WST ans WPBSA made every effort to get everyone playing at the World Qualifiers

Phil Haigh has spoken to Jason Ferguson about the withdrawals from the World Championship:

The World Snooker Championship is losing entrants but not through lack of effort to solve problems

Zhao Xintong
Zhao Xintong has reportedly chosen not to play in the World Championship this year (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

The 2020 World Snooker Championship is going to be a unique event and one that some players are opting out of competing in, but that is not through a lack of effort from tournament organisers.

The rescheduled main event of the snooker season will run from 31 July – 16 August at the Crucible in Sheffield, with the qualifiers taking place from 21-28 July at the English Institute of Sport in the same city.

While there are a plethora of concerns about a World Championship with no fans in attendance and keeping players, staff and officials safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a serious worry that international players will not be able to compete.

It appears that a number of Chinese players will not be playing, with the South China Morning Post reporting that Zhou Yuelong, Xiao Guodong, and Zhao Xintong are three of ‘at least 10’ players from China who will not be travelling to South Yorkshire.

World number 10 Ding Junhui is expected to return from China for the event, while the likes of Yan Bingtao and Liang Wenbo are already in the UK so will compete.

Safety concerns regarding COVID-19 have put off some players returning to the UK, while the 14-day travel quarantine for arrivals from abroad is also a problem. Flights are much less regular than in normal times, and more expensive, but they are running.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson insists that no player is unable to play in the event, some are opting to out of their own personal choice, and every effort has been made to allow them to play in Sheffield.

‘We’ve been in contact with every single player,’ Ferguson told Metro.co.uk. ‘We’ve put in place travel and financial support for all players to help them get back to the UK, support for visas and everything.

‘Some of them are thinking, “shall we or shan’t we” but our job is to present the opportunity for every single player to get here. On that we’ve not failed.

‘We’re doing more than ever before on a very individual basis, chasing them to see if they’ve got paperwork sorted etc. We are on top of it.

‘It’s down to personal choice, and we respect that choice, if it’s down to family reasons or safety reasons, that’s down to the players.

‘We don’t want to lose any, we want a full contingent, but if we get a few gaps we will fill up through the normal channels.

’ While it is more than understandable that some players do not want to risk travel to the UK at this time, the safest environment possible is being created for those that do.

Any players arriving in the country before 7 July can quarantine in a residential address, while those arriving after that will quarantine in a designated hotel. They will be tested for COVID-19 before entering and then stay there up to and including qualifying.

There will be practice tables available and secure transfers to and from the venue when they play.

Ding Junhui
UK champion Ding Junhui is expected to be in Sheffield, where he owns a house (Picture: Getty Images)

Ferguson also made it clear that the entry deadline for the World Championship is not until 6 July, so any players that are considering not playing, or have already decided not to, can still change their minds and help would be in place to get them to the UK to play.

Little is ideal about this year’s World Championship, and undoubtedly playing in it is much trickier for international players than those based in the UK.

Everything possible is being done to accommodate the overseas players, though, with WST and the WPBSA attempting to make the very best of a bad situation.

Tournament organisers in China are confident that events will be back up and running there in the near future, with the possibility of a string of Chinese events being held early next season.

While little could make up for a player missing out on the World Championship, China and its players, along with players from Thailand, mainland Europe and elsewhere, are in no means being forgotten about by snooker’s decision-makers.

The “bold italic” has been added by me.

That’s a very impressive effort by the governing body. They are clearly doing everything in their power to get everyone involved. Being from mainland Europe myself, I was afraid that non UK players would be left on their own devices in this unprecedented situation and would be unable to attend for any number of reasons. I want the World Tour to really be a “World” tour and not a somehow “extended” UK tour and I’m very happy to read the above.

About the bits I highlighted …

Like many, I assumed that if players were withdrawing, the first round would simply be made shorter. Apparently, this is not the case: “if we get a few gaps we will fill up through the normal channels”. If I understand this correctly, quite a number of Q-school top-ups might get an invitation…

Jason Ferguson is clearly trying his best to get all players on board. His “public” offer to concretely help those who would wish to change their mind is as unprecedented as the situation we are in: “so any players that are considering not playing, or have already decided not to, can still change their minds and help would be in place to get them to the UK to play”

And it’s reassuring to read that tournament organisers in China aren’t throwing the towel at snooker, but on the contrary are working to have it up and running there asap. I sincerely hope that, this time, those events will be run with all 128 players at the venues. It would be the sensible thing to do, avoiding difficult rounds trips from and back to China and it would definitely be fairer on Chinese players, who, for years now, have been forced to travel to UK to qualify for their home events.

This is the article by the China Morning Post

Snooker World Championship: Ding Junhui heads 10-man Chinese force planning Sheffield raid

Again I have put some interesting parts in “bold italic

The article mentions the problems Ding had to go back home. He wasn’t the worst affected though. Some players had to go through a 14 days quarantine when arriving in China, before being allowed to get on a domestic flight towards their final destination – their home – only to be quarantined again for another 14 days upon arrival in their home region. It’s easy to forget that China is vast as a continent and the virus didn’t affect all areas at the same time, nor the same way. It’s understandable that those who went through that aren’t too keen to repeat the experience.

Some people are NOW calling for the World Championship to be cancelled. That would be ridiculous after so much effort, and considerable resources, have been devoted to get it up and running. I was in favour of not playing the event, and extending the season up to May 2021, resuming it gradually with more modest events. No relegations, no Q-School. I still think it would have been the best option. But that was only an option at the start of the lockdown, before all those efforts had been made, it’s no more an option now.

After the CLS and Tour Championship, I’m reasonably confident about the World Championship, qualifiers included. I’m still very concerned about the Q-School …

 

One thought on “WST ans WPBSA made every effort to get everyone playing at the World Qualifiers

  1. Yes, despite the magnificent efforts outlined by Jason, perhaps his greatest achievement is to sidestep the politics. It’s also an excellent compromise to allow players into the ‘bubble’ after 7th July, allowing them to play whilst still officially in quarantine. That would suit Luo Honghao (possibly Sunny Akani and Hossein Vafaei), who would at some point be released to hook up with Ding Junhui. However, the time is so short that I doubt whether any player can realistically ‘change their mind’ from now.

    That would then confirm the relegation of Zhang Anda, Zhang Jiankang and Andy Lee (also James Wattana), and presumably they will miss Q School as well, meaning they can’t be returning for next season (whenever that is…). However, when the ‘Covid Classic’ (Championship League) was outlined, Jason did say he was trying to arrange ‘something for them’ regarding overseas players. That could mean a Q School in China, and there are a couple of 2020-21 places still unallocated.

    Of course, like I am happy with all these efforts. I had a dreadful thought that WST were trying to deflect the ‘international’ issue by promoting a 14-year old Ukranian. But I’m sure you’ll be covering that…

    Filling up 20+ WC places with Q School top-ups is in my view a silly and unnecessary plan. All it means is that the top-100 get to start in Round 2 rather than the top-80 – it’s not as if it unbalances the draw by handing out random byes.

    The deadline for Q School entry is today. I haven’t hacked into WSF’s systems (unlike our friend!) to know the numbers, but it will make a huge difference to the scheduling. Playing five best-of-7 matches back-to-back in an 8-table set-up is a very big challenge logistically. I have a few ideas but the scale is daunting. Plus also the hotel is already reserved for Crucible action.

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