Jason Ferguson gives the latest on Turkish Masters, the upcoming season and possible new events
The newly-announced Turkish Masters will have a top prize of ‘at least £100,000’ confirms WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson, who is plotting some more events around the Mediterranean in the near future.
After a low-key unveiling of the season’s calendar last week, with a number of gaps with ‘potential ranking event’ one of those gaps was filled in style with the announcement of the new tournament in Antalya at the end of September.
It’s a glamorous destination for the tour, especially after a year of behind-closed-doors action in Milton Keynes, and of the confirmed £500,000 prize fund, Ferguson says at least £100,000 will go to the champion.
‘It’s a full-ranking, flat draw, 128 players,’ Ferguson explained to Metro.co.uk.‘The intention is to take 64 players to Turkey, but we’ll hold some first round matches for over there, the world champion and a few others and it will be a minimum of £100,000 first prize.
‘I’m really excited. It’s been two years’ work for me, rumbling along in the background.
‘The promoter, a lovely guy called Tugba [Irten] has pulled everything together and made it work, it’s really exciting.
‘If I could send one message, I urge all players to support this event. This is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.’
The players appear to share Ferguson’s excitement for a trip to Turkey in September – as long as Covid-related travel restrictions are eased by then – and they could have more appealing destinations to look forward to in the coming months as well.
‘I’m working on a few in this sort of area,’ Jason said. ‘We’ve had a lot of time to think in lockdown.
‘It’s been hard in Milton Keynes, it was great for us there, but we can’t keep going back to the same place. We need to get out and show the world what we’re doing.
‘It’ll be good for the players, good for morale and something to look forward to. I think it’s lifted the spirits a little bit.
‘I’m looking at a few other Mediterranean-style destinations, but it’s all to do with travel and countries opening up again, it’s hard to say too much at the minute.
‘That whole area is booming, the interest in snooker in the Mediterranean is booming and it’s not just ex-pats.
When the 2021/22 calendar was announced there was some concern among players that five slots were filled by ‘potential ranking events’ but Ferguson has allayed fears over these dates in the diary.
Restrictions thanks to the pandemic continue to make things difficult, but whether they take place in the UK or abroad, those gaps in the calendar will be filled.
‘Oh they’re happening, yeah,’ he said. ‘We’re in this difficult travel situation at the moment. We’ve had to hold on as long as we could.
‘Ideally we’d be qualifying for overseas events early, but we don’t know if we can do final stages before the new year.
‘We’re starting off with the Championship League [4-30 July], that’s a good way to get people back playing. Qualifiers for Turkey in the qualifying slot in August.
‘We’re looking at a revised WST Pro series, refining that into a better model.
‘There’s a lot of work to do. It might start gentle with some league-style things but it will gain momentum. We will backfill that calendar, we will fill it up.’
The fact that there will be a few held-over matches gives me a hope that Ronnie will enter. After all he remains one of the most popular players, if not the most popular player and the sponsor will probably want to be sure he makes it to the main venue.
One concern might be the conditions: at the scheduled dates the weather will still be quite hot in Antalya, albeit dry.