Barry Hearn spoke to Metro Online about what the future of snooker in China could be.
Future snooker seasons could have new China windows, hints Barry Hearn
World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn has suggested future seasons could have a specific window for China ranking events rather than them being spread throughout the calendar.
The current snooker season is on hold due to coronavirus with the World Championship scheduled to take place between July 31 and August 15, subject to Government guidelines, after it was postponed earlier this year.
The outbreak, which appears to have originated in China, has lead to concerns regarding future snooker seasons and how major events such as the China Open, Shanghai Masters, World Open, China Championship and the International Championship can go ahead in the future and whether players would be safe enough to travel to the Far East.
In March, world number 11 David Gilbert said players not being able to travel to China for a long period would be a “disaster” for the sport, as many big events are held in the country.
He said at the time: “I’ve only heard rumours, but it could be that we can’t go back to China for six months, or even a year for tournaments,’
“I don’t know if that will happen, no one knows yet, but if it does it would be a disaster. It would be disastrous for our sport. We need China.”
But Barry Hearn is confident China’s big ranking events can be held next season – but it might mean players having to self isolate for 14 days once they arrive in the country.
One possible solution is to have a certain or at least two windows during the season for Chinese events so players can keep safe as possible and the season can continue in a smooth fashion.
Hearn told Metro Online last week: “The Chinese are talking very, very positive.
“At the moment you can go to China, but you’ve got to quarantine for 14 days.
“The next event is September, the Shanghai Masters, then other events. We’re just monitoring the situation.
“It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, depending on what’s happening, that we tell snooker players ‘go to China now, because you’ve got 14 days before you can play.’ That may be the way forward for them.
“But then we’d try and do two or three tournaments on the spin in China, have a swing over there. In today’s world that probably makes sense.”
If that happens, it would be good and it might finally force WST into some long-overdue changes that would finally “break” part of the current UK bias.
It would be unfair that Chinese snooker players, would need to travel to the UK to qualify for their own events, go through a 14 days quarantine, then travel back to China and go through another 14 days of quarantine before they can play … in their home country.
It would be perfectly reasonable, efficient, and fair – at last – that events in China would be played at the main venue from the last 128 on. It would also make sure that players who travel wouldn’t face a long “idle” costly spell of inactivity. Think about this: if events are to be “grouped” in windows in China, but qualifiers are still played in the UK, a player could have qualified for the first and the last event in that “window” and be stuck in China in between or face going back home and back to China again… which would require nearly an additional month of quarantine. It would be much better if they had the prospect to play in the next event, starting in round 1. I guess that this would also mean that players would all get something – not counting towards their rankings – should they lose in the first round. Currently, this is done for held-over matches. But Asian players get nothing when they are forced to come to qualify for their home events in the UK, which is not fair.
It has always been my view that players, losing in the first round should get something, only just to cover their basic expenses. It takes two to play a match of snooker. By playing they contribute to the event, bringing value to the sponsors, to the venue owners and to their sport in general. It should not COST them, which it currently does, should they lose. And, if not counting towards the ranking, it would not be supporting mediocrity. Those who lose most of their matches will be promptly relegated.