Interesting news today from World Snooker that the number of main tour cards available through this year’s Q School will be reduced from 12 to just 8, with the entry fee for the event also being reduced from £1,000 to £600.
Click below for my thoughts and to view the official press release…
2014 marks the fourth staging of the Q School since its introduction in 2011 (hasn’t that gone quickly?!) and it is interesting to see that with approximately 128 players on the circuit at present, World Snooker have chosen to alter the format this year.
Indeed since the introduction of Q School, the format has until this season remained relatively unchanged, save for the addition of an order of merit last year, which has been used to determine which amateurs have received invitations when there have been main tour events with fewer than 128 professional entrants.
It is though, all change for 2014, with the events to be staged at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester for the first time, as well the reduction in tour places and indeed events outlined above.
So what is the reasoning for the change?
We can only speculate, but I had suspected that this decision might have been made even last season, on the basis that when adding up the various international nominations and those qualifying by other routes, the total clearly added up to more than 128, meaning that on paper at least, we currently have 131 professionals on the tour.
While this season the governing body might have got away with it, due to the retirement of Stephen Hendry, suspension of Stephen Lee and visa issues or otherwise of some other players, it would have been unfortunate had some been required to play in a pre-qualifier during this season, particularly with important prize money at stake.
Looking at the current state of play this year and applying the same qualification criteria as last season, how does the situation compare?
At the time of writing, with 35 players ranked outside of the top 64 currently on the first year of their current two-year tour cards, if the other qualifying routes were to remain the same, that would mean that there would be 135 professionals on the circuit next season, clearly posing a problem.
On paper, the easiest way to resolve, or at least mitigate the problem, was always going to be to reduce the number of Q School qualifiers and I am therefore unsurprised to see the WPBSA go down that route.
Of course there might be another reason entirely for the change, but whatever the logic, is it a bad thing?
Clearly, it does make it more difficult for those involved, who are predominantly UK based amateurs, to progress, although with eight places on offer, that is still a greater amount than on offer to the Asian players through the Asian Tour Order of Merit, while amateurs also still have the opportunity to win their way onto the tour via the PTC Order of Merit.
It does of course also make it even more crucial for those currently in the ‘drop zone’ to be able to maintain their professional status at the end of this season, either by finishing inside the top 64, or by one of the PTC routes.
It will be interesting to see how the final tour qualification criteria will look, whether these four spots will be replaced by other new nominations, or whether they will simply not be replaced so as to keep the numbers down. Time will tell and any news of that will be brought to you here at PSB.
Official Press release:
World Snooker and WPBSA have made the decision to alter the number of tour cards available at 2014 Q School from 12 to 8.
This decision has been made as a consequence of the global expansion of the sport and the increased demand for tour places from international players.
Q School, which takes place in May at the Capital Venue in Gloucester, will therefore award tour cards to each of the eight semi-finalists in two tournaments, rather than twelve over three tournaments as in previous years.
The entry fee for Q School has been reduced from £1,000 to £600.
Each of the eight Q School qualifiers will receive a two-year tour card and the chance to play for over £8 million in prize money on the global World Snooker circuit as well as free entry to all Euro Tour events in the 2014/15 season.
Entries are now being taken and anyone who has the talent and dedication required to make it as a snooker professional is urged to get their entry in fast.
The closing date is Friday 4 April 2014. Just go to www.worldsnooker.com, click on Online Entries on the home page and follow the instructions.
It is open to players of all ages and nationalities (subject to terms and conditions).
A ranking list will be compiled during Q School, with players earning one point for every frame won. During the main tour season, should any of the tournament draws fall below a total entry of 128 then the field will be topped up with the highest ranked players from the Q-School list who have not gained one of the eight tour cards.
The ‘top-up’ system meant that seven amateurs played at the UK Championship in York last month. Amateur Mitchell Travis scored amazing victories over world number six Marco Fu and Kurt Maflin. He said: “It’s an unbelievable opportunity, to play in the biggest tournaments. It just shows that even if you don’t make it through Q School, as long as you win enough matches you will still have the chance to play in a lot of ranking events.
“I definitely think Q School is the best qualifying system and any players who want a shot at glory should give it a try.”
World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn added: “The opportunities available for players to get on to the professional tour, climb the rankings quickly and compete for £8 million in prize money in tournaments all around the world, have never been better. So the message is clear: if you are good enough and determined enough to succeed in snooker, get your name down for Q School and get practising.”
Enter Q School today, and chase your dream! For more details see www.worldsnookerqschool.com