World Snooker Unveil Tour Structure Changes

Amidst the intense debate at the moment concerning the structure of the professional snooker circuit, World Snooker has today unveiled a number of planned changes that will have a significant effect on the current set-up. Click below for a summary and some of my initial thoughts on the plans…

As reported at World Snooker, the key points are as follows:-

  • The number of players competing on the professional circuit will increase from 96 to 128 from the 2013/14 season
  • Players gaining a tour card after Q School next May, will keep their card for a period of two years rather than one
  • There will also be the option of fundamentally changing the ranking system from a points based system to a system based on prize money earned

Clearly more developments and changes are in the pipeline but what is to be made of these three points?

Taking the increase of tour players from 96 to 128 from 2013/14 (not next season remember), on the face of it I think that the move is a positive one. The standard of the leading amateur players such as those involved during the PTC events as well as the Q School earlier this season is of an exceptionally high level and in terms of talent I have no doubt that they can justify an expanded tour.

I would have a few questions however and one concerns how the additional 32 players will be selected. A proportion of these will be taken by new professionals staying on tour for their second guaranteed season as explained below but notwithstanding this there will be more spaces to fill.

Will there be additional places on offer at the Q School? Will there be more players to come from the PTC Order or Merit or will there be more nominations? It is important that they are selected in an appropriate manner and with the global expansion of the game I think that the time has come to award more places to players away from the UK. Given the number of talented players currently in Asia for example, would it be possible to see an Asian leg of the Q School to give players in that area of the world an opportunity to qualify for the tour without having to come over to the UK to do so?

The other important point is that of course the expansion must be sustainable. More numbers will presumably result in more qualifying matches and subsequently more expenses both for the organisers and for the players which all have to come from somewhere.

At present we are seeing full ranking tournaments such as Australia and Germany seeing no prize money on offer for those who fail to reach the last 48 which is something that in my view needs to be addressed. We have already seen the likes of Robin Hull and Igor Figueiredo priced out of ranking tournaments this season despite being on the main tour and it would be a shame to see more succumb to this. There is ultimately no point in having more players on the tour if there is no money for them to earn.

While though there are important caveats as far as the above is concerned, I cannot immediately identify any downsides to the move to give newcomers to the tour a guaranteed two years on the circuit as opposed to the current one. It will be interesting to see how this ties in to the tour qualification criteria as referred to above as presumably it will not be clear how many places they will have to ‘reserve’ for second year professionals until the end of each season.

The most controversial proposal however is of course the reversion to a money list as opposed to a points-based ranking list and for me I can understand why this has come in for criticism from some.

As discussed above, even now with a field of 96 there are tournaments where those outside of the last 48 are not earning a penny for their efforts and to me it therefore seems inherently unfair that a professional player could conceivably win two, or perhaps more qualification matches and not be rewarded for this in the ranking list.

Furthermore with their relatively low levels of prize money compared to the full-ranking event tournaments, the importance of the PTC events as they currently stand would be severely diminished. While now for example a quarter-final run at a PTC would earn a useful 1,000 ranking points, the value of the equivalent £1,500 in prize money would surely be negligible, for ranking purposes at least.

That said, in other articles the importance of the PTC’s in terms of ranking has been strongly criticised by some and perhaps a reduction of those events in conjunction with a rise in prize money for those remaining would be the ultimate solution.

Taking away such a hypothetical situation however, my initial reaction at least is that a change to a money list would in the current climate at least only serve to protect the top players and make it harder for lower ranked players to progress up the rankings. Perhaps even harder than it was two years ago prior to the introduction of the current rolling system which for me would be a shame. There are legitimate criticisms being levelled at some of the PTC events but I do feel that it has been refreshing to see the likes of Jack Lisowski and Jamie Jones fly up the ranking list.

We shall see though, clearly these proposed changes are not going to be in isolation and there will be more to be announced over the coming months. While I have long expressed reservations concerning any change to a money list, and I have flagged up a couple of concerns as regards to an expanded tour, in truth we cannot accurately judge them until a clearer picture emerges as to how the tour structure will look both next season and particularly in 2013/14.