Ferguson, Pearce On Snooker’s Future

At the half-way stage of Barry Hearn’s supposed ‘five-year plan’ to revolutionise snooker, already the sport has seen significant changes over the course of the last three years, with the rapid expansion of the calendar, changes to the ranking list and looking ahead, changes to the fundamental structure of tournament drawsheets.

Over the recent festive period, two of the most influential people behind these changes have been talking about them and for anyone who has missed them, both are worth a look…

First up is WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson, who spoke to Snooker Island at some length over the festive period.

  • Click here to read part one of Jason’s interview and here to read part two.

While I would strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in the future direction of snooker takes time out to read both parts, I appreciate that there is a lot there and would summarise the main points of interest as follows, with the following excerpts…

The move towards flat 128 draws

“…we’re all trying to create, and that is a fair and open system”

“…we’ve been talking about:

1. Creating a new venue or a substantially improved facility to house some qualifying rounds, but

2. that the events end up like a Wimbledon format, like we do in the Paul Hunter Classic…”

“…the bottom line is that the players who win more matches will go to the top and the players who lose will fall by the wayside…”

EBSA Qualifying Tour

This season, there have been a series of amateur events, staged concurrently with some of the European Tour events, which will see 12 players progress to a final qualifying event, with three eventually earning a main tour card for the 2013/14 season.

Information on the events has been very thin on the ground and the most recent ranking list that I have seen is this one, however during this interview, Jason has confirmed that the qualifying event will be staged on the 27th April 2013, during the World Championship.

“the EBSA ranking list has been running alongside the PTC ranking list through some amateur events that we’ve been running, and the top 3 qualifiers from that system will qualify for tour spots…there will be a qualifying event at our Academy on the 27th April…it is during the World Championships and what I would like to see is that the 3 qualifiers from that we could perhaps bring them down to the Crucible and have a chat with them and bring them into the venue and introduce them to what their future is going to hold.”


“It is a big bug bear with the players and I have to say it’s a real concern of mine and I’m not a fan of it. I mean we bring wildcards in to the final stages of a ranking event and our members are on a hiding to nothing there.”

“You’ve got good players, you know players like Jin Long who have played on the tour and beaten some great players, who you’ve now got to beat in a wildcard round when you get out there. If you’re playing for ranking points and have played in the top 16, 32, 64 and you’re playing someone who’s coming in and playing in front of his home crowd and who has not got the same pressures, then that for me is a major issue.”

As part of this new structure, we believe that we will get to a stage where we don’t have the wildcards coming in as seeds in a later round. That’s certainly my target.”

The Ranking System

“…Barry’s opinion on the money list is that everybody understands it. That’s how it is, that’s the amount of money and everybody knows what you’ve won, and I support that. I think that’s great but it has to be a fair system if that’s what we’re going to do. It has to be a flat draw, you can’t have seeding, you can’t see players through to rounds 3 and 4 because you’re effectively giving them ranking points. How can that be right? You know, it can’t be.”

The Future of Sheffield and the World Championship

“…we at this moment in time are very protective of the World Championships. We know we have an excellent relationship with Sheffield City Council, I’m quite a traditionalist actually on this point, and I think snooker should stay in Sheffield.

As long as Sheffield continues to support us and look after us and host us like they do now, I see no reason why we would want to move from there. A number of people have said wait till China offers you a big cheque for the World Championships. Well they might do that, and obviously that’s something we would always consider, but, what would that do for the game? What would that do for the tour?

This is a World Tour and I think even our relationship with the CBSA in China, and we have an excellent relationship out there, their issues are they want to be part of the World Tour as well. They don’t see World Snooker as a Chinese tour, they are part of the overall system. They want a World Champion, not a champion of China.

So for us all there is great importance in making sure the whole world is supporting snooker and for me, I’m a lover of snooker staying in Sheffield.”

The Future of the PTC events

“Our vision for next year is that we will be looking at 8 PTCs as a European Tour. We’re calling them European Tour events, we’ll drop the name PTC and it will become the European Tour and the Asian Tour. We expect to end up with 4 in Asia and of the 8 in Europe it is still possible that two of those will remain in the UK.”

“The other principle for me is that let’s say we move to a primary based ranking system and the PTCs stay at £50,000. We are effectively devaluing the PTCs. A number of the players at the moment earn more ranking points than they do prize money points…we expect our PTCs in Europe to be a minimum of £100,000 in prize money each, next year. That’s effectively doubled the UK ones and increased the European ones as well.”

The second interview in question is that of World Snooker’s Commercial Director Miles Pearce, which you can read over at Snooker Scene Blog by clicking here.

Again, I would recommend that you read the whole of the interview, but of particular interest to me were the following excerpts:

Where next for snooker?

“Our next big step will be to open it up to even more countries. The European Tour is giving us a platform to test out which countries are big and to hopefully progress them to full ranking events around Europe.

“The big challenge will be to take snooker to where it hasn’t been before or had a traditional home and that’s where we have to focus some of our efforts from a commercial side.”

“I think the Indian sub continent – India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – is interesting”

“We’d love to get back into North America and have another event in Canada but that takes a while because it hasn’t been on television for 15-20 years over there. We need snooker on TV in places such as this because you can then see how it appeals to the population and we can come in with smaller events.”


“I completely understand that the players aren’t happy about it”

“There is a difficulty in terms of our discussions with the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association because you have to look at it from their point of view: they are part of the Chinese Olympic committee and their focus is on developing Chinese players. Unfortunately for them, they are building up and developing players but find this hard to justify because the players go into qualifying, which is held in the UK. There’s no guarantee they will qualify so the Chinese are effectively putting on events without any guarantee that they can see their own players play.”

“Wildcards are to show off local talent. We’ve been racking our brains to try and figure out a way in which we can get rid of the wildcards but at the same time it’s difficult because of the qualifying structure. Without the CBSA we wouldn’t be where we are.”

“It’s continuing to be a difficult discussion. We do fight the players’ corner but we still need to resolve it.”

The World Championship and Sheffield

“Barry puts it like this: World Snooker loves Sheffield and they have been very supportive of the World Championship.

“Together with the support we get from Sheffield City Council, we also have the BBC, and they are a very important player too. As long as we continue to get that support we don’t want to move from Sheffield.

“I don’t know what will happen at some unknown point in the future. I know that the Chinese would like the World Championship. They’re always talking about it. But at this point in time we have a strong relationship with Sheffield and the BBC and as far as contracts go we are there for at least a few more years.”

The Future of the PTCs

“The PTCs were put in place to get the players playing,” Pearce said. “Now we have more tournaments and a busier calendar we are thinking about how many PTCs we should have and how many tournaments we should have behind closed doors. There’s no commercial reason for them to be held in private.”


All in all then, encouraging words from both Jason and Miles. Time will tell as to what the future will hold, but you can be sure that there will be further changes still to a snooker landscape which has already been transformed in recent years…