Welsh Open to Remain in Newport

While I was at the UK Championship qualifiers recently, one news story that slipped out from World Snooker was that after much speculation, the Welsh Open will return to Newport later this season. In fact, its contract has been extended through to 2014…

First held as a ranking event back in 1992, excluding six years between 1999-2004, the Welsh Open has been an ever-present a the Newport Centre but there was speculation over the summer that there may be a change for 2012, with cities such as Cardiff and Llanelli rumoured to be in the running to stage the tournament.

Such rumours however have not come to pass and World Snooker have now confirmed that thanks to funding from the local council, the tournament will now remain in Newport for the next three years.

It is fair to say that in recent years the tournament has suffered in terms of prestige, largely for two reasons. Back in 2003, the last season when the tournament was sponsored by cigarette company Regal, the prize money on offer for the winner Stephen Hendry came to an impressive £82,500. Last season however John Higgins took home just £30,000, the lowest total on offer since 1994, compared to the £65,000 on offer in Shanghai this season for example.

Newport 2011

This disparity has also been translated through to the ranking points system recently, the tournament awarding its traditional 5,000 points while the Shanghai Masters and China Open tournaments have since been lifted to 7,000. If as seems likely World Snooker wish to implement a money list at some point in time, the significance of the tournament will surely only decline further.

Despite those issues, the decision to extend the contract for the tournament with Newport is a vote of confidence from the governing body and it will be interesting to see what plans they now have for the tournament. Last season there was of course a format change which saw the introduction of best of seven matches, as well as no dividing wall being present between the two tables.

Last season’s finalists

One change last season that I did feel provided a boost to the tournament was the fact that it was the last chance for players to gain ranking points ahead of the crucial pre-World Championship seedings cut-off, adding an extra element of importance to the event with places at the Crucible up for grabs. This will again be the case in 2012 and for followers of the rankings such as myself it does help to generate a little extra interest in the tournament.

That however will not be something that will bring in the spectators which with the crowd levels seen in Berlin, Furth and Antwerp recently, will be important to the future success of the tournament.

If you wish to attend the tournament in 2012, tickets are now available by calling 01633 656757