Premier League Snooker 2011: The Big Preview

This Thursday sees the return of Premier League Snooker to our television screens and for the first time since 2005 we have a new format in operation. What has not changed however is that defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will be the man to beat under shot clock conditions…

The New Format

As explained during my previous post back in May, the changes to the format for this season can be summarised as follows:

  • There will now be ten players involved as opposed to the previous seven.
  • Each week will now see a four-man mini-tournament staged with points awarded for frames won.
  • Each player will compete in four events, each event comprising two semi-finals and a final. The maximum amount of points that can be won in one evening therefore is six, three from the semi-final and three from the final.
  • Each match will be played over the best of five frames with no dead frames played.
  • The first four frames will run a 20 second shot clock as opposed to the previous 25.
  • The miss rule has also been altered so that a player now has three attempts to make contact with the intended ball else their opponent will be handed ball in hand.
  • Should a match reach 2-2, the decider will be played under Shootout rules, aka a ten minute match with a 20 second shot clock for the first five minutes and 15 seconds for the last five. As in the Shootout, all fouls during the decider will result in ball in hand being awarded to their opponent and with each shot a player must either pot a ball or hit a cushion with the cue ball.
  • There will no longer be a prize of £1,000 per frame on offer for the players, instead there is a high break prize of £1,000 for each night of the league and also during the play-offs. There is however £25,000 available for a maximum.
  • The format of the play-offs will remain unchanged with the semi-finals being staged over the best of nine frames with the final over the best of 13.

For more please click here to visit the official Premier League website.

The Players

The following ten players will be in action during the competition this season:

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan (defending champion)
  • John Higgins (World champion)
  • Ding Junhui (Masters champion)
  • Mark Williams (German Masters champion)
  • Ali Carter (Shanghai Masters champion)
  • Judd Trump (China Open champion)
  • Neil Robertson (World Open champion)
  • Shaun Murphy (PTC Finals champion)
  • Matthew Stevens (Championship League winner)
  • Jimmy White (World Seniors champion)

The Calendar

Week 1 – August 18, 2011 – Embassy Theatre, Skegness
Semi-finals: John Higgins v Jimmy White, Neil Robertson v Matthew Stevens.
Final: Higgins or White v Robertson or Stevens.

Week 2 – September 1 – Guildford Spectrum
Semi-finals: Jimmy White v Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan v Shaun Murphy.
Final: White or Williams v O’Sullivan or Murphy.

Week 3 – September 22 – Ravenscraig Sports Facility, Motherwell
Semi-finals: John Higgins v Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui v Shaun Murphy.
Final: Higgins or Robertson v Ding or Murphy.

Week 4 – September 29 – The Dome, Doncaster
Semi-finals: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Matthew Stevens, Ding Junhui v Ali Carter.
Final: O’Sullivan or Stevens v Ding or Carter.

Week 5 – October 6 – Hutton Moor Leisure Centre, Weston-Super-Mare
Semi-finals: Mark Williams v Judd Trump, John Higgins v Matthew Stevens.
Final: Williams or Trump v Higgins or Stevens.

Week 6 – October 13 – Biddulph Leisure Centre, Stoke
Semi-finals: Mark Williams v Ali Carter, Jimmy White v Ding Junhui.
Final: Williams or Carter v White or Ding.

Week 7 – October 20 – Riverside, Exeter
Semi-finals: Ali Carter v Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy v Neil Robertson.
Final: Carter or Trump v Murphy or Robertson.

Week 8 – November 3 – Guildhall, Southampton
Semi-finals: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Judd Trump, Neil Robertson v Ding Junhui.
Final: O’Sullivan or Trump v Robertson or Ding.

Week 9 – November 10 – Spiceball Leisure Centre, Banbury
Semi-finals: John Higgins v Ali Carter, Mark Williams v Matthew Stevens.
Final: Higgins or Carter v Williams or Stevens.

Week 10 – November 17 – Grimsby Auditorium
Semi-finals: Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy, Ronnie O’Sullivan v Jimmy White.
Final: Trump or Murphy v O’Sullivan or White.

Semi-finals Nov 26 Potters Leisure Resort, Hopton on Sea, Norfolk
Semi-finals are the first to five.
2nd v 3rd and 1st v 4th

Final – Nov 27 – Potters Leisure Resort, Hopton on Sea, Norfolk
The final is the first to seven.
Winner of semi-final 1 v winner of semi-final 2.

How to Watch

In the UK the event as ever will be broadcast exclusively by Sky Sports.

Highlights of the tournament will also be shown on the following channels…

  • CCTV (China)
  • DSF (Germany)
  • Fox Sports (Australia)
  • I Cable Sport (Hong Kong)
  • IKO Kabelteve (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania and Serbia)
  • Measat (Malaysia)
  • Measat Indo (Indonesia)
  • Neo Sports (India)
  • Sport 1 TV (Hungary)
  • Supersport (South Africa)

Ticket Information

For full venue and ticket information, please click here.

Ones to Watch

So who will be the players to watch during the competition this season? It goes without saying that the clear favourite will be defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan who famously excels when playing under a shot clock and also thrives upon the one-night nature of the tournament which means that he can play at each venue and drive straight home once he is done.

That said, he is beatable under the format and the last man to dethrone the three-time world champion was Shaun Murphy who lifted the trophy back in 2009. A finalist in 2010 also, Shaun is a very natural player who does not appear to be overly troubled by the shot clock and I see no reason why he will not be a contender again this time around.

Elsewhere both Ding Junhui and Mark Williams have performed well under the shot clock format in the past while John Higgins too has experience of playing in this competition. I have never been quite convinced by John in this tournament however and despite the fact that I consider him to be the best player in the game at the moment, I would perhaps be more surprised to see him succeed in this tournament.

Neil Robertson too is a player who has struggled to produce his best snooker in the Premier League in recent seasons but he has shown improvement, notably reaching the play-off stages last season. Jimmy White meanwhile also has experience in the tournament and should have no problem with a shot clock, but his last League campaign was not to be the strongest and it has been a few years now since he was a regular in front of the TV cameras. Can he roll back the years?

Of the remaining contenders it will be interesting to see how Ali Carter and Matthew Stevens adapt while Judd Trump will be making his second appearance in the competition having defeated a string of big names in his maiden campaign a few years ago.