the local players involved would have a competitive match against someone of a similar standard and have a real chance of winning in front of the TV cameras. In addition they would only have to win two frames to win a match, rather than the four or five in a longer frame match.


Ultimately it is a tough problem to resolve as the local players are simply not as strong as their professional counterparts so there is only so much that can be done to level up the playing field. Personally I do think the current situation is not ideal however and would like to see something done to try and make the opening day in particular more of a spectacle.

As many readers over here at PSB are from outside the UK I would be very interested to hear your opinions on the subject and whether there really is a problem. Do you like the system as it is? Do you feel that there should be a handicap or fewer reds on the table?

All opinions welcome…