As the Welsh Open continues in Newport, World Snooker have also now released the first provisional calendar for the 2014/15 season, which you can view here.
Click below for my initial thoughts and in particular, the main changes compared to the current 2013/14 schedule…
So what are the big stories from the new provisional calendar?
The first thing that you may notice, is that there will be just six European Tour events next season, down two from the eight staged this season. This has been confirmed in Barry Hearn’s letter to the players, in which he tells the tour that:
“…we will only be having six European Tour events, all of which will be held outside the UK. The concept of the European Tour was to drive development of our sport throughout Europe. Having two events in the UK with minimal attendance from fans no longer fits the bill.”
Though for me it is a shame that there will not be a European Tour event at the South West Snooker Academy, I can understand this reasoning, particularly when you see the crowds that events such as those in Germany and Belgium have been able to draw in recent years.
The purpose of the European Tour events, formerly known as PTC events (though everyone still refers to them as PTCs anyway), was to get the players playing regularly, which they had not been doing prior to Barry Hearn’s return to the sport in 2010.
Now with more full ranking events and more invitational events, stretching the calendar to breaking point, there is no longer a need for UK events such as those staged in Doncaster this season and though convenient for the players based here, I do not think that they will be greatly missed in the main.
Turning to the calendar as a whole, there is to be a familiar start, with Q School getting the new campaign underway on 10th May 2014, again scheduled for two weeks, despite the planned format change for this season.
As was the case this season, the professional action gets underway with the Wuxi Classic and Australian Goldfields Open qualifiers, which will again be held back to back at the South West Snooker Academy, the dates identical to this year.
Within Barry Hearn’s players letter, the World Snooker chairman confirms that again the top 16 players will be seeded through to the venue, something which he describes as ‘not ideal’ but a compromise that we have had to accept’ to maintain a ranking event in Australia.
June is where the calendar takes a different shape to this season, as there will be a two-week break following the Australian Open qualifiers, before the action resumes with the Asian Tour 1 event between 17-21 June 2014.This is in contrast to this year, when the first event of the 2013/14 European Tour was won by John Higgins in Sofia in early June.
What this means is that the venue stages of the Wuxi Classic and Australian Goldfields Open will be brought forward slightly, the latter concluding on 6th July 2014, as opposed to 14th July last year.
Next season, the first seedings revision of the season will take place following this point, to determine the seedings for the Shanghai Masters.
Following the conclusion of the Australian Goldfields Open, we will have the season’s first European Tour event between 18-20 July 2014, compared to this season when the second ET event concluded at this time.
This season, there was then to be a break to allow players to compete without penalty at the World Games and though that tournament will not be held next season, there will again be no further action in the month of July.
Following another blank week at the start of August, a busy month begins with the second European Tour event between 8-10 August 2014, venue still to be confirmed.
This season, we then had the qualifiers for the Shanghai Masters and Indian Open held back to back, but next term, the Indian Open qualifiers have been put back to September, with just the Shanghai Masters qualifiers to be held at an unconfirmed venue between 12-15 August 2014.
Interestingly, the fact that these qualifiers are to be held over four days suggests that perhaps like the Australian Goldfields Open event, the tournament will not be held under the flat draw format favoured by the powers that be. We shall see on that.
As is tradition, the month concludes for the European professionals with the staging of the Paul Hunter Classic event in Furth, which will next season be the third event of the 2014/15 European Tour.
Interestingly however, there will also be an Asian Tour event at the end of August 2014, starting just two days after the conclusion of the ET3 event which you would think would put off the majority of the European based players from entering.
Usually the Asian Tour events are scheduled to be held either just before or after a major ranking event in China, but this one has taken a more isolated spot in the calendar and I would expect to see the majority of the Chinese professionals opt to enter this one, rather than Furth.
Once again, September will begin with the Six Red World Championship in Thailand, where Mark Davis will begin the strangely customary defence of his world title, before the Shanghai Masters brings around the second mid-season seedings revision.
One point to note is that this season there was a week between these two events, but next year the Shanghai Masters will follow straight on from the six red event, perhaps making it easier for players to stay to play in both.
Following a free week after Shanghai, the tour will then in all likelihood return to the UK for the qualifiers for the Indian Open and International Championship events, which will presumably be held back-to-back at the same yet to be confirmed venue between 22-25 September 2014.
The month of October gets underway with the fourth event of the European Tour, which will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria (moved from its 2013 slot of June), before the Indian Open is staged between 13-17 October 2014, a similar slot to last year.
Interestingly, there is no mention of the World Seniors Championship at this stage, which this year followed the India Open in mid-October, with the action instead moving on to Asia for the third Asian Tour event of the campaign.
As was the case this season, the month will conclude with the International Championship, which will bring about the seeding cut-off for the UK Championship.
November is perhaps the most interesting month of the new provisional calendar for me, with the Champion of Champions event brought forward to the 3rd November, compared to its later start date of the 19th this term.
What this means is that the invitational event will begin on the following day from the International Championship, which could cause some interesting scheduling difficulties depending on who makes it to the final in Chengdu.
Following the Champions event at the Ricoh in Coventry, there will then be a 12 day gap before the European Tour returns to Mulheim for the ET5 event between 21-23 November 2014.
The month will then end and December will begin with the UK Championship, the tournament scheduled to last for the same amount of days as this season.
Following the conclusion of the UK Championship, the provisional calendar becomes rather thin, with an option date for the final European Tour event of the season between 12-14 December 2014, with the Haikou World Open and German Masters qualifiers having swapped round (not sure of the reason for that), and set to be held back to back between 16-19 December 2014.
And that is where the schedule ends for now, one that is generally similar to this season, but with a couple of notable switches and free weeks, which could yet be filled with new events. Overall, the calendar looks to be a sensible one, though the date of the AT2 event and proximity of the Champion of Champions to the International Championship event look to be strange decisions, particularly the latter.
We shall see how the calendar develops over the coming months, no doubt there will be changes…