The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 2

Kyren Wilson beat Ali Carter comprehensively yesterday evening in Hull. Here is the report by WST:

Brave Wilson Wins Despite Son’s Illness

Kyren Wilson’s five-year-old son Bailey has suffered from serious medical problems in recent weeks but the Warrior has continued to compete on the baize and reached the semi-finals of the Duelbits Tour Championship with a 10-4 defeat of Ali Carter.

Bailey, the younger of Wilson’s two boys, first became ill in January and spent five days in hospital, initially with a suspected brain or back tumour. Thankfully that initial diagnosis proved incorrect. “We had a couple of days to wait for an MRI scan to find out whether it was a tumour, and that was very tough,” said Wilson.

It now seems more likely it could be something like Crohn’s Disease, though we are still not sure. But before I left home he was running about and seems to have turned a corner so that was great to see. It’s important to talk about these things sometimes rather than bottle them up. I have sometimes felt that snooker is the be-all and end-all, but this has made me realise how lucky I am, and it has freed me up to just enjoy the game.”

The Kettering cueman certainly enjoyed today’s performance as he rattled in a century and seven more breaks over 50 in an emphatic win over Carter. On his third appearance in this tournament, he’s into the last four for the first time and will face Ding Junhui in another best-of-19 battle in Hull on Friday.

Wilson has had an impressive season, highlighted by victory at the European Masters as well as a run to the semi-finals of the Duelbits Players Championship, and the 31-year-old is just two wins away from the biggest title of his career.

Trailing 6-2 after the first session, Carter reduced the deficit by taking the opening frame tonight with a break of 61. He had chances in frame ten but didn’t capitalise, and then botched a safety shot when he led 50-11, gifting his opponent the chance to clear with 50 for 7-3. The 11th followed a similar pattern as Carter over-cut a red to a centre pocket when 51-13 ahead, and Wilson punished him with a 55 clearance.

A run of 50 helped world number seven Wilson extend his lead to 9-3 at the interval. Carter pulled one back with a run of 69 before Wilson sealed the result with an 84 in frame 14.

He added: “Ali is a class act so I’m chuffed to win. I stepped up when I needed to and made some good clearances. This event is the best eight players of the season so you have to be on your game from the start. One of my main goals for the season was to get into this tournament and now I have won a match in it for the first time.”

Carter said: “I was rubbish all day. I threw three or four frames away and you can’t afford to do that against Kyren.”

First of all, I want to wish young Bailey a prompt return to full health and the best for the future. I’m glad to read that Kyren’s boy is getting better. For a parent there is nothing harder than seeing your child in very poor health, feeling powerless at helping them and worrying terribly whilst having to put on a brave, reassuring face in front of them. Everything else feels utterly unimportant when your child and the whole family are going through such times.

Regarding the match, Kyren played really well and looked more relaxed, less intense than usual, which, I think, helped him. In important matches in the past, notably during his Masters Final against Mark Allen, I was under the impression that he wanted it too much, he was trying too hard. That can be counterproductive at times. If, however, he can keep yesterday’s attitude and frame of mind going into the World Championship, he will be very dangerous.

As for Ali, he was poor indeed and said it bluntly. In the past, when players, Ronnie in particular, were bluntly critical about a poor performance, some fans accused them of disrespect to their opponent, seeing an honest assessment as an attempt to downplay the said opponent’s merit. I don’t buy that crap. Players have a right to be honest and express their true feelings.

The 2023 World Championship Qualifiers Draw and Format Are Out

This was published by WST today, early afternoon:

Cazoo World Championship Qualifying Draw

The draw and format for the qualifying rounds of the 2023 Cazoo World Championship are now available, with the likes of Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, Barry Hawkins, Stephen Maguire, Hossein Vafaei, Anthony McGill, Marco Fu, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Jimmy White and new World Women’s Champion Baipat Siripaporn in the field.

Click here for the 2023 Cazoo World Championship draw

Click here for the 2023 Cazoo World Championship format

The qualifying rounds run from April 3 to 12 at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. In all there will be 128 players, all battling for one of 16 coveted spots at the famous Crucible Theatre.

Tickets are available for just £10 per day and it’s an incredible chance to see a wide range of all-time greats and up-and-coming talents, playing in snooker’s biggest tournament. For details click here.

Seven-time champion Hendry will be up against James Cahill in the opening round, while 1997 Crucible king Doherty will meet 12-time World Women’s Champion Reanne Evans.

Stan Moody, winner of the WSF Junior Championship, will meet Andres Petrov, while women’s world number one Mink Nutcharut will face a Thai derby against Dechawat Poomjaeng.

Included in the draw is ‘Player 1’ which will be either Ding Junhui, Gary Wilson or Ryan Day, depending on the results of this week’s Duelbits Tour Championship.

Session times are 10am, 2.30pm and 7pm for the first three rounds, running from April 3-10. Then on April 11 and 12 it’s the fourth and final round, known as Judgement Day, when places at the Crucible are decided. Session times for those two days are 11am and 5pm.

Details of how to watch the qualifiers on discovery+, Matchroom Live and other platforms will be available soon.

The format is:
Round one pits players ranked 81 to 112 against those seeded 113 to 144
In round two, those 32 winners will face players ranked 49-80.
In round three, those 32 winners will face players ranked 17-48.
In round four, those 32 winners play each other, with the 16 winners going through to the Crucible.

The final stages at the Crucible run from April 15 to May 1.

11 players are missing out through suspension . They are Liang Wenbo, Li Hang, Lu Ning, Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Mark King.

To fill up the draw nine players from last year’s Q School Order of Merit have been invited: Steven Hallworth, Florian Nuessle, Ross Bulman, Ian Martin, Michael Holt, Haydon Pinhey, Andrew Higginson, Michael Georgiou and Soheil Vahedi. I’m happy to see Soheil Vahedi in that list.

They join the 16 WPBSA-invited players announced earlier in the month: Hai Long Ma, Stan Moody, Liam Davies, Yang Gao, Liam Pullen, Iulian Boiko, Filips Kalnins, Martin O’Donnell, Liam Graham, Bulcsú Révész, Siripaporn Nuanthakhamjan, Ross Muir, Daniel Wells, Billy Castle, George Pragnell and Farakh Ajaib.

I’m a bit surprised that Ashley Carty hasn’t been invited. Of course he has already regained his tour card but still, I feel that he should have been in the draw, unless, for some reason he isn’t available at those dates.

I haven’t studied the draw in details of course but a few things caught my eye:

  • Ben Mertens could face Julien Leclercq in round 2 in an all Belgian clash.
  • James Cahill is due to play Stephen Hendry. James is Stephen’s ex-wife nephew and although they aren’t close it may feel a bit awkward
  • Dechawat Poomjaeng will face Mink in an all Thai contest. Poor Mink… that can’t be easy given Poomy’s character and ability.
  • Martin O’Donnell will play Marco Fu in round 1, and the winner will play Jimmy White. Brutal that.
  • We might get some very tough matches in the last round: possible clashes are: Jamie Jones v Pang Junxu, Hossein Vafaei v Martin Gould, Joe O’Connor v Sam Craigie, Thepchaiya Un-nooh v Ricky Walden and Tom ford v Jordan Brown.

If you have the opportunity to attend those qualifiers, go and get yourself there. It’s probably the most interesting tournament of the season and fantastic value for money.

The 2023 Tour Championship – Day 1

Ding kept his hopes to be at the Crucible as a seed yesterday by beating Mark Allen, and beat him comprehensively.

Here is the report by WST:

Top Seed Allen Floored By Ding

Ding Junhui, who earned a place in the Duelbits Tour Championship by the narrowest of margins, knocked out top seed Mark Allen by a 10-5 scoreline, boosting his hopes of a Crucible berth.

China’s Ding would have missed out on a place in Hull if Gary Wilson had won one more frame at last week’s WST Classic, but Wilson’s 5-4 semi-final defeat against Pang Junxu meant that he finished just £500 behind Ding on the one-year ranking list. So Ding progressed to this week’s elite eight-man event for the first time, and took full advantage with a fine display against Allen, making a century and nine more breaks over 50.

The result means that if Ryan Day loses to Mark Selby on Thursday, Ding will be among the top 16 seeded players at the Crucible next month. If Day wins, then Ding would need to win one more match. He’ll face Ali Carter or Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals on Friday.

Today’s tussle was a repeat of November’s UK Championship final, which Allen won 10-7. The Northern Irishman has landed three titles this season, though has suffered a dip in form in recent weeks, and in fact it was Ding who came into the tie with a more recent taste of silverware, having won the Six Red World Championship this month.

From 2-0 down, Ding took five of the next six frames in the first session to open up a 5-3 lead. That soon became 6-3 as he made a break of 91 in the first frame of the evening session, then he stole a crucial tenth frame by clearing from the last red. Allen might have pulled one back but missed the final green to a centre pocket in the 11th and again Ding punished him for 8-3.

Allen took two of the next three frames to restore some respectability to the scoreline at 9-5, but Ding then wrapped up the result with a run of 95.

I played well all day, I was very focussed and took my chances well,” said 35-year-old Ding.” I was fighting hard. Winning the Six Red has given me confidence. It’s great to win a match like this. Mark might be tired because he has won so many tournaments. If he had played tonight like he did in the UK Championship second session I would have been in big trouble. He had big chances and it could have been different if he had taken them.

I am not focussed on the Crucible. I am just trying to win more matches to get in to the top 16, but it doesn’t matter whether that happens fast or slowly. I am just happy to win the match today.”

Allen, who could have gone to the top of the world rankings for the first time in his career if he had won the tournament, said: “It’s disappointing, I didn’t play my best stuff. It was a bad day at the office. I wasn’t good enough, you get days like that. Credit to Ding because he scored better than me and looked more composed. There’s no need to panic, I have had a great season, there’s a lot to be positive about. I will get ready for Sheffield now. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of animal I can be at the Crucible this time after such a good season.”

And, after the match, Stephen Hendry had his say on Allen’s performance, as reported by Phil Haigh

Stephen Hendry offers Mark Allen advice over form concerns ahead of Crucible

Phil Haigh Tuesday 28 Mar 2023 12:49 am

2023 Betvictor Welsh Open - Day 3
Mark Allen turned in a disappointing performance in defeat to Ding Junhui (Picture: Getty Images)

Stephen Hendry feels Mark Allen is struggling with a lack of break-building and a shortage of intensity and he must rectify both problems to challenge for the World Championship title this year.

Allen came into the Tour Championship this week as the number one seed thanks to his three ranking title wins this season, however, his challenge in Hull did not last long.

Ding Junhui played very well, but the Northern Irishman was not great in a 10-5 loss to the Chinese star which saw him head home on the opening night of the tournament.

After a superb season so far there has been plenty of talk of a first world title for the Pistol, but Hendry is concerned over the significant drop off in his scoring power of late.

Allen has made 40 tons this season, but none in his last nine matches, the last coming in a first round win over Alfie Burden in the Welsh Open on 13 February.

The Pistol won that match and has won five matches since then, so it does not mean disaster, but Hendry says it will be worrying him it must be fixed if he is to challenge in Sheffield.

Speaking after the defeat to Ding, Hendry told ITV4: ‘He [Ding] was by far the heavier scorer of the two players, Mark Allen just didn’t have it. His scoring has deserted him at the worst part of the season, you have to say

Really disappointing performance from him, but credit to Ding, he just kept on scoring. 50s, 60s all day.

You’ve got to try and forget it and get back to the practice table. His scoring will worry him because that’s what he’s known for and this season he’s scored prolifically with century breaks.

If I was him I’d solely practice between now and Sheffield clearing the table every time. Get that break-building back.’

Hendry feels that the demeanour of the UK champion must also change, wanting to see a fiery Allen at the table once again.

His general manner round the table is not the Mark Allen we know, he’s usually an intense looking character,’ said the seven-time world champ. ‘He looks subdued a wee bit, I’d like to see that fire in his belly a bit more.’

2023 World Grand Prix
Allen has had an immense season, but is not at top form right now (Picture: Getty Images)

Alan McManus was also on punditry duty on ITV and had some more advice for Allen, saying he must loosen up to find his best form.

Mark was a little bit unfortunate, but you’ve got to score in one visit and that takes luck out of the equation,’ said Angles.

His method right now…he’s playing with tight shoulders, you can’t do that. You have to play with freedom in the shoulders to deliver through the ball. He decelerated three or four times today and that’s a concern.

Allen was unflustered after the loss, disappointed with how he played, but refusing to panic after a fine season and before the biggest event of the campaign.

Started alright, first two frames were decent, missed a tricky red in frame three and everything started to go wrong,’ said the world number three.

You’re playing the best players in the world on current form, so if you don’t play well in this tournament you’re going to get beat it’s that simple.

It’s not a time for me to panic, I’ll go home practice hard and get ready for Sheffield now.

Speaking to WST, Allen said he would find a rapid way to get over the game, and it would come in liquid form.

I’m going to get very drunk tonight because that was a really poor performance today,’ he said.

I feel like I prepared really well, behaved myself, practicing hard, got in the gym and that was a performance I wasn’t expecting because the last few days in practice have been really good.

I’m going to have a well earned drink tonight and then back to the practice table.

Hopefully I get really, really drunk and can’t remember it.

I’m really happy to see Ding playing well again. As for Mark Allen, he was poor on the day and I hope for his sake that his plans of getting really, really drunk were just something he expressed in jest because going back to bad habits will not help him going forward and regaining his form.

Today we have Kyren Wilson vs Ali Carter. If I’m being honest, this is a match that doesn’t excite me at all. I have met Kyren and his family and I like him, but I’m not particularly thrilled by his game. As for Ali… he’s a very good player and someone who has gone through a lot but I’m not a fan of the person he is, at least not of his public persona.

Meanwhile on social media…

David Hendon may say that everyone has to work together and all but it isn’t that easy …

Yesterday Kan Doherty came back on the subject of “that meeting” claiming that players had got ample prior notice. I asked him how much prior notice and his answer was “probably 4 weeks“. To that Jason Francis answered giving the exact date when his players – Ronnie and Reanne – had got the mail. That was just 7 days before the meeting, not four weeks. Ken didn’t reply to that, he didn’t deny it, maybe he didn’t see Jason’s answer … I’m not sure. Jason suggested that probably the members of the board indeed knew much earlier than the other players when that meeting was scheduled. But why? Either someone didn’t do their job, or they waited until late to inform the players, which inevitably raises questions about possible ulterior motives.

Yes, almost all players were due in Leicester for the WST Classic, however only about one third of them were due to play on the first day. Those who played on the first day had likely booked accommodations for the night before, but not the others. This was, for all players but eight, the last ranking tournament before the World Championship, therefore it was particularly important. They almost certainly had a practice program they intended to follow, maybe practice matches booked with partners. Going to Leicester, for most, would have meant, booking additional accommodations last minute and disrupting their preparation. From what Lewis, who went to watch, said , it’s a small venue. Shortage of practice opportunities on site at tournaments has been a regular complaint by players for years. So no, it’s not “beggars belief” that most chose not to go, it was to be fully expected… which inevitably, again, raises questions about possible ulterior motives.

Zoom or other ways to attend remotely were refused. Shaun Murphy said it’s because players could record the meeting and then share on social media. Right. What would prevent someone to be in person at the meeting with a mini recorder in their pocket? Just make it clear to the players, and their managers, that there will be serious consequences for whoever breaches the confidentiality of the meetings.

And, last thing, the media went to speak to Mark Selby who criticised Ronnie, and others, for not attending the meeting. Well, Mark, it was easy for you as you live in Leicester. Disruption of your preparation. if any was minimal. Would you have gone if it was held in London? Maybe… or maybe not.

Ok This is the last I’ll say about this topic unless new elements come to light

What is at stake at the 2023 Tour Championship

The 2023 Tour Championship starts today, featuring only eight players and none of the Class of 92. It’s the last ranking event before the World Championship, and one that carries a lot of money and ranking points. It is particularly important for three players: Ding Junhui, Gary Wilson and Ryan Day.

Indeed as it stands all three have a chance to avoid qualifications for the World Championship.

Here is a piece by WST explaining the possible permutations:

It’s Two From Three In Crucible Race

Next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship in Hull is the final event before the top 16 seeds are confirmed for the Cazoo World Championship. Ryan Day, Ding Junhui and Gary Wilson are in contention for the last two spots.

The top 14 in the race, down to Stuart Bingham (note that Zhao Xintong will not be among them as he cannot enter), are secure and will be at the Crucible in April.

Wilson would have been sure of joining them if he had reached the final of the WST Classic, but he suffered an agonising 5-4 defeat to Pang Junxu in the semi-finals, which meant he missed out on a place in the top eight of the one-year list and a trip to Hull. He is still 15th in the Crucible race so could be a seed for the first time in his career, but that depends on other results next week. The permutations are:

Ding loses to Mark Allen on Monday: Wilson and Day go to the Crucible
Ding beats Allen then Day loses to Mark Selby on Thursday: Wilson and Ding go to the Crucible
Ding reaches the final and Day beats Selby: Day and Ding go to the Crucible
Ding and Day both win their first match, then Ding loses in the semi-finals: Wilson and Day go to the Crucible

As you will have understood the match today is particularly important for both Ding and Day.

The outcome of this tournament will also determine the seeding at the Crucible. Mark is currently second on the official two-year list but will go to world number one if he reaches the final this week. Mark Allen also has a chance to become world number one for the first time in his career if he wins the title. Ronnie will remain the seed number one going into the Crucible , no matter what happens this week because he is the defending champion. Mark Selby will remain seed number two even if he becomes World Number one. If Mark Allen becomes number one though, he would then become seed number two, swapping his spot with Mark Mark Selby. Because neither Neil Robertson, nor Judd Trump qualified for the Tour Championship, those two can’t be caught, they will be seeds two and three at the World Championship.

Also, I saw posts by WST claiming that snooker is going to Hull for the first time. This is untrue. The Seniors tour has held UK Championships in Hull in the past, and in the very same venue that will host the Tour Championship this week.

The “Vetoed Interview” – An Interesting Analysis By Graig Edwards and David Hendon’s views

As you would expect, the discussions around Ronnie “vetoed interview” go on and divides opinions.

Craig Edwards who wrote the piece about how the money is shared raises questions about Jason’s Ferguson’s roles and whether his position might be weakened by possible conflicts of interest.

Here is Graig Edward’s piece

Is there a “Conflict of Interest” at the top of professional snooker?

Published by Craig Edwards on March 25th, 2023.

Craig Edwards

Jason Ferguson is a man of many hats

He is chairman of the WPBSA and director of WST but realistically, is it possible for Jason Ferguson to do both?

My first recollection of Jason Ferguson must have been in the late 80s or early 90s when he travelled over from Nottinghamshire to Grimsby to play at Ray Edmonds Snooker Centre for the day.

Ferguson made a strong first impression, he was a precise positional player with a solid technique, very polished and accomplished for his age. There was no surprise, that he had a very respectable career as a professional until retiring young in 2004. Those first impressions undoubtedly, stood him well after his playing career ended. He became the Mayor of Ollerton and Broughton at the remarkably young age of forty, elevated no doubt by his chairmanship position of the WPBSA (World Professional, Billiard and Snooker Association) that he had held since 2001.

His tenure in that position was re-elected in 2010 when Barry Hearn assumed ownership and in 2022 it was confirmed he would continue serving until 2026.

What is Jason Ferguson’s role?

Considering Ronnie O’Sullivan’s allegations and the suppression of his press conference that he made them in, we ask the question, who is Jason Ferguson now and his role in the sport?

We know by 2026, Jason Ferguson’s tenure as Chairman of the WPBSA will have run for a quarter of a century.

What does the chairman of the WPBSA do? In the WPBSA case, Ferguson’s role is to preside over and protect the players interests, those players own the shares to the company. The WPBSA is owned by and the ruling body to the current 128-professionals. They are responsible for ownership of the rules and governance of the sport.

WPBSA own a 26% share in World Snooker Holding Limited as highlighted in my article from March 8th, titled Profit Increase of 150% for World Snooker shareholders in 2020/21. That profit share was defined at the time of Barry Hearn’s acquisition in 2010 for 26%, to protect and allow the players the opportunity to approve or deny any changes to ownership to World Snooker. A further part of the conditions was that Jason Ferguson stayed on in his role of chairman.

Having recognised who, I once briefly knew as a snooker professional, we can now see that Jason Ferguson has resided in his role of chairman or chairperson of the WPBSA for over twenty years. That provokes certain questions, as being a chairman is not really a defined career and Ferguson’s renumeration in the role can only be described as modest by today’s standards.

It is believed Ferguson was responsible and influential in the growth of snooker in the Far East (China) pre Covid-19 and he obviously had assumed the role of commercial director successfully at times which asks the question, was any finder’s fee renumeration applicable? To profit from such fine work in growing the sport should be reasonably expected by all members. That does mean that all business interests relating to snooker need declaring for honest transparency to the WPBSA players. With the current environment of growing resentment around professional snooker, the rank and file, would be within their rights to demand for a new level of transparency at the top of the game. Currently, the governing body’s actions appear shrouded in a smoke and mirrors culture.

That culture was never more evident than recently, when World Snooker held a short-notice players’ meeting in Leicester to address the shareholder dividends amongst other things on the 15th of March. No zoom links were allowed to players or their representatives who could not attend and in the modern world there can be no good reason for not doing so.

Then next frustrating lack of transparency from World Snooker came in an article that utilised my betting insight on March 15th, into the question of the suspension of Mark King. With my expertise and contacts around the betting industry, it was obvious that things were happening, yet WST chose to wait until the eleventh hour on March 18th before his scheduled match at the WST Classic to inform everyone, including the player, my sources tell me.

A chairman’s remit is to preside never dictate!

A chairman holds the reins of power for their members which is why any potential “conflicts of interests” need viewing by the members they preside over.

When Ferguson took on directorships in World Snooker Limited and World Snooker Holding Limited, it begged the question at the time and particularly now considering recent events, was there and is there a “conflict of interest” with his role to watch over the players rights? This is, of course, the original remit for Jason Ferguson as WPBSA chairman upon taking the role over twenty years ago.

Who would approach WST if there was strike action planned?

Theoretically, when Ronnie O’Sullivan hinted the players should strike if the membership of the WPBSA were to agree with the seven-times World Champion, it would be Ferguson’s job to approach World Snooker on their behalf as their elected WPBSA chairman. Is it possible that position then becomes a clear “conflict of interest?” Those sorts of conflicting issues are logical reasons for the recent surreptitious climate surrounding communications with the membership and for keeping players meetings behind closed doors and at a very short notice.

It can happen by chance or design that a good chairman who has been in the job for a long time, becomes dictatorial with their usage of power which could be the attributable reason for the quickly arranged players meeting.

Players have long felt appeased by Ferguson’s platitudes when they have aired their concerns, as Stephen Maguire discussed with respected snooker journalist, Phil Haigh which can only be contributing to the growing resentment within the game.

We have seen the growing power of social media and Ferguson is well versed in using those platforms which in the current climate is another area of concern for the players!

The fact of the matter is, the longer World Snooker and Jason Ferguson stay quiet the more questions are going to be asked.

Can the “Rocket’s” press conference be snooker’s saviour?

Ronnie O’Sullivan has long been thought of by many as bigger than the sport no matter the adage, that no one is too big. That’s because snooker’s global growth has been slow since he won the UK Championship at the precocious age of seventeen. In the years since, “the Rocket” has been the mainstay figure at the top of his sport for his adoring public and ever-growing cult following. Like it or lump it, there is truth in the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan is too big for the sport and WST chairman Steve Dawson’s argumentative riposte in an unusually rare statement, after the attempted media blackout was a huge tell, that the seven-time World Champion hit a nerve.

Now, not only is he the sport’s saviour on the baize, could he inadvertently save his sport by doing something, the masses below him dare not, speak out!

Snooker fans know that occasionally over the years the sport’s talisman Ronnie O’Sullivan is prone to the odd out-of-line comment but, in recent years “the Rocket” has become a great ambassador. The encouragement and genuine guidance O’Sullivan have given the stars of the future has been much appreciated as Ben Mertens recently pointed out in an interview with Phil Haigh.

Ronnie O’Sullivan: DerHexer, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 4.0

Fans have enjoyed the “Rocket’s” honest punditry with Eurosport and his gentlemanly behaviour when defeated in several finals in recent years. Remarkably for the sport he has also retained the ability to win two of the last three World Championships.

O’Sullivan has taken offence to what happened with the players meeting and used his right to freedom of speech, and he at least, can speak out. Remember, those players below him in the world rankings with bills to pay, often talk about how frightened they are to speak out and how their social media comments are policed in a rather draconian fashion by World Snooker.

Could it be that Ronnie O’Sullivan’s comments from his press conference kick start a process that can save snooker from the growing crisis engulfing the sport and the fanning of the flames that a lack of transparency brings?

Only time will tell, but the professionals who must earn a living from the dwindling prize pools would do well to arm themselves with the facts as to whether their chairman’s remit is being met contemporaneously at present, so they can be the masters of their own future.

And David Hendon also shared his views in the snooker scene podcast (16:30 – 28:40). Basically he sees rights and wrongs on both sides. And just like me in my “open letter” he states that the European market has not been developed as it should have been.

The coloured backgrounds and “underline” bits are my doing: those are the part I found particularly relevant. But I won’t comment further. Please read, form your own opinion and share if you feel like it.

I will just add one thing: The media went to find Mark Selby who attended the meeting and got quotes out of him criticising Ronnie for not attending. Mark has not attended all similar meetings in the past. He went to this one, that was held in his home town. Would he have gone if he had to travel to London for such, having to play on the next day in a tournament that was important for him to secure his spot in the Tour Championship? Somehow I doubt it.

Interesting too is this on twitter by Hector Nunns…

An Open Letter to Steve Dawson

After Ronnie’s angry outburst about the state of snooker, Steve Dawson, chairman of WST, reacted with this:

Steve Dawson Responds To Ronnie O’Sullivan

WST Chairman Steve Dawson has responded to remarks made by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the media this week.

Dawson said: “Ronnie is a fantastic player and a legend of our sport, but sometimes his misguided comments go too far. I feel it’s necessary to respond to some of the damaging remarks he made to the press this week.

Firstly, Ronnie has never attended a players’ meeting or engaged with us to discuss his opinions. There are three formal levels where he can provide feedback: through the WST Board, through the WPBSA Players’ board or through players’ meetings, and he has not engaged through any of these channels. He also has my number and is welcome to speak with me directly.

He often compares snooker to golf and tennis, but I would challenge him as to whether for his part he elevates the sport and acts as a role model like a Rory McIlroy or Roger Federer. We are striving to take snooker to a higher level, but we need the players to be ambassadors in public, and to communicate any concerns they have through the right channels. Comments like those from Ronnie this week are damaging to us as a sport – and they’re unfounded.

In 2010, the commercial rights of snooker were awarded to Matchroom Sport. In that time, snooker has grown exponentially around the world. At the time there were six tournaments and total prize money of £3.5 million. This season there are 21 events. Prize money reached £15 million before the pandemic and is currently at £11 million. The dip since 2019 has been principally caused by the inability to stage tournaments in China whilst the country was in an unprecedented lockdown. We are determined to resume a full schedule of events in China in the near future, and at that point our tour will be stronger than ever.

During the time that we have run the tour, Ronnie has earned £7 million in prize money, including the £500,000 top prize at the World Championship last year. No doubt, with his talent, it would have been a lot more had he chosen to play in more events.

Our long-term strategy is to increase the number of events and prize money, and to bring us closer to the levels of the leading individual sports such as golf and tennis. We work alongside global giants such as IMG on this ambition. There are many individual sports, including popular Olympic sports, where the levels of prize money are significantly lower than snooker. For now, we are more than holding our own for the nature and size of the sport.

The fact is that our global television audience is higher than it has ever been, as is our digital audience. In the UK, we have smashed ticket records on many events this season, including the Masters where Ronnie played in front of 2,000 enthusiastic fans in London. Despite the economic climate, fans in the UK are coming to our tournaments in bigger numbers than ever. This does not suggest a crisis!

He also played in the Hong Kong Masters, a tournament we brought back to the calendar this season, where he won the title in front of 9,000 fans. It is tough to create new events during a global recession, but we have maximized opportunities to keep the calendar full and we will continue to do so.

His comments too often are disrespectful to snooker’s dedicated management, the sport’s commercial and venue partners, and to his fellow players. In the past he has described lower-ranked players as ‘numpties’ but they love the sport just as much as he does and our role is to give them opportunities to compete. This season we have provided every player with a £20,000 income guarantee to help them pay expenses and develop their careers.

He suggested that players should go on strike – but why? That certainly won’t drive new revenues. He also claims that players are frightened of being fined for giving their opinions but again this is not borne out by the facts. The number of players fined for comments made in the media is tiny – generally they are given much more freedom than athletes in other sports because we want them to engage more with the media and the fans. If Ronnie took advantage of his own massive global popularity to be a true ambassador for snooker then he could work with us to drive the sport forward for his benefit and for the sport as a whole.

Snooker is bigger than any player. The sport will continue to grow and we have no doubt that in the years to come it will be more successful than ever before.

My message to Ronnie – and all players – is come and talk to me and the team. Our door is always open.”

Well … Ronnie’s statement that snooker is at its worse ever is probably over the top, as in terms of playing opportunities the situation was far worse in 2009 indeed. However, I think that the “malaise” he expresses is genuine and, probably, the shadow the current match fixing enquiry casts over the sport as we approach the climax of the season, the World Championship, and his title defence, is a big factor here.

I don’t have Steve Dawson’s phone number and I’m only a fan, but I still decided to voice my own concerns through an “open letter”. Here goes…

Dear Mr Dawson,

I’m only a fan of the sport, and a photographer who has traveled to many of your events for years, taking a lot of pictures and freely sharing them on social media, and with the press officer on duty in order to promote the sport. I care about snooker and as such, I wish to share some of my concerns following Ronnie’s outburst and your answer to it. I can’t help to feel that he has some genuine points even if he didn’t express them in the ideal way.

It has transpired in the media that players have been urged not to express negative views about their sport in public, no matter their true feelings. If that is indeed the case, this is a very bad and dangerous move by the governing body. Players should have the right to express their true feelings and concerns, just as you have the right to answer if you feel that what they say is incorrect or exaggerated. Trying to stifle the player’s freedom of speech will only lead to suspicions that the governing body has something to hide.

You cite Roger Federer and Rory McIlroy as examples to follow. What about Tiger Woods and John McEnroe? Did they “damage” their sport with their antics and outburst? I don’t think so. And what about Alex Higgins whose heavenly birthday was celebrated by many fans last week? He was a fantastic snooker player, but he was unreliable, obnoxious, aggressive and very vocal and critical of the authorities. On the balance of things, do you seriously believe that he damaged snooker? Times have changed you will tell me. Maybe, but deep down human nature hasn’t changed and mavericks will always fascinate, seduce, infuriate … what they will not do is bore people to death. Let them be… please.

I fully appreciate the efforts by the governing body to keep players playing during the covid pandemics. Your team worked wonders. I totally get that the situation in China has been difficult and there is nothing you could do about it. I’m glad to read that there is hope for a return of big events there in the near future. The £20,000 income guarantee is a fantastic initiative. You have a lot to be proud of.

However, I have the feeling that the tour has become increasingly UK centric, and the wording of the seventh paragraph in your response to Ronnie did nothing to qualm my concerns. It’s all about the UK. Is this not WORLD snooker? We used to have events in Belgium, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Gibraltar… Only two events remain, both in Germany. Mainland Europe has been open and out of covid restrictions for quite some time. What happened to the majority of those events? By the way, Ronnie went to play in Bulgaria and Hungary this season, in front of huge crowds. The interest is there.

Also, qualifiers for all events all happen in the UK, no matter where the event itself is held. Why? I’m not following Golf, but in Tennis qualifiers if any are played close to the main venue and just before the event. That ensures that the form players are going through, rather than those who were on form two months before the actual event and it also ensures that “local” wildcards ,if any, can be watched by the local fans. Why isn’t that the case in snooker? Wildcards in the German Masters never made it to the venue… If you followed the last EBSA youth events, you will have seen that there are many young talents developing in mainland Europe, especially in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. Why not give them more “equal” opportunities to watch and play their sport in their home country? It would only benefit snooker as a global sport.

Finally, while it’s true that Ronnie never attended those meetings, this time , from what I understood, he wished to participate by zoom. That wasn’t granted. Surely he wasn’t the only one. From what transpires, most of those meetings are poorly attended. If a meeting is called at short notice and due to happen on the eve of an important event, then maybe it is to be expected that many players will prioritise their preparation over a meeting that requires them to travel. The technology is there today that offers solutions. Why not use it? I know there may be concerns about privacy and confidentiality, but there are solutions for that too.

Truly yours.

Monique Limbos

Mark Selby is the 2023 WST Champion

Mark Selby has beaten Pang Junxu by 6-2 yesterday evening to win the 2023 WST Classic

Congratulations Mark Selby!

Here is the report by WST:

Selby Makes Three Tons To Win Final

Mark Selby won his second ranking title of the season, and 22nd of his career, by beating Pang Junxu 6-2 in the final of the inaugural WST Classic in his home city of Leicester.

Selby saved his best snooker of the week for the final, making three centuries as he outfoxed China’s Pang, who was playing in a ranking final for the first time. The trophy and top prize of £80,000 are a welcome boost for Selby, whose last title came at the English Open in December.

The 39-year-old came into the tournament unsure of his place at next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship as he sat precariously in eighth place on the one-year ranking list but his tremendous run at the Morningside Arena has boosted him to third. He now heads to Hull for the final event in the Duelbits Series and will go to the Crucible next month full of confidence as he seeks a fifth world title.

Selby remains in eighth place on the all-time list of ranking event winners, but is now just one behind both Judd Trump and Neil Robertson, neither of whom have added to their tally this season. So strong is Selby’s killer instinct when he glimpses silverware that he has now won 19 of his last 21 ranking finals. He remains second in the official world rankings but narrows the gap significantly on world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Pang, age 23, turned pro in 2020 and was named Rookie of the Year in his first season. Within the past two months he has made significant breakthroughs, reaching his first ranking quarter-final at the German Masters, his first semi at the Welsh Open and now his first final. The talented cueman earns £35,000, jumps 11 places up the rankings to 35th and it surely won’t be long before he is holding a trophy.

In the semi-finals, Pang edged out Gary Wilson 5-4 in what was a crucial match for Wilson as victory would have earned him a Duelbits Tour Championship berth as well as a top 16 seeding at the Crucible. Selby, meanwhile, saw off Ali Carter 5-0 with a top break of 138.

The Englishman made a superb start to the final with breaks of 104 and 138 to go 2-0 up. Pang pulled one back with a run of 75 before Selby got the better of the fourth frame then made a 120 for 4-1. A scrappy sixth went Pang’s way, but in the seventh Selby converted a long pot on the third-last red when he led by 25 points and added the balls he needed for 5-2. And he needed only one chance to close out the result, finishing with a break of 79.

I played well all day, against John Higgins in the quarter-finals and Ali in the semis, then continued that in the final,” said Selby. “I was just gutted at the end not to make a fourth century! I have been striking the ball well in practice and it was nice to take that to the match table. Even when I won the English Open in December I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as I was this week. Hopefully I can carry that into the Tour Championship then the World Championship. I’ll be going to Sheffield confident.”

And this is what it means for the last ranking event before the World Championship (source: WST)

Duelbits Tour Championship Draw And Schedule Confirmed

The field and match schedule for next week’s Duelbits Tour Championship is now confirmed, with the event to run from March 27 to April 2 at the Bonus Arena in Hull.

The first round matches are:

Monday March 27th: Mark Allen (1) v Ding Junhui (8)
Tuesday March 28th: Ali Carter (4) v Kyren Wilson (5)
Wednesday March 29th: Shaun Murphy (2) v Robert Milkins (7)
Thursday March 30th: Mark Selby (3) v Ryan Day (6)

Tickets start at just £22 which is exceptional value for the chance to watch the best players on the planet on current form, competing in a renowned tournament. With an elite field of the top eight players from the one-year ranking list, it’s the only format other than the World Championship where matches are best of 19 frames from the first round, reflecting the stature of the event.

Televised by ITV, it’s the third and final event in the 2023 Duelbits Series and there’s a top prize of £150,000 up for grabs.