Following Jason Ferguson’s announcement that the women’s tour would become a qualifying route for the main tour, there were loads of reactions on social media, including some from current and former professional players that I found frankly shocking.
In an interview with Phil Haigh, Reanne evans responded to those negative reactions, and, in my opinion, her response is both measured and to the point.
Reanne Evans on ‘harsh’ reaction to tour card announcement: ‘Why can’t people see the bigger picture?’
Reanne Evans is understandably thrilled by the announcement that the top two players on the World Women’s Snooker Tour have been offered tour cards for the professional circuit, but has been taken aback by some of the criticism from fellow players.
Evans and Ng On-Yee will take up two-year cards from the start of next season and be able to compete in all the ranking events on the WST circuit as a result.
This is set to be the situation from here on in, with the Women’s World Snooker Tour acting as a qualifying tour for the main circuit.
The 12-time world champion feels it is the biggest step forward for the women’s game that she has known and is delighted that a long-term goal for her and the sport has been achieved.
‘I’ve always wanted this to happen just to show some support and encourage women to be involved in snooker,’ Evans told Metro.co.uk.
‘Players now have an end goal that they can be a professional. We either wanted that or they needed to make the women’s a professional tour. That was my argument, either one of those to continue going forward and to improve. I didn’t have any idea it was coming now though, it was rather a shock.
‘We’ve been involved in this situation in snooker for so long, obviously being a woman in sport is getting better and better but when you’ve been involved so long you just want to inspire people to do better, yourself as well, but you just want to keep it going and get bigger and bigger.
‘It’s the biggest news I’ve known in the 40 years the Women’s Snooker Tour has been going with Mandy Fisher running it. I can see her with a big smile on her face now, thinking “we’ve achieved it.”’
It is unquestionably superb news for the development of the women’s game and a move towards all players competing on an even footing.
However, there will always be dissenting voices to any change and some believe it is unfair for two women to be offered places and not come through the same qualifying events that men can play in.
Evans is not surprised that some hold this opinion, but feels that it is little different to current qualifying criteria that is based on geography or age.
Current tour card holders include the Oceania Championship winner, the Pan-American Championship winner, the African Games champion and the European Under-21 champion.
‘At the end of the day you’re not given a wildcard, it’s now been set in stone that it’s a qualifying tour,’ Reanne explained. ‘So like the European, the junior, the under-18, under-21, world amateur, all of them, they’re all qualifying criteria, same as the Challenge Tour top two. It’s not a wildcard it’s a qualifying tour like the others and that’s up to them and it’s their opinion, we just go out and play snooker.
‘I think it’s great. You’ve got juniors, overseas, all different countries, ages, that’s how you grow a global tour. Obviously to have women involved it’s only going to be better for snooker in general.’
The 2019 Oceania champion, Steve Mifsud, holds a tour card but doesn’t compete in any events, which Evans sees as a clear example of why the women’s tour is just as deserving of tour cards as any other criteria.
‘This is my point, why can’t people see the bigger picture?’ Reanne asked. ‘They’ve given an opportunity to the Oceania winner, and he hasn’t taken it up, it’s a wasted space.
‘At least give it to someone who’s going to try their best and compete in every event possible try and use it as a learning curve as well and to grow snooker. People are going to agree and disagree, we just need to get into it and do our job.’
Evans can understand the disappointment of those who may miss out on tour cards next season, but she feels that any complaints from players are misguided and some have shocked her.
‘People are thinking, “why can’t it be me?” I suppose, and I’ve been in that situation, feeling that for years, “if they can get it, why can’t we?” So I understand some of the points of view, but you have to keep pushing and working hard to get your goal. Hopefully everyone can be nice, get what we’re doing and come together and just build snooker up,’ she said.
‘Everyone’s got an opinion, not everyone’s going to agree, I accept that, but there’s ways you can go about it and to be honest some of the tweets that I’ve seen I’ve thought were a bit harsh, from the players involved in snooker.
‘If you’re involved in snooker you should be wanting your sport to do better. Some people I actually know and it took me aback a little bit with the way they come across.
‘I’m not saying their view is wrong, but it’s the way they come across. In general it’s been fantastic for us and the reception from 99% of the people has been fantastic. Just let us do our job and try to win some matches.’
Evans has played in a number of events on the main tour in the past, very nearly beating Shaun Murphy at the 2019 Champion of Champions, losing 4-3 to the Magician.
She feels that performance brought evidence of what her and On-Yee can bring to the table and is looking forward to proving people wrong.
‘I was told when I was in the Champion of Champions, although my standard wasn’t amazing, I pushed Shaun all the way and it was a massive story even before I started, people were interested,’ she said. ‘They got more viewers and people intrigued by it and it got good views. It’s only going to do good in the end.
‘On-Yee is a three-times world champion, I’m a 12-times world champion, it’s not that we don’t know how to win. We’ve got that in us.
‘Just because it’s not shown to everyone all the time, they only get to see glimpses of what we can do. I’m just hoping we can settle into that situation in arenas, on match tables and show what we can do.
‘I don’t want to say prove a point, because we shouldn’t have to, but of course we want to do that. Especially if it’s against someone who has not given you the best review, if you know what I mean.’
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has described the move as one of the best in his memory and feels it is needed to close the gap between the number of male and female players at all levels of snooker.
‘The women’s decision is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, in my view, I think we’ve got this bang right,’ Ferguson told Metro.co.uk.
‘The message from me is clear, I think women have been at a distinct disadvantage in this sport for many years. Not because they’ve not been allowed to play, but the environment has predominantly been a men’s environment and many of the clubs have not been places they would want to go to.
‘That disadvantage has been taken into consideration in this decision, there are less women playing snooker than men, by a mile, and that needs to change.
‘This is how to change it. Inspire the next generation. There’s overwhelming support for it worldwide and it’s only going to take this sport further forward.’
Evans did get a tour card for one year back in the 2010/11 season, but feels she is a much better player now thanks to that experience and the numerous titles she has racked up since then.
She will be working hard with coach Chris Henry and feels that both her and Ng On-Yee can make an impact this time around.
‘I did get a chance 10 or 11 years ago for one year,’ Reanne explained. ‘I played some decent stuff! I took Neil [Robertson] to a decider and he had to do a really good clearance to beat me. I played a lot of top players, Ali Carter, Thepchaiya [Un-Nooh], a lot of really good players and it was a good learning curve and my game improved a lot.
‘Even though I didn’t win a match I came close and played really well in some of them, it’s just all experience and with a two-year card now there’s not as much pressure to perform straight away. You can take it all in and just try and play your game. If you do things right, prepare right and everything then the wins will start coming.
‘The goal is to win matches. Working with Chris Henry is going to help me in that environment, with the mental side of things, I think that will work. I’m just looking forward to it and seeing what I’m capable of doing and what On-yee’s doing as well. I think it’s good there’s two of us and there’s not as much pressure with all eyes on you, it’s shared out a little bit.’
Evans will be in action next month at the World Championship qualifiers.
I have put Jason Ferguson’s explanation for the decision in bold. He’s 100% right. Bex Kenna who is currently ranked 4th on the WWS tour used to play in her local league but had to give up on it because she was prevented to play at some of the venues simply because women weren’t allowed to play in those clubs. Yes, in 2020, that still exist and isn’t even a rarety. Girls and women are not made to feel welcome in many clubs… unless they are behind the bar. Sport is a number game. Very few are talented enough, and dedicated enough, to make it to the top. That’s true in any sport, including snooker. If women are to make an impact in snooker, it has to start at grassroots, it has to start with getting girls playing, and enjoying playing. Only if enough of them play will we see more top female players emerge from the amateur ranks. It will take time. If it works, a women’s tour may no more be necessary… but it’s a very long way to go. Meanwhile positive incentives like this move by WPBSA are welcome and necessary.
Reanne rightly points out that the Oceania Champion didn’t play at all. Actually he did play one match, at the 2019 China Championship qualifiers. I can’t remember anyone critising WPBSA for giving him a tour card that got wasted, and it’s even worse than that because that same player got on the tour in 2014/16 (two years card), also for being Oceania Champion, and back then also played just one match, at the Paul Hunter classic.
Amine Amiri was given a tour card for winning gold at the African games in 2019. This was a very short format event, featuring no player anywhere near professional standard. Amine has not won a match in his two years on tour, he’s only won 8 frames in total.
I don’t want to be harsh on Amine. He’s was thrown into the lions pit with a toy wooden sword. He was absolutely not ready, and yet, played with a smile on his face in every single match. He has been interwiewed by WST recently:
Amiri – I Still Love Snooker
Morocco’s 26-year-old Amiri turned pro in 2019 after winning the gold medal in the African Games, in his home city of Casablanca. But – as many amateurs do – he found the progression to the sport’s top level more of a giant leap than a small step. He has won just one match on the tour so far and currently lies 116th in the world rankings.
Having lived in the UK for over a year, in December he decided to return to Morocco, though he still hopes to be able to travel to Sheffield next month to compete in the Betfred World Championship qualifiers.
“It has been harder than I expected,” said Amiri. “I would probably need to play on the tour for five or ten years to get to the right level. Over my first few tournaments I came to understand how good the standard is on the tour, even among the lower ranked players.
“I have learned many things. Snooker is difficult. The only way to get better is to practise very hard. You need faith and confidence, on the mental side and your technique.
“There have been times when I have been in trouble, mentally. It has been hard to stay confident. At times I did not want to stay in the UK. During the lockdown period, I couldn’t practise. Just to play in the club where I was based would have cost around £1,000 per month, and I needed that money to live and buy food.”
Last month, there was happiness away from the table for Amiri as he married his partner of five years, Yousra Matine. The couple met at a snooker club, and they are now practice partners as well as husband and wife. Matine is Africa’s top female player, having won the gold medal in the women’s event in 2019.
“The wedding was a great celebration,” Amiri smiles. “If I come back to the UK I would want to bring my wife with me, for support.”
Looking to the future, Amiri is optimistic and hopes the best years of his career lie ahead. “It was a dream for me to play on the pro tour, I and I have tried to enjoy it as much as I can”, he said. “There have been some good performances which made me happy. I still love snooker, as much as ever. I will keep playing and keep practising, I will do my best.”
Just by competing on the tour, Amiri has enthused new fans from his region. WST’s Facebook page has gained 13,000 followers from Morocco since he turned pro. Africa is seen as a key potential growth area for snooker and it is hoped that talented players from the continent will be inspired.
“That makes me proud. I am really glad to be part of that,” said Amiri. “Hopefully there can be more fans and more players from Africa.”
All credits to Amine for being so honest and candid. He’s been a credit to snooker, to his country and to himself despite the struggles.
One thing I do hope is that WPBSA/WST think long and hard before putting a player through what Amine had to face. Surely they must have known that he was nowhere near the required level. Amine has shown tremendous heart and mental resilience. What he was exposed to could have destroyed him emotionally and mentally.