As initially suggested as long ago as last October and confirmed by Barry Hearn at the Crucible in April, World Snooker have today announced the introduction of a switch to a money-based ranking list from 2014/15, as opposed to the points based listing currently in place. Click below for a few of my thoughts on the subject…
- Click here to view the announcement at World Snooker
- Click here to view the ‘current’ money list published at World Snooker
My initial reaction is really much as it was back when I first blogged about the subject last year, insofar as the advantages and disadvantages remain much as they were then.
Considering the advantages of a ranking list based on prize money earned, the argument made by Barry Hearn during one of his two press conferences during the 2012 World Championship was as follows:
“As a system, a money-based Order of Merit has two big advantages. One, it is much easier understood by the general public rather than a complicated series of points. Two, under the current system, if a younger player came in and won the World Championship in his first year, he may well not be seeded in the top 32. This is clearly ridiculous where the world champion would have such a low rating. By substituting prize money for points, I believe we show a true reflection that is mirrored in other sports, such as the golf tours and the tennis tours.”
“So starting from the new season, we will run two parallel lists. We will operate under a points system, but we will run in conjunction with that a prize money list.”
On a personal level, I have to say that I am not particularly convinced by these perceived advantages, but then as someone who has considered snooker rankings under a points-based system for far longer than I have written this blog, the current system and its various quirks comes almost as second nature to me. I don’t believe that a points-based list such as that currently in operation is difficult to understand per se, but the way that the rankings are currently presented and explained to the general public, could be improved upon significantly. This will be just as important with regard to any future Order of Merit as well because the draft list published today leaves me with more questions than it does answers.
Comparing the situation to other sports as Hearn has done, I wouldn’t profess to be an expert with golf, but I do follow tennis and am slightly bemused by the parallel drawn to a sport which actually uses a points-based system!
Having also followed darts to some degree, I can recall when there was a similar switch to a money-based Order of Merit in around 2007 and I don’t think that it made the rankings any more or less difficult to follow. Whether from the point of view of the general public such a money list is easier to follow I am not so sure. Maybe, I find that a difficult one to judge. Commercially of course there is also an argument to say that it makes the sport easier to sell to sponsors and TV companies, though again I am not the best placed to judge on whether that is in reality the case.
Turning to the issue of how it would affect players further down the rankings, it is true to say that if a lower ranked player were to win a major tournament such as the World Championship, they would rise up the rankings far quicker than they would under the current system, but is that necessarily a good thing?
In many ways it comes down to what your take is on what a ranking list should reflect. On the one hand, the World Championship is the most important and most prestigious tournament on the calendar, but on the other it is arguable that a two-year ranking list should reflect exactly that, performances over a two-year period.
Obviously on ability and on account of his performance at the Crucible, Ronnie O’Sullivan is clearly better than the 15th ranked player that he currently is, but given the fact that from September 2010-April 2011, Ronnie failed to win a match in an event carrying ranking points, should he be ranked number two in the world under a two-year system as he would be under a money list? It is an interesting one.
As explained in my previous article too, as the structure of events currently stands, I would have serious reservations as to how a money-based system can operate fairly.
This is due to the fact that at certain events, players currently have to win multiple matches in order to earn any prize money and looking at the draft money list posted by World Snooker (some figures within which look somewhat dubious at first glance), major tournament victories aside, realistically if anything it looks to be no easier for lower ranked players who are consistently winning matches without making the latter stages of venues, to climb the rankings.
With round-by-round prize money increases becoming significantly steeper as tournaments enter the latter stages (see here for example), on the face of the figures, I fear that a money list is only going to strengthen the position of those seeded through to the latter stages of events. At least under the present system, seeded losers are awarded half-points which while not indeal, does reward those who are able to win matches, but there is no such leveller in place regarding a potential money list. There was also a good point raised by David Grace earlier concerning the differences in prize money from round to round, which seem inconsistent at best.
Of course though, there are moves afoot to change the current system, with flatter draws at the Welsh and German Masters tournaments coming into play this season, as well as talk of entirely flat draws in future seasons meaning that all players will be able to come in at the same stage of tournaments and have an equal opportunity to progress and earn prize money. On a practical level I am not sure how achievable this really is, surely tournaments would have to be played over a longer period, or there will have to be qualifying rounds which involve the full compliment of 128 tour players, but time will tell. It is hard to imagine that the television broadcasters will be too happy at the prospect of the big names crashing out during pre-tv stages, though perhaps certain matches could be held over to the venue, which in itself is not necessarily fair.
It must also be said, that while I do have reservations as to the change, the current points system is far from perfect, though I would argue that rather than being a problem with points as such, the problem is that the points tariffs for events are questionable to say the least, certainly the 10,000 on offer for winning the World Championship is not a large enough amount given the amount of frames required to win the tournament in comparison to other events offering 8,000 or 7,000 points. Over the past few seasons, the previous tariffs have merely been tweaked, when in reality I believe that they would have probably benefited from a full overhaul following the introduction of PTC events and the decision to ‘upgrade’ events held in China a couple of years ago.
So what judgements can we make at this stage? For the reasons outlined, under the current system of multiple qualifying rounds, with not enough money to finance those going out in the early rounds, I find it hard to see how a money-based ranking list can operate on a fair basis. Even looking at those losing at the early rounds at the venues, the gulf in prize money on offer compared to those in the later rounds is huge and it is arguable that the gulf between those at the top and those further down is only going to widen.
However, given what Barry Hearn said at the Crucible, it looks likely that by 2014 there will be further significant changes made to the structure of both the tour and of individual events. As a result, clearly the switch to a money list has to be viewed not in isolation, but in conjunction with all of these changes, most of which we will not even be aware of yet.
While it sounds like a cop-out therefore, we will probably not be able to draw any firm conclusions until far closer to the switch in 2014…