Causes for concern?

Today saw the conclusion of the Q-School event 2. After two events out of three, eight players have earned a two years professional card: Jak Jones, Sam Baird, Hammad Miah, Sam Craigie, Jordan Brown, Craig Steadman, Lu Ning and Zao Xintong. All of them have been professionals before and six of the eight competed as pros during the 2017/18 season. This means that, for now at least, the Q-School hasn’t produced a “new” pro.

I find this a bit worrying because what it means is that currently the gap between the guys who were not quite good enough to stay on tour and the amateurs who have never been pros is significantly big, and I feel it’s growing because of the current state of the amateur game. That’s why the Challenge Tour will be so important: hopefully it will provide the amateurs who aspire to become pros with the quality opposition and the competitive environment they need to be able to succeed as pros.

This is how things stand for now regarding who will be able to play in the Challenge Tour (source snooker.org)  The top 64 amongst the ones who played in the Q-School but didn’t qualify for the Main tour are eligible for the Challenge Tour and it has been confirmed on twitter today that if some of them don’t enter an event, the ones further down the list will be offered the chance.

Other than the Q-School successful there will be a number of “nominations” of course. Over the recent years, nominees from certain regions – from most regions actually – have got very little success as pros, some even not winning a single match over a full season. I feel that this system isn’t right nor fair. I understand that this is part of the efforts to make the game more global but what good does it do when the nominees have next to no chance because they don’t have the required level, mainly because they never had the chance to compete against the type of opposition and under the conditions they find on the main tour? It must be very dispiriting for those players and doesn’t enhance the “global image” of snooker. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved to offer those players a full season of scholarship on the Challenge Tour before throwing them in the bear pit that is the Main Tour? Just an idea…

On an other sorry subject, World Snooker has today published two statements regarding players having a case to answer regarding possible match fixing and breach of betting rules. And, for what I understood, more investigations are underway.

http://www.worldsnooker.com/wpbsa-statement-cao-yupeng-and-yu-delu/

http://www.worldsnooker.com/wpbsa-statement-david-john/

I don’t want to prejudge conclusions, but it looks very bad, in particular where Yu Delu is concerned.

In my opinion those are the things that really damage the sport, not the occasional outspoken outburst, breach of etiquette or swearing by players caught in the heat of the moment or the bitter disappointment of a defeat. Also I feel that the (too?) close relationship between WS and the betting industry isn’t helping. During the World Championship I received mails from Worldsnooker inviting me to bet and being possibly rewarded with tickets to the Crucible. At some events, players, I have heard, get goodie bags with “free” betting slips in them; of course they are not supposed to use them on snooker. There are also events like the Shoot-out or the Championship League Snooker that are tailor-made for betting. The Shootout is largely unpredictable and the Championship League has a format that doesn’t necessary motivate players to win at all cost – they might earn more money by losing at the right stage and getting to the next group. Moreover the Championship League  is only streamed on betting sites too. For me that’s not a very “healthy” situation.

5 thoughts on “Causes for concern?

  1. Thing is, Q School is a route to the main tour, but not the only route. We have two new young English pros in Harvey Chandler and Joe O’Connor who have made it via European routes.It may well take more than two years before they get established. Elliot Slessor and Sam Craigie are examples of that.
    I don’t like Q School being a direct rout to the main tour. It could now be a means of qualifying for the Challenge Tour where the best from that tour compete against the relegated pros at the end of the season.
    The best of Q School will also be getting experience on the main tour by means of the top ups.
    So no, for me there is no real cause for concern other than the bandwagon of “there is no English amateur game anymore”. No, it’s not 1992 anymore – and it never will be. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as good in the future and indeed better!

  2. I think we would all have predicted the sorts of players who would qualify through Q-School, although the 3rd section might bring up a new name. It could have been worse – there were a number of over-40’s who came quite close to making a return. It’s a difficult one, as you’d want players to be competitive on the Pro-tour, but there is clearly a gap between players with professional experience, who practice every type of shot for hours a day, and capable amateurs, who have to fit in practice around work. I’ve expressed my views before about the balance between Pro versus Pro-Am and Am.

    Right now there is a magnificent tournament happening in Zibo (hometown of Yan Bingtao), featuring about half of the Chinese professionals (and a couple of Thais) plus the top amateurs, around 100 flat draw. I just saw Zhou Yuelong get a 140 break against Yuan Sijun. Even in the earlier rounds, the standard there puts Q-School to shame. Three live streams are on http://www.cbsa.org.cn/gnnews/2018/0522/171849.html.

  3. There’s no question that ex-tour players have an advantage in Q School with their experience with the conditions and high level of competition, but I’m not sure what the solution is when the system is, and ought to be, a meritocracy. If the new Q School entrants can’t beat ex-pros relegated from the tour in qualifying, then I’m not sure I would describe it as “unfair.” Very difficult, yes–but I don’t know if there’s a more fair way to do it. The conditions at Q School for first-time players are surely among the best they’ve ever played in, so if the sole complaint is that these other ex-pros are better used to it than the new guys, I don’t think that holds any water.

    Striking a balance between promoting snooker’s global image and ensuring that the professional tour represents the best players the world has to offer is a huge challenge, too. The best British and Chinese players are going to better than the best Nordic and Canadian players for a long time and the grassroots programs of less snooker-centric regions need a lot of development if they hope to challenge at Q School against seasoned competitors.

    The Asian Q School is one way of introducing more tour cards in a competitive environment that won’t necessarily be populated with as many ex-pros, and I’d like to see that in other regions around the world in some form. While I think we generally want to see the best players the world has to offer, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to, for example, trade a few tour cards destined for the umpteenth-ranked Q School finisher in England and run other regional Q Schools for those spots. You might sacrifice some quality of play this way, but I know I’m not the only one who would rather watch Igor Figueiredo or Robin Hull than the majority of the winners that come through Q School.

    • Yes, the question is what should a ‘Professional Snooker Player’ really mean? Obviously, only the top players will be in contention for tournament wins (maybe up to 50 of them these days). There will also inevitably be players who lose almost all of their matches. It absolutely makes sense for there to be players from minority countries represented, which would at least broaden the appeal of the game.

      Myself I would try to cloud the distinction between amateur and professional, with more tournaments being Pro-Am and more invitationals (which seems to be happening anyway). Thus fewer qualifying stages. The idea of a ‘tour card’ is too inflexible: another example of snooker administrators borrowing ideas from other sports.

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