Neal Foulds about his hopes for the World Championship

Neal Fould spoke to Eurosport about his hopes for the World Championship 

Foulds suggests World Championships venue may move due to coronavirus

14 hours ago

I’m not sure that I agree with Neal here. The World Championship does not “need” to be held this year. Why do I say this?

Well, suppose that the event can’t happen before the autumn, which is very possible, even likely given that there are now scientists warning that in Britain the situation won’t be “normal” before about six months from now.  That leads us to end September 2020. Then the qualifiers for the World Championship need to happen and that’s a point that Neal doesn’t tackle at all. It involves 128 players, and, unless the format is shortened, requires a minimum of 12 tables – at the highest professional standard – for eight full days. Basically, the television stages can’t happen before mid-October then and finish in the first days of November. After that – before the next season starts – the Q-school needs to be held. Another three weeks minimum. And, at least a couple of weeks need to be left for the Q-school graduates to sort things like visas, relocation, and other practical aspects out. We are well into December by then with at most two weeks in 2020 left for a possible event, maybe the UK Championship.

Then comes the Christmas break, and after that, we have roughly three months left before the next World Championship. In those three months, how many events can you run? And which ones? I’d say, obviously, the ones involving all tour players should be favoured. It’s the lower-ranked players who will suffer the most. They need to resume playing asap. Their livelihoods depend on it and they won’t have much savings.

There are several consequences resulting for such a shortened season:

  • There is no way that the Coral series can be held. You can’t have a meaningful one year list if only a couple of “128” events are played. This might impact ITV and it commitment to snooker.
  • The Home Nations could be squeezed in those three months, but with, maybe, a German Masters and/or a European Masters. But for both, unless the organisation changes, you have to take qualifiers into account.
  • There would be NO event in China at all. Those are the most lucrative.
  • Players who did well in 2018/19 will have a lot of points to defend, without much opportunities to defend. They will be put at a significant disadvantage.

Circumstances are exceptional, and, in my views, they require an exceptional answer. I would postpone the World Championship until April 2021 and “extend” the current season over two years. It would be two “calendar years” but actually about only 15 months of actual playing opportunities. I would resume the season as soon as possible, with the current field of maintour professionals, favouring events involving all 128 for the reasons explained above. Not running the Q-school would free almost a month for possible events. Why not properly revive the Paul Hunter Classic? Why not have a second serve of the Home Nations? Portugal seems to have controlled the epidemy very well. Why not consider another European event there?



7 thoughts on “Neal Foulds about his hopes for the World Championship

  1. Yes, it would mean that all players would have to be based in the UK until at least Christmas, unable to leave. There might even be question marks about the NI Open. But that’s not so different from what normally happens between August and December. Almost all of the players will want tournaments to resume, even if it means UK-only.

    When Zhou Yuelong made that announcement about ‘quitting the World Championship’, he probably meant just for April/May, which was still the ‘intended’ schedule at that time. He then took a 14-hour flight, with no food, and is currently spending two weeks in quarantine in Chengdu. Most of the other Chinese players have done the same, supported by the CBSA. The 4 players that have remained probably can’t stand the idea of two quarantine periods. I would expect most will return for the WC, but obviously the return quarantine would disrupt their preparations. It’s a bit unfair, but most will recognise that snooker must try and continue if at all possible.

    I do know of some players (UK and Chinese) who have said they are considering giving up Pro snooker, and it’s also possible some older players will be considering their futures as well.

    • It would probably be unsustainable financially for most mainland European to stay UK based for a long period. They have no funding, finding sponsors is extremely difficult, and UK is -comparatively to most our countries – pretty expensive. And that is if your govt allows them to stay in the first place. Snooker isn’t even recognised as a sport in most countries, hence there is no state funding, and sponsors can’t deduce the money from their taxable incomes. Really this would be a good time for WST to change their policy about not giving anything to first round losers. They do contribute to the tournament, by playing they yield value for the sporsors and broadcasters even when they lose. They should get something for it. Not counting towards ranking. It should be seen for what it is: investing in the sport. Not all investments are succesful, but usually enterprises who don’t invest go bad in the long term.

      • Well this is my point about being very pro-active. It could be that snooker is in a slightly advantageous position in September. It may be possible to stage snooker (even behind closed doors) at a time when it is not possible to stage football or other sports. By September people everywhere will be crying out for some live sport on television, and there may be new sponsorship money available.

        If WST can take advantage of that fleeting opportunity, it may work out well; if they don’t grasp the opportunity snooker may be in serious trouble and 20-30 players may be financially unable to cope.

        That really means holding a WC in September – anything less would be a cop-out. Forget history, forget the Crucible theatre. Just do it!!

  2. At the moment it’s not certain whether it will be as long as 6 months before snooker events can be held. Therefore, it must make financial sense to try and hold a World Championship in September. The amount of publicity and exposure of a WC could be vital – it could save the game from bankruptcy. Given the choice of holding say, the China Championship, or a World Championship, it’s obvious what would be better. You could hold Q School concurrently. If spectators are allowed, holding a one-off WC in a modern venue would give us a glimpse as to how the sport could expand to a new post-1980’s era.

    Unfortunately snooker is the most backward-looking of all sports, a real handicap at a time like this. Post-corona, everyone across the entertainment industry will be looking to restart with a fresh outlook. Schedule space and sponsors will be difficult to come by. Professional snooker could collapse if ambition and dynamism is not there right from the start, which for me means the grandest event as soon as possible after the resumption.

    • It will never be a choice between an event in China and the World Championship. From what I heard WST is in no hurry to get back to China at all. And they might not be welcome there either – or could be forced to a 2 weeks quarantine period for all – given the rather laxe approach taken by the UK govt in this crisis. I wouldn’t blame the Chinese authorities. And there is an aspect that Neal hasn’t touched at all: the BBC. They need to be available and willing to put their resources in this for 18 days at least (they need at least one day to set up their equipement, cameras, lighting, sound…). It’s one of their tournaments, the biggest of the three, it will not happen without them. I very much doubt that they would agree to run it anywhere but in the UK. They will only be willing to start planning it all, and make resources available, when they are reasonably certain that the event will indeed go ahead at the new chosen dates and won’t risk to be postponed again. I can’t see that happening before October … resuming the current season with less shorter, ambitious events would probably allow to restart snooker earlier. And a season shortened to 3-4 months doesn’t make sense to me. As for running the Q-school in parallel with the World Championship, it may not be that straightforward if the WC qualifiers finish just two days before the main event. We should not forget that for many players whether they keep their tour card will depend on how they perform in those qualifiers.

      • That’s why it might actually be a good idea to hold Q School immediately after the WC Qualifiers, perhaps at the same venue. Theoretically, there could be a player who qualifies for the last-32 who is still not guaranteed, but in such circumstances they could be awarded a tour wild-card – it’s so unlikely.

        Yes, I expect the Social Distancing measures to be gradually relaxed between 3-6 months, but foreign travel will probably be the last thing to return to normal. I don’t expect any WST events in China in 2021, or indeed anywhere else.

        The BBC will be deperate to show live sport whenever it happens: they will find a way. It could even be held at a BBC studio, if audience is not permitted. Or a more spacious venue than the cramped Crucible. Either way it would probably be easy to produce.

      • Don’t you think Lewis that the whole thing would be hugely unfair to non UK players if everything is UK centered and travels are restricted/forbidden? Would the Chinese players be able to travel to the UK? And the mainland European ones? If not, how can this be justified? That’s why I don’t believe it should happen at all this year unless all the players have the opportunity to take part. And same goes for the Q-school.

Comments are closed.