And the snooker season begins…

Yes, I know, we had a week of qualifiers earlier but tomorrow sees the start of the Riga Masters 2017, the first event proper of the season. You can see the draw here.

It’s a bit of a depleted field to be honest, with only 5 members of the top 16 competing, Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins being the only members of the top 8 in it. Neil Robertson is the defending champion . The World Champion, Mark Selby, had entered but withdrew; if what transpired on social media is true he suffers a foot injury. Some suggested that, having earned so much from snooker over the recent seasons, Mark had withdrawn because of the modest prize money. I don’t believe this, it would be totally out of character.

With the new season about to start Worldsnooker has published the list of events that will be available on Eurosport and/or Eurosport player. So tomorrow Riga will be on our screens, or tablets, or phones. Unfortunately it seems that the much anticipated Hong Kong Masters later in July will not be covered.

Worldsnooker also published this information regarding the invitational Tour card holders 

Wednesday 21 Jun 2017 10:10AM

World Snooker has decided that Invitational Tour Card Holders will now be able to compete in any ranking event – rather than only those where the number of entries is below 128 tour players.

The current Invitational Tour Card Holders are Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and James Wattana and going forward they will be given the opportunity to enter all ranking events.

Where the total number of entries including tour players and Invitational Tour Card Holders exceeds 128, a pre-qualifying round will take place.

The relevant number of players will be selected at random from those among the bottom 64 seeds (excluding wildcards) to play in the pre-qualifying round, with the winners progressing into Round 1 (last 128) at random. Tour Players can only be included in one pre-qualifier per season.

Winners of a pre-qualifying round will receive half of the Last 64 round prize money and this WILL count towards the prize money rankings, but this only applies to those players who then lose in Round 1. Players winning a pre-qualifying round and then winning further matches will be paid the prize money as outlined for that round in the prize money breakdown.

For some reason, mysterious to me, this caused some furor on social media. I honestly can’t see why. First it’s unlikely that there will be any pre-qualifiers at all. I don’t remember a single event over the last couple of seasons where there weren’t at least 3 top-ups. And I by far prefer to see players like Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and James Wattana than the top-ups. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Yes, it’s a favor they get, not a right they have, for it’s for having been brilliant ambassadors of their sport for a very long time. Is that bad? Are they not going to attract viewers and sponsor’s interest? As long as they actually do use their invitational card and play, what’s the problem? They don’t take anyone’s spot. The only thing I wonder is if, in the unlikely case a pre-qualifiying round is needed, it would be possible to have a mechanism in place so that, should a player withdraw from round 1 proper last minute – illness, visa issues etc… – a pre-qualifier would be allowed to fill the gap.

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