While the end of the 2014/15 season feels like a long way off, with a two-year ranking list, in reality we are over halfway through the race for main tour places for the 2015/16 season.
With every pound, dollar or Euro earned during this season potentially crucial, already some eyes will be turning to the latest provisional end of season rankings and even from a quick glance, there are some surprising names who despite being apparently safe on the official ranking list, are in fact in the danger zone due to the points that they will be losing over the coming nine months.
So with a couple of ranking events down and two of the season’s six European Tour events completed, below I take an early look at how the race for main tour places next year is shaping up and how players can survive – assuming that there are no as yet unannounced changes to the tour qualification structure…
- Click here to view the latest provisional end of season rankings
- Click here to view the latest European Order of Merit
- Click here to view the latest Asian Order of Merit
- Click here to view the indicative prize money schedule for 2013/14
- Click here to view my guide to the current ranking system
What is the provisional end of season ranking list?
As explained by the text at the top of the latest provisional end of season rankings page, simply put, the table includes all money earned during last season (2013/14), and from the current 2014/15 season.
This differs from the official rolling ranking list, as this still includes points from the 2012/13 season, which will not count towards the race for next season’s tour places.
How will tour places be decided?
At the end of this season (ie after the 2015 World Championship), all players ranked outside of the top 64, who do not have a two-year tour card, or re-qualify through the European/Asian Order of Merit, will be relegated from the tour.
Already therefore, we are more than halfway through a race which by the end of this season, will determine a large number of the players who will be on the tour for the 2015/16 campaign.
Who is already safe?
Those who do not have to worry (for this season at least), are those players who were able to earn a two-year tour card for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons, either via the Q School, international competitions or by other means.
All of these players have been highlighted in green on the latest provisional end of season ranking list.
Who is at risk?
In short – everyone else.
All players who retained their main tour places for this season by finishing in the top 64 at the end of the 2013/14 campaign, or who began their two-year tour cards at the start of 2013/14, must regain their place for the 2015/16 season.
Of course those in the upper echelons of the list will have nothing to worry about, but the closer they are to the all-important ‘top 64’ point, the more nervous they will be.
How can players survive?
Essentially, there are three ways for those players at risk to retain their tour cards for the 2015/16 season, without the need to re-qualify via Q School:
- By finishing in the top 64 of the rankings at the end of the 2014/15 season.
Traditionally the cut-off point for tour survival, the top 64 will again remain on tour at the end of this season.
What is the cut-off point likely to be? Last year the 64th placed man was Jimmy White, who narrowly survived with £48,692, but with prize money on the increase this year, expect the bar to rise beyond the £50,000 mark.
At the time of writing, Belgium’s Luca Brecel currently holds onto 64th place with £34,182 to his name.
These players will earn a one-year card for the 2015/16 season.
- By finishing in the top eight of the European Order of Merit, not already qualified for the main tour
Although available to both amateurs and professionals competing in European Tour events this season, with so many professionals set to finish outside of the top 64 on the main ranking list, who do not already have a tour card for next season, expect these eight players to be made up of professionals, who haven’t quite been able to do enough over the past two years on the main list.
At the time of writing with two of the season’s six European Tour events completed, those currently in place to earn tour places via this route are:
- Sean O’Sullivan (a)
- Chris Wakelin
- Fraser Patrick
- Jak Jones
- James Cahill
- Paul Davison (a)
- Allan Taylor
- Jimmy White
These players will earn a two-year card for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.
- By finishing in the top four of the Asian Order of Merit, not already qualified for the main tour
Similar to the European list, the top four performers on the Asian Order of Merit, not already qualified, will gain/retain a place on the tour for the 2015/16 season.
At the time of writing, those players are:
- Li Hang
- Yan Bingtao
- (eight players tied for two places)
At present, Sean O’Sullivan is set to re-qualify through both lists. This happened with Scott Donaldson last season, who ultimately re-qualified through the European list, as the final event of the European Tour came prior to the final event of the Asian Tour.
This time however, AT3 comes before ET6 and so I would expect that it would be the Asian Tour which would take precedence in the event of double qualification.
What are the main points of interest?
As mentioned earlier in the article, there are a few players who despite currently being higher on the official ranking list, are currently in danger, typically having experienced poor seasons in 2013/14.
Most obvious of these is Marcus Campbell, who currently ranked 42nd on the official list, is provisionally outside of the top 64 at the end of the season in 66th place, with significantly more prize money still to drop from his total this season than those below him.
Other established names in danger are Jimmy White, Nigel Bond and Dave Harold, while even the likes of Tom Ford, Rory McLeod and Jamie Cope are in the lower 50’s and not certain to retain their places just yet.
On the flip side, there are players such as Kyren Wilson and Stuart Carrington, currently in the second year of their two-year tour cards, already currently inside the provisional top 64 and very much on the up, while the likes of Li Hang, Robin Hull and Joe Swail are also narrowing the gap to those above them.
With so much money still to be earned and the possibility for players currently well down the money list to be able to soar up the table with one good run in a major tournament, there is still much to play for and of course I will be bringing you regular updates over the course of this season.
If you have any questions, please do drop me a tweet @prosnookerblog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org