As he always does during the World Championship, Barry Hearn brought some champagne to the media room yesterday, as well as a number of important announcements.
Wednesday 26 Apr 2017 06:40PM
World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn gave a press conference at the Crucible today with a series of announcements about snooker’s future.
Here’s a summary:
- Next season’s prize money will go to £12 million. This compares to £3.5 million just seven years ago. When Hearn took over World Snooker he gave a guarantee to the WPBSA of certain prize money levels that would be hit once commercial rights were acquired. This year we are £25 million in advance of those guarantees.
- At the end of next year’s Q School we will launch a Challenge Tour. This will be a series of ten events available to players who have shown ambition to be a professional snooker player by entering Q School. The winner and runner up will get a tour card.
- For the first time in the history of snooker we are abolishing entry fees for ranking events. Once you own a tour card, that membership gives you the right to compete in events. Entry fees were once a key part of our income, but this is no longer the case. We will write off the £500,000 we previously received from entry fees and this will save every player £4000-£5000 a year. This only applies to tour players. Prize money is going to £12 million, and there will be increases in the early rounds of tournaments.
- This year’s World Championship prize money is £1.75 million with the winner getting £375,000. Next year it will go to £1.968 million with the winner getting £425,000 and in 2019 the prize money will rise to £2.25 million with the winner getting £500,000. This is a statement to show snooker is a major sport.
- A major new deal has been agreed with CCTV, China’s national TV station, for the next ten years. We are currently in discussions about fundamental changes to the prize money structures in China. We will not be having more than five events in China, but those events will have significantly changed prize money structures. This comes as a result of people asking if the World Championship should move to China, and we kept it in Sheffield because of the history at the Crucible. But China can create history, and we will support that.
- Our next target is to see £15 million of prize money, and then to hit £20 million. We will continue to maximise the commercial value of our sport to maximise the reward for players.
So what do I make of this?
Abolishing the entry fees is an excellent move. It will definitively make playing on the main tour more affordable. The cost of it has been a real hurdle for a number of young aspiring players whose families were not in a position to support them (enough) financially.
The Challenge Tour is good news too, however I’m not sure that restricting it to players who have entered the Q-School is ideal. Why not open it to all amateurs who have entered an event that carries a tour card opportunity? I’m thinking amateur World Championships for instance?
Increased prize money in early rounds is moving in the right direction: you can’t base a global tour solely on the top 16.