balls

Pocket Money: Is Snooker Sustainable For All?

Since the return of Barry Hearn to the professional game there have been a number of positive changes implemented, but one issue that has perhaps gone unnoticed are the continued financial difficulties faced by those lower down the rankings. As a result I thought that it would make interesting reading to take an independent look at that in more detail…

Introduction

With prize money up from £3.5m to around £6m little over a year after the arrival of Barry Hearn and the amount of tournaments having increased significantly in comparison to the old days, there can be little doubt that those who are successful at the top of the game now have the opportunity to earn the levels of prize money that their talents deserve.

There are however 99 professionals on the tour at present in addition to at least as many amateur players hoping to make the step up through competing during the PTC events and from talking to various people in the game over the last few months it has
become evident to me that financing this is far from easy for those lower down the rankings.

As a result I recently decided to have a chat with some people in the know to give me an idea as to how expensive it is to compete on the tour and get a feel for just how tough it is for players from an independent point of view.

In order to do so I am going to consider the PTC series followed by the recent Australian before looking at a season overall in an attempt to draw some conclusions on the matter.

The Players Tour Championship

As everyone knows, the PTC series has already in the space of one year become an integral part of the snooker season, not just for the professionals but also the amateurs in 2011/12 following the decision to give them a route onto the main tour through the series if they can finish inside the top eight on the Order of Merit excluding those ranked inside the top 64 on the main two-year ranking list.

In terms of importance then it has now become clear (if it was not already), that it is absolutely crucial for almost all of the  professionals to enter each event else suffer the consequences in terms of their ranking. For some this may be that they drop down a tier and have to come through an extra qualifier in order to make the venues but for many others this could well be the difference between survival or relegation from the main tour.

For those players without other commitments, players with sponsors and so on, the PTC is excellent match practice and a chance to knuckle down and work their way up the rankings ahead of the majors. For those with full-time jobs, children and few sponsors however, there is real pressure on them to win each and every match in order to cover their costs, let alone make a profit.

Why is this?

The domestic PTC events are relatively affordable with an entry fee of £100 per event together with travel fees to either Sheffield or Gloucester depending on where they live (say something ranging between £30-£100 for petrol, ferry or flight costs), and another £50-£150 for a hotel depending on how many nights they stay in the competition for as well as the costs of food and drink.

Add on a 2.5% World Snooker levy on prize money and for most you are probably looking at total costs ranging from something like £250-£400 per event for your average player.

On the face of it this is not too bad for the professionals as with £200 available for one win this will cover a portion of their costs while the £600 on offer for two wins does present the opportunity to make a bit of money if the results are there.

It is not so easy for the amateurs this season however as with the huge upturn in entries due to the pro places on offer, some will have to win two, some even three pre-qualifying matches to even get to this stage. Taking into account the extra days they will have to stay in a hotel for in order to play these matches, it is probably fair to say that some have to win five matches to even make a profit.

Certainly they must win that amount of matches to earn money on the Order of Merit and put themselves into the race for those elusive tour spots.

The European PTC events are where the issue is really brought home though because as well as the £100 entry fee, hotel costs and 2.5% World Snooker levy, the players also have to pay for their own flights which can range from £100-£250 depending on where the event in question is being staged, as well as other potential costs such as luggage space for their cues, airport parking and even the petrol to get to the airport which may come to another £50-£100.

Less obvious is the fact that while the prize money for the overseas events is paid in euros, all of the entry fees are actually paid in sterling which while not something that will make a huge difference, over the course of a season with money hard to come by all mounts up. Furthermore European taxes are also deducted from prize money up front.

On this basis then from what I understand then players will not be getting much change from £500 when it comes to the costs of competing in those events which means that they effectively have to reach the last 16 stage if they are to be profitable.

Again for the higher ranked professionals this is a relatively small price to pay but for those outside of the top 32 and particularly the amateurs, you can easily see how the costs soon become prohibitive with twelve PTCs on the calendar, six being overseas.

Full Ranking Events – Australia

While that covers the PTC events, what is the situation when it comes to a tournament such as the new Australian Goldfields Open event?

With a prize of $7,500 Australian dollars on offer for those losing at the last 32 stage, this converts to approximately £4,900, at first glance a fairly reasonable sum. Looking more closely however, when taking into account a reported Australian tax on prize money of 46% as well as flight costs of £1,000-£1,500, those losing in the last 32 stage are in real terms not going to receive half of that amount.

Furthermore for the qualifiers there are also the costs of funding travel plus accommodation for however many days they have had to spend in Sheffield, as well as their entry fees of course, let’s say that comes to another £250. On the other hand though it should be pointed out that their accommodation in Australia has been paid for.

Another important point about this particular event is that as was the case at the German Masters, there is no prize money on offer at all until the last 48 stage, eg the final qualifying round which is a stage later than is normally the case. Presumably a decision taken in order to raise the prize fund available for those making the trip to Australia, it does not quite seem right that someone seeded as high as 33rd should not receive prize money, even if the reasoning has a certain logic to it.

With the prize fund moving up a small step to $10,000 at the last 16, in order to make the trip seriously profitable then realistically a quarter-final place is required, something that only eight of the 32 players can achieve.

So what does all this mean?

While the above figures are ballpark figures only and will differ from player to player, over the course of the season then it is fair to say that while prize money has increased, so too have the expenses and not by an insignificant amount with the amount of PTC events that players simply have to enter if they have any ambition of moving up the rankings.

On the figures detailed above it is not unrealistic that expenses on the PTC events alone could come to around £5,000-£6,000 which you can probably double when taking into account the remaining major events, depending on how many are entered and geographically where a player is situated relative to airports and qualification venues.

For those inside the top 16 and perhaps even the top 32 then while a lot of money, barring a disastrous season it is probably fair to assume that the majority will be able to handle such costs and come out with a profit at the end of it, particularly with a good run at the Crucible or the Masters.

Beyond these ranking tiers however it is a different ball game. One relatively highly ranked player recently told me that during the last season he earned approximately £15,000 after expenses which in the grand scheme of things is hardly a fortune and not what you would expect for a professional sportsman.

With prize money limited to the top 64 in the majority of full-ranking events, the top 48 in some such as Australia and the German Masters last season, it is apparent that it is a tough school for those in the bottom half of the rankings. Rumours are abound that various players are having to take out loans in order to fund tournaments and it would appear in the case of Igor Figueiredo that a lack of finance has played a part in his decision not to enter all of the events this season.

Effectively players are now in a situation where they are choosing to ‘buy’ both experience and ranking points.

Is this fair?

Since being handed the reins of World Snooker in June 2010 Barry Hearn has maintained that he wants snooker to reward achievement and in the context of the new Q School avoid a ‘circuit for mediocrity’ which has to be a good attitude to take. All competitive sport should reward success and those who win tournaments should be the ones to benefit the most.

It is also clear to see now that if players are good enough there is a real opportunity to rise up the rankings by virtue of the increased calendar and the mid-season ranking changes which more accurately reward current form than in the past. While expenses were lower previously, the opportunities for players to earn the money back in order to pay for these were also far fewer beforehand so I would certainly agree with the majority that snooker is in a better state than it has been recently.

In addition to the ranking events there are also invitational tournaments such as the Premier League, Championship League, Sky Shoot Out and more which allow the players to top up their income if they are good enough and again demonstrates that the opportunities are there.

That said however, at the same time that does not mean that the situation is yet perfect. In an ideal world I would like to see a situation where all 96 main tour players are paid something in the major events, even if in the case of first-round losers it is just enough to cover their costs.

Indeed, the subject of expenses was one that quickly came up back in March when I interviewed Stuart Pettman ahead of the release of his book and asked him what his view was in terms of the direction that snooker is heading in:

“Personally I’d say that for the people who go to Q School or those who are thinking of doing that, they know that if they qualified for the main tour, they probably have to come up with £10,000 in expenses, that might be a bit on the high side but it won’t be
far off that.

Now if they want to be earning a living in the game then they are going to have to be earning £30,000-£40,000 which is very, very hard as the game today is of a ridiculously high standard. For an amateur to come onto the tour and earn that kind of money is not likely to happen so I think that the money situation in the lower ranks of the game is fairly poor. I think it’s geared up to an extent so that the money is for the top 32 to make a good living. I think that’s the problem, if I could change anything then that would be it.”

In reality the money simply isn’t there for the players all the way down to 99 to receive a healthy amount right now and understandably for the promoters it is the headline top prizes that will grab the headlines, not those distributed lower down.

Still, as referred to previously, it does not seem right that at some events prize money is not awarded until the final qualifying round. While rewarding achievement is what it is all about, I would argue that for a tour newcomer for example to win two matches in qualifying against experienced opponents is an achievement that should be rewarded financially

What about the PTC events? While it is great for the game to have more events, is there anyway that these could be better structured financially? Two possibilities spring to mind.

The first option on the face of it would be to simply reduce the amount of individual events, whilst increasing the prize money which would not only mean that the players are fighting for more money, but will also see their expenses reduced. The obvious downside is that this would fly in the face of the desire to expand the game globally and to stage more events, while for the governing body there is no reason to do this as they are currently making money from the PTC as a result of the entry fees that they are receiving. It could however be of great assistance to those trying to make a living in the game.

A second option would be to keep the amount of events as it is, but to create a ‘best of’ format similar to that used in tennis and previously in snooker in the old PIOS which would mean that players could opt out of certain events should they wish to without being penalised heavily in the rankings. While this would make updating my projected seedings page a minefield, I think that there would be some merit in this.

Perhaps a further idea would be to spread the levels of prize money available out for the qualifiers more evenly while increasing the gap between the last 48 and the last 32 to provide a greater reward for those making it to the venues. For example what of a system by which the last 80 receive £400, the last 64 £500, the last 48 £600 and then a major step up to say £5,000 for last 32? This would effectively provide all professionals with almost a minimum wage, but would of course disadvantage those ranked just outside the top 16 if they were to make fewer venues.

In the context of the amateurs the situation is particularly tough because not only may they have to win four or five matches against strong opposition in order to make their money back, but of course they also face the prospect of having to find £1,000 in order to enter the season-ending Q School with no prospect of prize money at the end of it.

This does beg the question of what happens to those Q School entry fees. Could a portion of that income should be directly invested back into increasing the prize fund for those outside of the top 32?

Again Stuart Pettman raised this question during our chat previously:

“Take a look at the Q School, why can’t they give the players who get through £5,000, something that they are guaranteed because they are one of the best players in the world, they deserve something for their efforts which would take a bit of the pressure off and give them more incentive to get on the tour as well. If they (World Snooker) are getting £128,000 in entry fees then they could use that money for the people who qualify, help them on their way, that’s my view on it.”

Final Thoughts

So then while I am sure that there are things that I have missed out, hopefully this article has shed a little light on the difficulties faced by those hoping to make their way up the rankings, indeed even those hoping to get onto the tour and serves to create a bit of debate on the subject.

Obviously there is only so far that we can speculate from the outside and I must stress that I am looking at this from an independent fan/blogger point of view which I think is important.

Generally speaking I would say that despite the increased costs, the sport is now in a better position than it was a couple of years ago and with more and more tournaments springing up, while in the short-term these are probably for the benefit of those at the top of the game, hopefully it will work to everyone’s advantage in the longer term.

That said however, the costs for those further down are clearly not to be underestimated and given the pressure involved both on and off the table, it remains to be seen whether all of the current tour players will make it to the end of the season and whether the later PTCs are as well supported entry-wise as the earlier ones.

There is an argument to state that if players are good enough then they will win enough matches in order to cover their costs and climb up the rankings and I do agree that those at the top should be those to receive the biggest rewards from the game.

Despite that however in an ideal world the sport should be sustainable for those at all levels and at the moment judging by some of the figures above that is not quite the case at the moment. At any time in any sport there are always going to be players at different stages in their career and of different levels of ability and I would argue that all are needed. That is just the natural way of sport and all bring something to the game in their own way.

With the rising costs however, it seems inevitable that some will find themselves priced out of the sport as time progresses which would be a shame to see.

 

  • Monique

    Thanks Matt for this article. I’m glad you did it because maybe people will listen to you… I’ve basically been saying this for about 9 months and only got stick for it.
    You can’t build a global sport if only less than 50 sportsperson can make a decent living out of it and that’s basically what the situation is now.
    The PTC order of merit – and the ranking points awarded for them – should be based on “best n of the twelve” (n to be determined, but for me 3 is good enough) without any constraints on location. If BH want to promote the European ones he then will have to make sure they are made attractive to the player financially, which would only be fair. And the PTC grand Final, like the Masters should be prestigious but non ranking.
    Also there is not need – yet – to scatter ranking events all over the planet. Ranking events are more costly to organise than invitationals and don’t necessarily produce better quality snooker because players are under more pressure. If you look back in the early 90th there were a lot more invitational events, and they had prestige, and that’s in my views the way to go. Invitationals don’t need to mean “top 16”. You could think about a “youth” event promoting the under-25 (for instance), “national” events focussing on the local aces and involving the local grass root structures… let’s be imaginative.
    People will tell me sport is all about competition. Well first my opinion is that snooker is more of a game than a sport; But, even if you forget that wicked opinion, no sport can survive if it hasn’t a proper base of exponents (and no sport will have it if those exponents can’t live from their sport), is attractive to the young and their parents (and again which parent will push their kid towards a career that will not allow them ti live decently) and gives the paying audience entertainment and emotions.

    • Cab

      So you basically want to destroy the PTC events and reduce the ranking events as well? I don’t see how that can be beneficial for any of the players. Because let’s face it, making PTC’s best 3 of 12 would drastically reduce the number of top pros playing them, which would in turn reduce sponsors (and you could probably forget about the TV coverage of the PTC’s as well).
      And for the invitational events to be prestigious, the top pros really need to be in them. Just think of the australian event being a “national” event, I don’t think there would have been that much prestige in it.
      I personally enjoy events where there is pressure on the players, makes it more exiting to watch. I don’t need to see a clearance every time a player walks up to the table. And if the players aren’t under pressure and don’t really care, why should the audience? So invitational events lead to less “entertainment and emotions”, atleast I personally don’t find them anywhere near as interesting as ranking events, except for the masters.
      All in all, your suggestions would lead us back up the way things were, having 6 ranking events a year. Sure, that would mean less expenses for the players, but also a lot less opportunities for those who have the abilities to rise up the rankings and make some money.

  • snooky147

    Yes, Thank you Matt for this article. There has been suspiciously little made of the Fact that this is the first year in Ranking events where players have to pay their own way. I also agree that there should be a ‘best of’ system as in tennis in order that the players can have some sort of choice whether to enter all events or indeed have a rest. I know you will get the detractors saying that they wanted more snooker and now they have it, but at what cost?. And I mean that both financially and the emotional cost of being away from family for so long. There is lots to be discussed on this subject I feel.

  • Tatannes

    Thanks Matt for this interesting article.

    If this article occurs, it’s because we care about players outside Top16 & it’s good that pro snooker is based on more than the Top16.

    Some compare with tennis.
    In tennis, there are lots of minor events where players outside Top 50 or Top 100 can win some money and ranking points.

    the real problem is to play and win matches & not receive any prize money.

    More & more people are interested in watching snooker worldwide.
    Perhaps WS should think of a good TV coverage for qualifiers & PTC events.
    Might bring back some money for them & a little for players too.

    If snooker interests more people, someone may create another structure with more money involved…

  • kildare cueman

    Some time ago I advocated on Daves blog that Q school qualifiers should be given 5 or 10K to help with their expenses.
    I also said at the time that the Sheffield PTC events should have their ranking points reduced and even played simultaneously with invitational events. This would enable the top pros, who, lets face it, don’t like playing in them, to miss them without losing a lot of points and would also have the effect of spreading the money down the list a bit.
    My third suggestion was to introduce a rule whereby new pros are guaranteed two years on the tour before being relegated. This, along with the 5 or 10K expenses, would relieve rookies of a lot of pressure and allow them to play their natural game.
    The Q school is the greatest racket ever though. 1000 pounds for the chance to join the tour? Any profits from Q school after expenses should be directed back to new pros, either through direct grants or tournaments for players ranked 65-96. It is their money and would otherwise have been distributed in prizemoney anyway.

  • Mark

    I don’t understand the 2.5 % levy. Why don’t World snooker just reduce the prize money by 2.5 % to begin with?

  • http://www.snookerisland.com Sonny

    Great read Matt and you put a lot of things into perspective. It’s ridiculous that a player has to earn £30-40,000 in prize money in order to scrape a living out of the game to pay for a mortgage and other life costs. If you take tax and expenses off that total it’s a pretty meagre amount to survive on by most people’s standards let alone a top sportsman. And as we know to win that amount is the equivalent of winning a standard ranking event and the standard is too high for that to be straight forward no matter how naturally ability you have. You have to be bloody good in order to take that amount of prize money from the game over a season.

    I think choosing your best n results from the PTCs is something that’s been suggested many times before but I believe there are more downsides aside from working out provisional rankings. I would go for a minimum 3 or 4 of both PTC and EPTC to give a total of 6 or 8 out of 12 events to count towards ranking, but then a weakened field for the furthest event would not help the promoters of that event and thus could impact on future prize money which would ironically defeat the object. How it is now guarantees a strong field.

    What is clearly wrong in my view is the fact that some amateur players are forced to play through 3 qualifying games and then face a tour player who they would have to beat in order to get their entry fee back. This doesn’t take into account as you say the extra days they have to spend on hotels and food at the venue. I would like to see the PTC prize money more fairly spread out to factor this in, or at least give amateurs the opportunity to win something back for winning a few matches.

    The lesson for youngsters thinking about becoming a snooker player is this: finish school, get your qualifications and have something to fall back on.

    To Monique – of course snooker needs to be spread globally, look at the Australian Open for proof of that. And it is a SPORT NOT A GAME!!!! Ranking points, money and pressure are what competitive snooker should always be about.

  • edd

    monique

    how are you going to increase the price fund in these events if top players can pick and choose to play in them ??

    money do not fall from trees you got to show sponsors that putting money in events is worth while that means they want as many top players playing as possible for that to be viable investment for them its all very well and good say pick 3 out of 12 but if every pro picks the same 3 where does that leave the others ??

    in a ideal world your idea is right but snooker is far from being in a ideal situation after years of driving it to the wall.

  • Claus Christensen

    We just have to hope snooker will get more coverage and make sponsorships more attractive. Imagine if only 50 football players in the world could make a living…. It is pure madness but in snooker the players who are well off could fit in a bus. I totally agree that excellence should be rewarded but the fees players have to pay could certainly be distributed in a way that makes the expenses seem a bit more tolerable.

    The case at the moment with the PTCs still being just numbers on a screen with absolutely zero coverage from the mainstream media and still no television coverage it is, to me, just a way to keep the motor running until actual events can be created. As a snooker fan the PTCs are of no interests and apparently the players, while having an opportunity to play, are economically drained.

    It is definitely an issue that needs to be raised as the healthy state of the sport should also reflect a healthy number of professionals earning a decent living.

    To be continued…..hopefully.

  • Monique

    I said I expressed an opinion and my opinion is that snooker is a game more than a sport. That’s my view and I used the word opinion on purpose. Others see it differently, fair enough.
    When was the golden age of snooker audience wise? when did it boom? How many ranking events did you have back then? It’s easy to forget that the UK Championship only became ranking in the 1984/85 season and it’s the second bigger event on the calendar.
    I think that 8 ranking events a year is more than enough. However I would like to see a revival of the Scottish and Irish Masters as well as a non ranking European Masters for instance.
    I’m not one who believes that you get the best out of people under duress. Not in any job and this is a job for the pros, whether you want it or not. Making them play in events with very low prize money, rather poor conditions (in the EPTCS), extremely shambolic schedule, next to no media coverage and no or poor audience – that’s what PTCS were for most of them last season – will never get the best out of the players and that is doing the game no favour. I know what I’ve seen with my own eyes in two of those competitions.
    PTCs are a great opportunity to play but they have to be organised in such a way that players want to play in them, not that they are forced to play in them because and only because of the ranking pressure. I’d rather have less of them, with better conditions and better money – especially abroad.
    I do know that it has to start somewhere. I’m not asking to go back to the previous situation. But I think that some developments have been pushed out too fast without the proper resources to make the most of them. That’s my main complaint.
    It’s not a case of wanting to reward mediocrity. It’s a case of wanting a big enough field of exponents who make a good enough living out of the sport so that it can go bigger and be seen as attractive to the parents and relatives of the kids with talent and love for the game.
    Involving the amateurs is really a great idea. But then again you can’t expect this to work if it costs them a lot, and in addition, they have to take days out of work/school to do it. Again it comes down to resources.
    Also I’d like to put another point forward. Sponsoring. One way for the players to be able to face their expenses is to be supported by sponsors. Well currently, from my own experience, it’s extremely difficult for the players to get sponsored for some abroad events. Just remember how many top players didn’t have a logo in the German Masters despite the prestigious venue, the huge crowd and the television covering. So you can imagine how it is for the low ranked players in EPTCs.
    People can’t give what they don’t have, players can’t face expenses, not for long anyway, when they don’t earn enough out of the game. It has to change or it will kill it. How? That’s not an easy one; I’ll certainly not claim that I detain a solution. But maybe taking a more progressive and cautious approach to expansion of the game is part of it.

  • tazmania

    I do believe with the general belief that the Q-School money should be used to pay at least 2.5k for each player.

    But I Raise this point before Hearn Era, the players all had the power with the WPBSA (Pretty much a players union), why couldn’t they try to fix the cost problem then?

    As for having invitations than the PTC will play into the hands of the Top 16 which is against what this point is about, until we can get more sponsors I think this may be the only option.

  • matt2745

    Some interesting thoughts, some I agree with, some I don’t. I think it proves that it is something of a talking point though, if a less obvious one at the moment given all the good things happening in the game.

  • http://snooker147blog.com snooker147blog

    Great article, Matt 😉

    How about exhibition games? I know pros charge around £1000, how many of these do they get per year? If they have more TV exposure, I sense they’ll have more chances to play these exhibitions.

    It’s not very common in Spain, maybe you have antoher point of view…

  • http://snookerbacker.com snookerbacker

    It’s an expensive business being a pro and without backing I don’t know how some of them survive. From my own perspective trying to get an amateur tournament off the ground, it was an eye-opener to me how many promising players lack the ambition to be a professional because of the perceived expense involved and that can’t be good for the game. It has basically forced me to offer a cash prize alternative to he original Q-School Entry prize.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving the Q-School winners £5k each in the grand scheme of things.

    In terms of the PTC’s I also agree that these are currently heavily weighted against amateurs and are giving them a false hope of making pro through that route. I suspect numbers for the next batch of PTC’s will be down on the first four as some realise this. But the good news is that the situation can be rectified fairly easily with a little tweaking and is still very new.

    The overall premise of rewarding the best players the most is of course what sport is all about and rightly so, but a level playing field to start with is also something that should be an overriding principal in any sport.

    Notice I use Sport not Game!

  • http://snookerbacker.com snookerbacker

    Monique said ‘I’m not one who believes that you get the best out of people under duress’

    I 100% agree with this and if this is how the players are approaching the PTC’s in significant numbers then that’s not good. I’d hope that this isn’t a strategy and is rather a consequence of the volume of entries that can be rectified by better organisation.

  • edd

    guys when Barry Hearn took over he had to make cost cutting decisions so that the sport has a future at all due to some dodgy decisions by the former regime.

    hence using the Academy in sheffield for qualifiers and playing PTC.

    one of the major decision to have barry hearn in was players was fed up of twiddling their thumbs doing virtually nothing.

    the PTC was set up to give them something to do if they want to do it but following the farce of the previous regime challenge series where nobody much turned up he added ranking points to the mix so the PTC has a chance to survive and grow.

    now there’s complaints about it yes its expensive to go to them but unless players support them now they will not grow and get bigger and reward better.

    its not a charity.

    sorry harsh but true

  • http://twohundredpercent.net Rob

    The biggest problem is that all these changes happened too soon, and Hearn gave the players gave the players the option of voting for him and his ideas, or against them, and while some of the ideas have been good (although, apart from the flawed Q School, I’m failing to think of one off-hand), and we’ve ended up with a lot of things that are unpopular with the players:
    * no prize money, not even covering expenses, unless you reach the last 64/48
    * The PTCs
    * The dynamic ranking scheme
    * Certain formats being shortened to the point of ridiculousness (World Open)
    * Loss of the maximum break prize

    I don’t understand why the 99 professionals on the Tour have to pay entry fees for each tournament? Surely it would also make more sense for WS to make all the travel and accommodation arrangements for the players, and (getting discounts for bulk, repeated orders as a result) – and take these costs from the prize money instead. Otherwise the Tour starts excluding those players that cannot afford to play on it. After all, these players are supposed to have earned their place on the Tour, haven’t they? It should always be more beneficial for someone to be on the Tour, than not, but I bet Vincent Muldoon is probably glad right now that he did lose the European Amateur final

    I realise Barry says that he doesn’t want to reward mediocrity, but not rewarding the winners of two Tour newcomers if they can’t subsequently beat an Alan McManus or a Jimmy White is a measure too far. Especially when Barry then rewards James Wattana (whose ranking started and ended the season at 67) with a wildcard. With all major ranking tournament qualifiers being based in England, it means to compete, you either have to from the UK, or have good sponsors. So, we have a player like Igor Figuereido given a Wildcard, so that Barry can build the sport in Brazil, only it appears that before the first tournament over there, that Igor’s disappeared off the Tour, becaus he can’t afford it. Yet one of the main selling points of the Q School was that you didn’t need to be UK based to qualify for the tour, as it was a sixteen day set of events replacing the 10 month slog of the PIOS. Asking players to stump up £1000, then not paying them any prize money whatsoever unless they win two qualifiying matches in a row just seems to make the system based on how much money you can access, rather than how good you are. The last thing we need is for a young player to have to get a second job in order to fund a season on the Tour, because they then lose vital practice time. We see Eden Sharav beat two pros, including Liang Wenbo at the first PTC, yet he’s not entered PTC2, and he wasn’t at the Q School. He seems a promising talent, but does he have the funds to be able to enter the sport, regardless of how talented he may be? He’s not going to get much sponsorship, while the PTCs aren’t televised.

    The Q School costs and the PTC entry fees do feel like a bit of a con for amateur players. Only 6% of the PTC money last season went to amateurs, but with the professional realising that they need to enter most if not all, an the professional take up increasing, that figure is going to drop. Amateurs paid over £200k in entry fees last season, yet only £37,100 was paid out to them in prize money. It seems like the amateurs are funding the top professionals.

    Monique has a point in that there are two many Tournaments. Jumping from 6 to 20 professional ranking Tournaments (with seemingly nothing dropping off) was too much too soon. Replacing the 8 PIOS tournaments with 12 PTCs and the Q School was too. New major tournaments like the German Masters and the Australian Open are always welcomed – as major tournaments always should be, but the PTC needs major revising.

    What exactly is the point of the PTC? It’s not to get money for the players. Taking Matt’s figures, it costs £5k to enter all 12 PTCs, yet only 40 players made that much back. Barry Hawkins played in all 12, made money in 11, but only made around £2400 profit, which is £200 an event. Not exactly a waste of time, but he was 27th in the Order of Merit. It’s not for the fans, because apart from a handful of seats at the European PTCs, fans aren’t allowed in, and there’s no TV coverage. It’s not even for Barry’s coffers, as Barry paid out almost £600k in prize money for the PTCs, yet they received less than £200k in entry fees.

    The PTCs are seemingly only useful to the majority of players because competitive games are better then practice, and give players the extra Tournaments they wanted, but they should have fewer Tournaments, and have organised TV coverage on Eurosport (even ESPN, if they have space in their schedules, so that the players can get sponsorship to cover their costs), and use it to expand into areas where Snooker is popular, at small venues, so that people can attend. Have one in each European country where there is a professional based, where there isn’t already a ranking Tournament: Belgium, Finland, Malta, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Republic of Ireland and Scotland (if the World Open has moved). Eight PTCs instead of 12. Don’t have a PTC finals – that way they be spread across the season, instead of starting in June, and having them all in the first two cutoff periods – have two PTCs in each.cutoff. If you do have a PTC final, announce it ahead of time – don’t do what WS did last season, and announcing the final in Dublin once all the Irish players, the world number one, and Ronnie O’ Sullivan have been knocked out.

    But most importantly, like I said at the top – these players have earned their way onto the tour – pay their expenses and reduce the prize money. Keeping players like Igor, Luca Brecel and Kacper Filipak as pros is a lot more important than having three more UK based players, because no disrespect to Simon Bedford and Adam Wicheard (picked because they are the lowest ranked UK players), but they aren’t likely to help expand the game in new countries (which is where the future money of the sport will come from).

  • Mayur on Snooker

    This is a great article! I wonder though, if they can’t seem to get enough funding, why don’t they charge for video streams of the snooker matches? The web is where the future of the sport can make a living and if they would only open their eyes and realize that more than 100 million people play snooker in China, they could start to charge for streaming and viewing of matches and that could create additional revenue.

  • http://twohundredpercent.net Rob

    “But I Raise this point before Hearn Era, the players all had the power with the WPBSA (Pretty much a players union), why couldn’t they try to fix the cost problem then?”

    Because before the Hearn era, the players would receive some prize money if they won in the first qualifying round. There may have been a cost problem in the past, but it has been increased by Hearn’s new. And with the new Structure where only the top 64 players get a vote (and the size of the vote you have increases in terms of the number of ranking tournaments that you have won, so that Hearn’s biggest client Steve Davis has a bigger say than players like Mark Allen), those players with votes are guaranteed to get prize money from all but Australia and Germany.

  • edd

    “This is a great article! I wonder though, if they can’t seem to get enough funding, why don’t they charge for video streams of the snooker matches? The web is where the future of the sport can make a living and if they would only open their eyes and realize that more than 100 million people play snooker in China, they could start to charge for streaming and viewing of matches and that could create additional revenue.”
    ——————————————————————————————
    no doubt about it that has to be the future BUT you then have Fromsport Streaming SOMEHOW for Free.

  • Miko

    World Snooker should buy some sort of large/communal accommodation in Sheffield, for free use by amateurs (and perhaps low ranked pros) who need to play the events there but can’t break the books staying in a hotel and buying expensive food. It wouldn’t be much in the grand scheme of things but could be a friendly way to invite amateurs, and a base for them to have that aspect (accommodation) sorted mentally so they can concentrate on snooker. One way of boosting amateur involvement?

  • Ron

    Rob: some brilliant comments there, though I don’t entirely agree with your negative view towards some of the new tournaments.

    Miko: nice idea, World Snooker hotel, Barry frying eggs in the back!

    On the whole, the sport needs to move out of the uk more for it to grow, and not by sticking one of the EPTCs in Ireland! Prize money should be there for all, because even in the last 96 rounds, a win is very tough. Players like Igor losing out on playing with his obvious talent is a huge loss. I agree WS should not reward mediocrity, but there is not a single mediocre player on the main tour regardless of how they got there.

  • dannyboy

    Interesting food for thought. I think the hunger should remain whereby the more you win the more you earn. Tennis is very similar and golf to a lesser extent. Proportionally the top 10% make decent money and the rest struggle the further down the rankings you go. If 99 pros lead to 32 making a decent living then that is approx 1/3 of the players. At tennis there must be a 1000 ranked pros and only about 100 make a decent living which is a 1/10. Golf is similar so overall I think the moans are unjustified as the idea of being a professional is to win matches. If you dont do you really deserve to be paid a decent wage. I played tennis and now a lot of golf. To earn more than my day job I have worked out I would need to be ranked approx 130-200 in Europe/World which would be very hard. I therefore feel justified in sticking to the day job! Who said it should be easy!

  • edd

    dannyboy

    i cant disagree with anything you say because it is fact and the harsh reality of being a sportsman.

    but i can also see others point of view this is tough one.

    Matt i think you need a interview with Barry Hearn get his opinion on this subject see how he sees it in his own words.

    • matt2745

      Haha, you make it sound so easy!

      • edd

        yes i guess some are harder to get a interview from lol….

  • Claus Christensen

    But at the moment, isn’t snooker one of the sports with the lowest number of well paid professionals? I’m certainly not asking for a redistribution that makes striving for excellence a pointless endeavour but as snooker grows in the coming years, and thankfully that is the case, Barry should find ways to make it lucrative for a larger pool of players so that being a top pro is a realistic goal for the talented amateurs that may become disillusioned by the high costs of entering, let alone making serious cash.

  • Monique

    you can’t compare tennis and snooker earnings.
    Here is a link to the earnings of tennis top 100 for the current season, and we are only end July.
    http://www.tennis.com/rankings/money_men.aspx

    Look at what the n° 100 guy has got for this half season.
    Now compare it to what Mark Williams, current number one in snooker has earned for the full last season: £226,625
    For the record, Tom Ford the n°32 has got £41,790
    Speaks for itself.

    • edd

      point is monique there are 1000 pros if no 100 is on £120,000 what is number 500 on ?

      • Monique

        I don’t know. But what I know is that the n°1 in tennis earns more in one season than Hendry in his whole career. And the n°100 earns more than the n°1 in snooker over one season.
        With more flexibility regarding in what event they play and when.
        All of it of course because tennis is more of a majority sport than snooker is and will ever be.
        If you look to n°500 in tennis then you should compare to someone like Tony Drago ( £20,326). Take out the expenses and see what’s left.
        But my point was: you can’t compare.

        • edd

          yes but its relative there are Tennis players out there thats in as worst a state as player ranked 100 in snooker but they still goes through it or give up.

          id like every player to make a great living out of snooker but thats not sport reality …..

          all we here about is how many cash David Beckham earn but there are players in 4th division football thats on the minimum wage and some don’t get payed because the clubs cant afford to pay them weekly.

          i don’t know the answer’s to this but just take a moment to understand players in other sports going through the same thing ok maybe the top players gets obscene amount of money compared to Snooker players but at the bottom end they struggle just as badly.

  • likahokeith

    Well, this is just the second season during Barry Hearn’s change, but the change is too rapid. In my opinion, the effective change is “Rolling ranking system” and “Seeding cut off”, but others need time to adjust.

    For example, PTCs are the renewal of “World Series’ and “Pro-Challenge”, but now it becomes the largest format of Pro-Am series. First season is a beginning success, this season had made a minor adjustment and attracted more pros and amateurs to play.

    After this season, I hope PTC can spread out to South Europe and West Asia; if still remain those location, I think I’ll beginning to criticise.

  • http://alan.blog-city.com Alan

    Great article. I do love an article that makes us all think. But let us stop talking about the players for a moment and talk about the most important part of the whole ecosystem; the fans.

    While we have more snooker being played at a professional level than ever, as a die hard fan I see no evidence of this. Infact if it wasn’t for Matt and others posting to twitter I could be forgiven for thinking snooker was still dying.

    Barry Hearn needs to focus his attention on the fans. He needs to get more eyeballs into these events and for players to show their stuff. More eyeballs means more sponsorship opportunity for both event and player alike.

    We have the greatest communications network available so far in history: the internet. Why can’t I pay a few quid to watch a live/archived stream of any match on the PTC tour? Why can’t the revenue from that stream goto the players playing? Create the “YouTube” for snooker, where we pay to watch live, but its free to watch matches older than say 3 months.

    Yes TV production costs money but we do not need a BBC type production. We need a single fixed point camera position with the ability for the scores to be super imposed (via the ref maybe). This would be a huge step forward from where we are at the moment.

    Because people let’s face facts, snooker as a sport is dull as dish water in the introspect. It comes alive as and when you are watching it. Reading a list of scores is not the same as watching it.

    Focus on letting the fans participate and the money will then follow. Let the fans finance some of this revolution. But let us in to begin with.

    • likahokeith

      Don’t you know Eurosports will broadcast EPTC?

    • edd

      there was 18 days TV Snooker during july thats evidence

      all 6 EPTC is Televised again thats evidence.

      Brazilian Masters will be televised thats evidence.

      Taking Snooker to Australia thats evidence.

      this article focuses on the problems surrounding financing players and it is a problem we all know that but from a admin/WSA Position in the 18 months Barry Hearn has been at the helm and only just over 12 months since he won control nobody could have imagine the difference there would have been there are room for improvements he knows that.

      maybe it was to much to soon but id rather he flooded the players with work then think what works and what doesn’t and maybe re evaluate after this season but unless things are tried players might as well be back 2 years ago going nowhere.

      • likahokeith

        Just like David Gilbert, after Q School he seems that changed his mind and got some outstanding results.

  • eamonn

    does anyone know where to see a list of players earning for this current season???

  • eamonn

    cheers mate ok so how did u figure this out???ding has earned allot

  • http://alan.blog-city.com Alan

    Did eurosport televise it all, live? I don’t want to have subscribe to SKY to get it, I want to watch it online. The last time I tried their online stream via Yahoo/Eurosport it was truly an awful experience, in terms of timings. There is much to be done in this area.

    • likahokeith

      Most of tournaments.

    • edd

      thing is we have to pay for it in some way shape or form we cant expect terrestrial channels to show them..

      streaming/sky/eurosport that is where its at for all sports..in terms of terrestrial coverage snooker doing not bad at all out of it.

      35 days of snooker this season on terrestrial and they roughly showing 4 hours a day live thats 140 hours of snooker on BBC2 thats about 70 football matches.

  • statman

    One very big issue is the distribution of prize money in the big ranking events , the top 16 are paid too far much in relation to the rest of the field . There needs to be an alteration in this , robbing the rich to pay the poor would go a long way to making things fairer .

    • edd

      totally agree but then you have top players saying we put bums on seats so we should get more.

      everyone out for themselves and sod everyone else.

  • tazmania

    To solve this should there be instead contracts given to players instead of prize money that will guarantee all players earn at least something decent even £1k. The top players can be given contracts for£200k or 250K

    • edd

      so you get nothing for performance ?

      Ronnie could turn up (for a change) sit in his chair lose every match and take home £250,000

      • tazmania

        Well that will mean in his next contract he is unlikely to get anything it could a year on year basis, highest rank gets the better contract.

  • likahokeith

    The system of international snooker is starting in construction, maybe we need at least two or three years to look forward.

    Let’s list the tournaments of amateurs this season:
    June 20-22 – PTC 1

    July 11-17 – World Cup Snooker(Optional)
    July 12-23 – IBSF World U21 Snooker Championships

    August 6-10 – PTC 2
    August 17-21 – PTC 3
    August 24-28 – PTC 4/Paul Hunter Classic

    September 21-25 – PTC 5
    September 29-October 2 – PTC 6

    October 5-9 – PTC 7
    October 20-23 – PTC 8
    October 27-30 – TBA

    November 10-13 – PTC 9
    November 26-30 – PTC 10

    December 5-10 – World 6 Red Snooker Championships
    December 15-18 – PTC 11
    December – IBSF World Snooker Championships

    January 5-8 – PTC 12

    March 14-18 – PTC Final(Optional)

    May – Q School

    Almost all months of season have tournaments to play, which means the time schedule of amateurs is simply re-scheduled. I hope next season WPBSA will aim the objection to the detailed items such as prize, adjustments of format and development of other countries(For example, Tanzania).

  • Rick Burley

    How much does a first round loser I.e the masters receive??