Players back at the table soon? Hum …

This was published yesterday by WPBSA:

WPBSA Proposals Submitted to Parliament for Re-Opening of UK Snooker Facilities

13th May 2020

The Chairman of the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, has today submitted to the Sports Minister proposals for the re-opening of snooker clubs.

The proposals incorporate guidance for club owners and staff to be able to operate as sporting facilities by providing a safe and controlled environment for all.

Since the UK government placed the country into ‘lockdown’ on 23 March to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus we have maintained regular communication with a number of our affiliated clubs, hosting an online forum to help us to identify the key issues currently facing club owners during this unprecedented crisis.

In parallel with these proposals for the opening of clubs to the public, we are today also able to provide further guidance to our professional players based in the UK.

Step 1 – Professional Players’ Return to Work

We are acutely aware of the impact of the current closure of clubs and academies upon our professional players, many of whom have been unable to practice without access to their facilities.

Earlier this week plans were announced by the UK government for the easing of some restrictions over the coming weeks, which will allow some sporting activity to resume. This included the government advice document titled ‘Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’ which states that:

“All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.”

Having carefully considered this government advice we are today able to advise WST professional players only that they can now return to their practice facilities if specified conditions are met. These conditions are clearly set out HERE.

The place of work of a professional snooker player is not only at events. It is also where their practice table is based for training purposes. It is essential that players to have access to training facilities before returning to professional tournament play.

Snooker is no different to other professional sports and professional snooker players are no different to other athletes in this respect. Return to professional competition or approved online activity is essential for professional players to earn a living.

Should any players have any questions or concerns please contact WPBSA Player Relations Manager Neil Tomkinswho will be able to provide further advice.

Step 2 – Re-Opening of Clubs to General Public

We are actively engaging with Parliament through the APPG to demonstrate how snooker can be played safely and responsibly by recreational and amateur players whilst adhering to current social distancing rules.

Key proposals include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Regular cleaning of venues on a daily basis
  • Hand sanitiser to be provided at all tables, entrances and toilets
  • Regular cleaning of equipment after every customer
  • Staff to wear masks and gloves
  • Limited entry to venues / reduced opening hours
  • Social distancing measures including clear signage for customer flow to/from tables to be observed
  • Closure of bar areas with limited table service/takeaway food options to be provided
  • Player guidance to avoid unnecessary sharing of equipment and interaction
  • Should any club be found to be in breach of guidance provided they would be liable to closure by the relevant authorities.

It is hoped that that through the strict introduction of such measures it will be possible to re-open snooker clubs to the public in a safe and sustainable manner.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “The unprecedented global situation that exists has had a profound effect upon us all and of course snooker has not been able to escape the reality that we currently find ourselves in.

“Our message to everyone connected with snooker however is that the WPBSA is there for you and are working hard to be able to restart our sport – at all levels – as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so. This will not be without its challenges, but through the measures submitted to Parliament today we are confident that the wider public will be able to access our sport’s facilities and will remain proactive until this is achieved.”

“We are further grateful for the support provided to us by the APPG which has worked with us closely during this process.”

Next Steps

Following the submission of our proposals to Parliament both the WPBSA and the APPG will maintain dialogue with the government and its relevant authorities to secure the full re-opening of snooker venues as soon as possible.

At the time of writing however, we would remind all UK clubs that they must follow all laws and guidance published by the government at its website:

Please DO read the conditions for solo training: WPBSA-Step-1-Return-to-training-_FINAL

It’s a great effort by WPBSA to design and submit these proposals to allow players back at the table, for training purposes as the first step. The document is clear, easy to read, and well structured.

Now ask yourself if adhering even just to half of that would be realistically feasible in match play with 12 tables, 128 players, plus fitters, referees, and officials on-site. One of the recommendations is to avoid touching the table as much as possible. How’s that gonna work in a match?  I’m well aware that mid-July – the latest possible start for the World Championship qualifiers –  is still 2 months away, but I very much doubt that a return to “normal”, or “normal enough” will be possible within these two months. I honestly can’t see the World Qualifiers being played “safely” by then.


4 thoughts on “Players back at the table soon? Hum …

  1. Most professional players have some kind of deal with a club or academy which allows them to practice in the mornings and afternoons, before the paying public arrive in the evening. Very often the clubs are either closed or deserted during the day anyway. This means that it might be feasible for solo practice to take place. In fact I know of some players doing this now.

    The problem with the ‘Step 2’ is that there is no practical way of keeping distance in a busy club. That will have to wait for some considerable time. Probably at least until fitness facilities like gyms and recreational team sports (amateur football). It’s more difficult than golf or tennis, which are allowed now.

    So snooker clubs are going to be struggling financially and given the timescales it’s hard to see how many of them can stay in business at all. This in turn means that their local professionals will have nowhere to practice…

    In fact, these serious concerns about the future of snooker make it even more important to keep the sport in the public’s eye. I hate the idea that snooker will die and be replaced by 9-ball Pool. I remember when there were 3 Canadians in the top-8. It can happen. Very quickly.

  2. Do you ever wrote about anything else except all snooker being cancelled?
    You seem hellbent on it being called off then cite the fact that you don’t want anyone to die as a reason.
    Like anybody does and if that’s the criteria why not ever play again especially considering the World Health Organisation suggest that Covid19 might always be with us.
    Best call snooker off for 10 years then ok?
    You already dismissed the Tour Championship as a non starter despite the need for only 8 players and your reasoning that the venue is converted to a field hospital is inconsequential given that it’s glaringly obvious that another venue will be used.
    I know I don’t have to read your postings but just calling everything off isn’t really very interesting.
    Also I find your distrust of Barry Hearn unfortunate and probably all we agree on is your praise for Jason Ferguson but it’s worth remembering that they come as a team.
    Anyway to avoid joint you in negativity I wish you well and hope that if these events take place you’ll embrace them rather that dismiss them.
    Best regards

    • That 8 players event requires 80 persons ONLY for the ITV crew on site according to Neal Foulds. He should know, he works for them. That sounds a lot, but even if it’s “only” half of that, it’s still a lot of people. I don’t want canceling the snooker for 10 years, I want it to resume asap, and I’m convinced that forgetting the Tour Championship, World Championship and Q-school, just extending the season and prepare more modests events targeting September has a better chance to work and get the lower-ranked players – who need the money the most – back playing. That’s all there is. Of course it’s not glamorous… And I will maybe trust Barry Hearn when he explains how and when he plans to play the qualifiers… until then, I’m unconvinced that his plans are even remotely realistic. Unless he’s ready to risk the players, referees and officials lives. The only way he could reasonably safely run the World Champs in August at the Crucible as planned would probably be to make it a (top) 16 players event, with just one table.

      • Yes, exactly the plan I suggested. That leaves £1M in the prize fund to share between the remaining players, around £8000 each. They need the money.

        You could even play one match per day for the first 12 days (last-16 and last-8 matches), then the usual 5 days for the semi-final and final. I’m not sure if I would favour that, but it is viable.

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