The European Masters 2020 Qualifiers were played in Barnsley over the last three days… and the outcome, I’m sure, will please neither the organisers, nor the European fans. Only seven of the top 16 players have come through: Ding Junhui, John Higgins, Kyren Wilson, Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins.
Ronnie didn’t enter, the defending champion, Jimmy Robertson, went out in the first round, as did Judd Trump the World Champion and World n°1. Luca Brecel is the only player from mainland Europe still in the draw. There is no point awarding young European wilcards, if you are not prepared to hold their matches over to the venue. Their chances to win two rounds against pros are next to nil and everyone knows it.
It’s a disastrous outcome for the “European leg” of the tour, and what both saddens and angers me, is that it was totally predictable. This is the last week of the year, the players have been playing non stop for the last three weeks, with just one day between the final of the Scottish Open and these qualifiers. It’s the end of a long first half of the season: those who go deep in most tournament are bound to be mentally drained. The environment isn’t inspiring either. Elliott Slessor on twitter said it was freezing cold in the venue, and some tables have no seats for spectators. And… it’s every year the same story. Since the German Masters qualifiers were played in this spot in the calendar, there have been a lot of “shocks” evey time. It will probably be the same in the coming three days again.
A tweet I posted, saying that the players are tired, and that the enviroment isn’t inspiring, triggered a whole discussion, including Barry Hearn stating that HE is not tired – good for him – and that if they aren’t able to give it their best they should not enter. Right! As if the whole system wasn’t aimed at having them to play in every tournament. Yes, they do have a choice not to enter … at a price that many can’t really afford.
And, yes, it’s a normal working week for most people … who haven’t been working for the last three weeks without a break, and haven’t travelled the world constantly for the last six months or about. Denying a fact that sits right under his nose – namely that this end-of-year scheduling is a recipe for disaster – won’t change the facts and won’t help the cause of snooker in mainland Europe. He probably doesn’t care (to say it politely).
And it’s not as if there weren’t alternatives. They could fit two groups of the Championships League Snooker here. No ranking pressure in those. Or they could put the Shootout in that spot. It wouldn’t matter much, it’s a right lottery anyway, and a bit of fun would probably suit most players.