Next season Tour structure and Q-school news

This was published today by WPBSA:

,Snooker Continues To Lead Sport’s Return With Tour Structure Plans

  • 8th June 2020

Snooker has strengthened its position as the pacesetter for the return of global sport by announcing plans for its qualifying school and the structure of the WST circuit for next season.

This month has seen snooker become the first sport other than horse racing to return to live action, by staging the Matchroom.Live Championship League. World-leading standards on Covid-19 testing, sanitisation and social distancing have ensured that the event has run successfully.

So far at the event in Milton Keynes, all 86 players, staff and officials have tested negatively for Covid-19, and the strict health and safety regulations have been followed meticulously. This has set the precedent for further events, with the Coral Tour Championship to follow from June 20th to 26th.

Detailed plans for further events are being put into place, and WST has now announced the structure of the tour for the 2020/21 season, to include 12 players from the qualifying school.

Q School will run during the Betfred World Championship, which will take place from July 31 to August 16. The precise dates, venue and further details for Q School will be announced soon and it will be run according to the government guidelines at the time. Staging Q School during this period will allow the 12 winners to join the tour in time for the start of the 2020/21 season.

The 2020/21 WST players will be:

The top 64 from the official two-year rankings at the end of the 2019/20 season

The top four players on the one-year rankings (outside the official top 64)

35 players in the second year of a two-year tour card

Two players from the Challenge Tour: Lukas Kleckers and the winner of the Play-Off event.

World Snooker Federation Open Champion: Ashley Hugill

World Snooker Federation Open runner-up: Iulian Boiko

World Snooker Federation Junior Open Champion: Gao Yang

World Snooker Federation Junior Open runner-up: Sean Maddocks

EBSA European Champion: Andrew Pagett

EBSA European Under-21 Champion: Aaron Hill

Two players from the CBSA China Tour: Pang Jun Xu and Zhao Jianbo

12 players from Q School

Total: 125 players

In addition, if any player comes through the qualifying rounds to reach the final stages of the Betfred World Championship at the Crucible but finishes the season outside the official top 64, he or she will earn a two-year tour card.

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “This is a fantastic announcement for all of those amateur players around the world who were unsure whether Q School would go ahead in the current circumstances.

“Snooker is open for business! We already have a very successful event in progress at the Matchroom.LiveChampionship League, setting an example in terms of testing, sanitisation and social distancing which other sports will have to try to follow. Our remaining WST events this season will be played over the coming weeks, keeping our players busy on the table and plenty of live snooker on television and online.

“Q School was originally planned to start on May 18th but will now be played at the same venue as the World Championship qualifiers, with the venue to be announced shortly.

“As usual there will be three tournaments, with the four semi-finalists from each of them earning a tour card. This is the chance for players around the globe to chase their dream and earn a coveted place on the World Snooker Tour for the next two years.

“We realise there will be challenges for players overseas to travel to the UK for Q School but it is vital that we make this opportunity available for all players. We cannot sit back and allow circumstances to set our sport back when we have made so much progress in recent years. We are liaising with the UK government with the intention to help players coming from overseas.

“As we move forward we will examine every route towards staging events, providing prize money for our players and coverage for our fans, while working with government to keep the safety of all concerned as the highest priority

I have two main concerns here:

  1. With potentially about 200 players how is this going to work safely?
  1. There is a real risk that players outside the UK are left out for various reasons, travel issues and quarantine being the obvious ones. The “World” tour is already very UK centric as it is. If those issues can’t be resolved, this event should NOT go ahead IMO.

3 thoughts on “Next season Tour structure and Q-school news

  1. These announcements are coming think and fast, it’s a wonder how they are able to plan everything so carefully…!

    I assume they have canvassed opinion about the numbers. It’s a good idea to play Q School straight after the WC qualifiers, as they have 12 tables ready. But they will have to play 50 matches per day, best-of-7, which is a huge scale. Players will have to drive to and from the venue 3 times, be tested each time, stay overnight, then play according to the established procedures. They will certainly have to play the quarters sequentially, rather than concurrently as they have done in the past. It will have to be a very special venue! Somebody will nodoubt fail a swab test at some point (the tests aren’t 100% reliable anyway), and we will see how that is dealt with.

    The only overseas players will be people like Chen Feilong and Rory Thor, who stayed over and got relegated directly. I reckon 4-5 and maybe a handful from Europe. But many people who would have considered entering will not, because of the expense and the lack of practice for 3 months. This Q School is only 8 weeks away. Perhaps numbers could be as low as 100.

    The other surprise is 14-year old Iulian Boiko’s promotion. I’m never happy giving tour cards to losing finalists, as it’s equally likely that the best two players were in the same half of the draw. But I just don’t see how someone so young can play on the full tour. Gao Yang will at least have turned 16 before his first match, but he is probably also out of his depth, even assuming he gets a travel permit. The last 15-year old was in 2013, and it still makes me shudder what happened to him.

    However, if this wasn’t happening there would be the problem of ‘denying amateurs their chance’ until 2021, another one of their maxims. Basically, the success of the Covid Classic has given them confidence to plough ahead with a full schedule. There probably will be a few bumps along the way.

    Either way, we can be fairly sure it will be mostly the same old faces returning to the tour once again.

    • I’m really not sure about Iulian either. I remember what happened with Kasper Filipiak. He was practising at SWSA and Janie Watkins told me that he was only a kid and a lamb for the slaughter. IMO, Kasper never recovered from his first experience on the tour. Iulian is even younger. Now, if I remember correctly, Yan Bingtao had to wait a year because the UK authorities denied him a work permit because he was under 16 years old…

      • Yes, the current status is a UK Working VISA for non-EU players. If anything, the EU would have tougher restrictions. Ukraine isn’t part of the EU, but they have an arrangement to adopt similar regulations, which may be continued at least during the Brexit transition.

        Kacper Filipiak was actually 2011, and the lessons clearly weren’t learned, at least for a few years.

        But all of this just yet again shows up the 128-player Tour Card structure as far too rigid. Boiko, Mertens, Gao etc. would be much better off playing in 3 or 4 events without the pressure of needing to accumulate ranking points. At the opposite end, it doesn’t help older players gradually transition into retirement.

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