Review of the 2018/19 season by Worldsnooker

Here it is, as published today

The World Snooker Tour has covered the globe over the last 12 months, from Beijing to Berlin, with 26 trophies up for grabs in 11 different countries. The pursuit of glory has been played out with a collective prize fund of £14 million. Here is the story of the season…

Riga Masters
27-29 July 2018
Champion: Neil Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £50,000

The Thunder from Down Under struck instantly to claim silverware in the opening event of the campaign. He proved to be too strong for maiden ranking event finalist Jack Lisowski in the showpiece clash, coming through a 5-2 winner. It was the second time Robertson had won in the Latvian capital and it ensured that he continued his streak of having won an event in every year since 2006.

World Open
6-12 August 2018
Champion: Mark Williams
Winner’s prize money: £150,000

Last year’s Crucible King Williams landed a 22nd ranking event title with victory in Yushan. The Welshman had trailed David Gilbert 9-5 in the final, but he staged a dramatic fightback to sweep up the remainder of the frames and come through a 10-9 victor. Williams said: “I never give up or let my head drop, no matter what the score is. I never let my opponent see I’m losing heart, and then sometimes it does turn around.”

Paul Hunter Classic
24-26 August 2018
Champion: Kyren Wilson
Winner’s prize money: £20,000

The Warrior ended a three year wait, which extended back to the 2015 Shanghai Masters, to claim a second ranking title in Furth. Wilson faced familiar opposition in the final in the form of 2002 World Champion, friend and mentor Peter Ebdon. Former Masters finalist Wilson had trailed 2-0, but summoned a four-frame surge to run out a 4-2 victor and take home the title.

Six Red World Championship
3-8 September 2018
Champion: Kyren Wilson
Winner’s prize money: 3.5m Baht (approx. £82,000)

Kettering’s Wilson made it back to back titles by becoming world champion of the shorter format of the sport with victory in Bangkok. He put on a dominant display in the Thai capital to defeat Asian No. 1 Ding Junhui 8-4. “Ding is always hard to beat and has won this tournament before,” said Wilson. “Given the standard these days it is very difficult to win two events in a row. Winning has become a habit.”

Shanghai Masters
10-16 September 2018
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £200,000

The Rocket got off to a flying start in his first appearance of the 2018/19 campaign. The new-look 24-man Shanghai Masters has become the most lucrative invitational event in the history of snooker, and its final saw O’Sullivan pitted against Barry Hawkins in front of a packed Shanghai crowd. Despite trailing for long periods of the match, he eventually came through an 11-9 victor.

China Championship
24-30 September 2018
Champion: Mark Selby
Winner’s prize money: £150,000

It was a clash of the titans in Guangzhou as Selby locked horns with John Higgins for the title. It was the third time the pair have met in a ranking final, having previously faced each other in two World Championship showpiece matches, but this time it was the Jester from Leicester who came out on top 10-9 in an epic seven-and-a-half hour battle.

European Masters
1-7 October 2018
Champion: Jimmy Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £75,000

After 12 seasons as a professional, Robertson finally got his hands on a ranking event silverware. The Bexhill potter did it the hard way after extraordinarily winning his first three matches in Lommel 4-3 on the final black. He was pitted against Joe Perry in the final, where he held off a fightback from the Gentleman to win 9-6 and claim his first ranking title.

English Open
15-21 October 2018
Champion: Stuart Bingham
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

Bingham earned his fifth ranking title with victory at the English Open in Crawley, making him one of only 18 players in snooker history to have won five or more pieces of ranking silverware. The 2015 world champion from Basildon faced close friend Mark Davis for the Steve Davis Trophy and there was never more than a frame between the pair in a tightly contested clash, until Bingham broke clear to secure a 9-7 victory.

Macau Masters
24-25 October 2018
Champion: Barry Hawkins

The invitational event saw two teams do battle as Joe Perry, Zhang Anda, Mark Williams and Marco Fu lost out against Barry Hawkins, Ryan Day, Zhao Xintong and Zhou Yuelong. All eight players then contested a six red singles competition, which Hawkins won by defeating Williams 3-2 in the final.

International Championship
28 October– 4 November 2018
Champion: Mark Allen
Winner’s prize money: £175,000

Northern Ireland’s Allen ignited his season with a scintillating display of break building prowess in Daqing as the Pistol fired in an incredible 14 centuries on his way to picking up his first title of the campaign. He defeated Neil Robertson 10-5 in the final to secure the title, making it the third time Allen has lifted ranking silverware in China.

Champion of Champions
5-11 November 2018
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £100,000

O’Sullivan continued his sublime start to the season with victory at Coventry’s elite invitational event. The Rocket proved to be the cream of the crop as snooker’s silverware holders from the past 12 months congregated at the Ricoh Arena and faced Kyren Wilson in the final, who had looked set to land the biggest win of his career so far, but surrendered a 9-8 advantage to lose out 10-9.

Northern Ireland Open
12-18 November 2018
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

The Ace in the Pack secured his first title in what has proved to be the best season of his career so far. Trump scorched a path to the final in Belfast where he faced a familiar foe in the form of Ronnie O’Sullivan, who was competing in the final of an event for the second consecutive week. In a blockbuster clash it was Trump who eventually emerged a narrow 9-7 winner.

UK Championship
27 November – 9 December 2018
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £170,000

The Rocket reached new heights with a historic victory in York. O’Sullivan defeated Mark Allen 10-6 in the final to break two significant records – becoming the most prolific player in UK Championship history with seven titles and the most successful Triple Crown player having now claimed 19 wins. O’Sullivan said: “To beat Hendry’s 18 majors is crazy. I don’t want to stop there, I want to put some distance between me and the next players.”

Scottish Open
10-16 December 2018
Champion: Mark Allen
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

Allen, who started his year by winning a maiden Triple Crown title at the Masters, signed off 2018 with a fine victory in Glasgow. Competing in his second consecutive final, the Pistol faced close friend Shaun Murphy in what proved to be an enthralling encounter that saw the Northern Irishman battle back from 7-6 down to come through a 9-7 victor.

13-20 January 2019
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £200,000

Trump produced a barnstorming display to blow away Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-4 in the final and secure his second Triple Crown title. The Ace in the Pack had to wait eight years for a second piece of major silverware, with his only other win in one of snooker’s big three events coming at the 2011 UK Championship. Trump said: “It’s good for the younger generation. Everyone’s a big fan of Ronnie, including myself, but it’s nice to have someone competing with him every now and again.”

German Masters
30 January – 3 February 2019
Champion: Kyren Wilson
Winner’s prize money: £80,000

The Warrior landed his third title of the season and a second in Germany with a fine victory in Berlin. Wilson was pitted against David Gilbert in the final and the pair took to the table amid a raucous atmosphere in front of 2,500 expectant fans inside a packed Tempodrom. It was Gilbert who assumed pole-position in the closing stages, leading 7-5. However, four frames on the bounce from Wilson saw him secure the title with a 9-7 victory.

World Grand Prix
4-10 February 2019
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £100,000

Trump’s victory at the world-renowned Cheltenham Racecourse venue was the 10th ranking title of his career. He faced a stern test against Barry Hawkins in the last four, battling back from 5-4 down to edge a dramatic 6-5 victory and clinch his place in the final. There he faced tenacious four-time ranking winner Ali Carter but it was Trump who controlled a hard-fought final to emerge a 10-6 winner.

Welsh Open
11-17 February 2019
Champion: Neil Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £70,000

Australia’s Robertson secured his second victory of the campaign and the 15th ranking title of his career with a fine win in Wales. He got his week off to the perfect start by compiling the third 147 break of his career in his opening round clash with Jordan Brown. Robertson faced Stuart Bingham in the final and came through a fiercely contested clash 9-7.

Shoot Out
21-24 February 2019
Champion: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Winner’s prize money: £32,000

Snooker’s quickfire one-frame event was fittingly won by the fastest player on tour. Un-Nooh tops this season’s average shot time statistics with just 16.58 seconds per shot, and he used that to his advantage under the pressures of the shot clock. The Thai fired in the highest break in the history of the event, a run of 139, to beat Jamie Clarke in the semi-final before dispatching Michael Holt to take home the title.

Indian Open
27 February – 3 March 2019
Champion: Matthew Selt
Winner’s prize money: £50,000

Selt claimed his maiden ranking title in Kochi, ending a 17-year journey to claim his first piece of professional silverware. The Englishman beat defending champion John Higgins in the last four to reach his first ranking event final, and there he faced talented Chinese potter Lyu Haotian who he overcame 5-3.

Players Championship
4-10 March 2019
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £125,000

O’Sullivan’s 35th ranking title will be remembered for a moment of snooker history in the last frame of the final when the Rocket fired in a break of 134, the landmark 1,000th century of his career, to defeat Neil Robertson 10-4. The magical moment for O’Sullivan was greeted by a raucous standing ovation from the Preston Guild Hall crowd.

Championship League
1 January – 14 March
Champion: Martin Gould
Winner’s prize money: £20,300

The invitational event is played over the course of the season, with the winners from each group taking part in a final stage, and this year’s event saw Gould pick up his second Championship League title in March. The Londoner faced Jack Lisowski for the honour and came through a 3-1 victor.

Gibraltar Open
13-17 March 2019
Champion: Stuart Bingham
Winner’s prize money: £25,000

Bingham clinched his sixth ranking title with victory on the Rock with the Essex cueman producing some inspired break building form, making nine centuries across the weekend. Bingham faced defending champion Ryan Day in the final and won 4-1 to end the Welshman’s hopes of a second consecutive win in Gibraltar.

Tour Championship
19 – 24 March 2019
Champion: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Winner’s prize money: £150,000

O’Sullivan achieved further momentous landmarks with his win in Llandudno. He defeated Neil Robertson 13-11 in the final to win his 36th ranking title and equal Stephen Hendry’s record, while the success also saw O’Sullivan overtake Mark Selby and move to world no. 1 for the first time since May 2010. At the age of 43, it made him the oldest player to top the rankings since Ray Reardon in 1983.

China Open
1 – 7 April 2019
Champion: Neil Robertson
Winner’s prize money: £225,000

Robertson secured his 16th career ranking title and his third of the season with victory in Beijing. Having not competed in Gibraltar or India, the Australian’s clash with Jack Lisowski was a fourth consecutive ranking final. Robertson made light work of the Englishman, surging to an 11-4 victory to win the China Open for the second time.

World Championship
20 April – 6 May
Champion: Judd Trump
Winner’s prize money: £500,000

Trump finally secured a dream maiden Crucible win with one of the greatest world final displays ever. The Ace in the Pack faced a repeat of the 2011 final, which he lost to John Higgins. This time Trump turned the tables emphatically, running out an 18-9 victor. Between them the pair made 11 centuries, the most ever in a professional match. Trump’s contribution of seven tons also equals the record for an individual player in a match, held by Stephen Hendry and Ding Junhui.

This review once again illustrates how the money based rankings are twisted as tournaments requiring similar efforts are rewarded very differently. It also shows how “poor” the European based tournaments are, when it comes to money. And that’s worrying if snooker intends to be really global. Barry Hearn always comes up with “It’s up to the sponsor to raise the bar if they want the best players”. Well maybe. BUT … maybe it’s also worth putting some thoughts into what markets your “products” are aimed to, and what cultural implications this has.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: the extremely close association between the betting industry and snooker is a major hurdle when it comes to sponsors in mainland Europe. It’s seen as a very shady industry, that is heavily regulated in most of our countries, with advertising being limited or even banned, web sites being blocked or needing adaptation because some of the “betting” products are quite simply illegal.

A couple of days ago, the players on the WSS (World Seniors Snooker) were informed that only soft drinks would be allowed whilst playing, and that, after finishing, if they wished to consume alcohol at the bar, they should have a change of cloths or wear something over their official shirt because some of the sponsors might be uncomfortable being associated with alcohol. OK. That makes sense. What doesn’t is that the notion that sponsors might feel extremely uncomfortable being associated with betting and game doesn’t seem to be considered.