Report: BBC Drops World Open

Not surprising news but according to Kevin over at and indeed Clive Everton in the Guardian, the BBC have decided to drop the World Open for next season and will instead cover just the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship…

Click here to view the thread at TSF and here to view the article at the Guardian.

I say not surprising because it has been an open secret for some time that whilst the BBC have been happy with what tournaments such as the ‘big three’ have brought to the table, the fourth event, formerly the Grand Prix has lacked a unique selling point to set it apart from the rest of the events on the calendar.

The first attempt to change this came back in 2006 when the format was altered with the introduction of the infamous round robins. Unfortunately these proved both confusing for the players and spectators alike and caused something of a stir with the betting community as there were suspicions that not every player was giving 100% in every match, intentionally or otherwise.

After two years this concept was ditched, replaced by a more familiar best of nines format, with the added twist of a random ‘FA Cup’ style draw. Again this was not popular with all, a common criticism being that it was unfair on the top players due to the fact that they could potentially draw each other early in tournaments (see Higgins v O’Sullivan last year), although personally I did quite like the format and felt that it did offer something different from the norm.

Others however did not and with rumours circulating that the Grand Prix would be axed from the BBC schedules at the end of the current contract, Barry Hearn took the decision to radically alter the tournament, rebranding it as the World Open and reducing matches to the best of five frames as well as giving amateurs from across the globe the chance to qualify for the TV stages.

Not only was this seen an attempt to try and win over the BBC, but it was also the chance to put this new form of snooker into the shop window so to speak, show the other potential broadcasters what snooker has to offer going into 2011 and beyond.

With the BBC seemingly not planning to continue with the event therefore, the second part of that sentence now becomes all the more pertinent, who would be interested in picking up the torch and running with it?

The obvious choice would be Sky, a broadcaster that has a strong association with Barry Hearn and would be well suited to the short and snappy format adopted by the World Open this season. Or how about ITV4? A channel that has become increasingly involved with sport over the last couple of years, not least darts as evidenced by the success story that has been the Grand Slam of Darts tournament.

The other suggestion, as made by Janie Watkins over on TSF is that the event may move overseas and be covered by Eurosport as a result, something that I seem to remember was envisaged some time ago, when the World Open format was first announced.

Hopefully another broadcaster, whoever it may be, will have seen something that they liked during this season’s tournament and will want to take it on. In fact I would be very surprised if this were not the case. The format was not my favourite but there were a number of fans on forums and suchlike who did enjoy the format and as Barry Hearn has stressed from day one, it is important for each tournament to be unique and have its own sense of identity, something that the World Open had without doubt.