Judd Trump: pool, shorter formats and moving the World Championship

Judd Trump is going to play in the US Open Pool Championship next week. It’s a Matchoom event. Of course the move has attracted the attention of the media, and Judd took the opportunity to once again air his views on what the future of snooker should be: shorter formats, more like pool and moving the World Championship away from the Crucible and towards a “big” venue. You read it here:

Judd Trump on his chances at pool next week:

‘Deep down I know I can’t win it’ – Judd Trump testing the waters with US Open Pool Championship entry

“I’m going there to see if I could ever do it more, if I could play pool and go back to snooker and not lose too much feel or anything,” he sai, . “It’s a feeler event to go out there and test the water. “Deep down I know I can’t win it, but I’m getting a cue, I’ve got somewhere to practice for the next three days, I’ve got a table when I arrive so I can get going straight away.”

Judd Trump says his trip across the Atlantic for the US Open Pool Championship is to test the waters, and he would be happy to win one game.

There is a gap in the snooker calendar due to the cancellation of the Turkish Masters, and it opened up a window for Trump to enter the eight-ball event.

Trump will face Joe Magee in his opening match on Monday, but is not expecting much as his practice has been non-existent and he does not even possess a pool cue.

I’d be happy to win a game,” Trump told the Metro. “We left it so late and I’ve just tried to experiment and do as much as I can with no snooker tournaments going on.
I’ve not even got a proper cue at the minute. I haven’t played since I was a kid, really. I expect absolutely nothing.”

The US Open is the most prestigious pool tournament on the calendar, and Trump is hoping to make a positive impression to open up the prospect of mixing sports.

“I’m going there to see if I could ever do it more, if I could play pool and go back to snooker and not lose too much feel or anything,” he said. “It’s a feeler event to go out there and test the water.

I don’t like going with the attitude that I’m just there to enjoy it, that’s not what I’m about, I like going there knowing I can win it.

Deep down I know I can’t win it, but I’m getting a cue, I’ve got somewhere to practice for the next three days, I’ve got a table when I arrive so I can get going straight away.

Trump has spoken about trying to modernise snooker, and he feels pool is more suited to his forward-thinking approach.

It’s something I want to be involved with,” Trump said. “It’s much more up to date, more modern and more in line with the year we’re in and values I want and who I want to appeal to.

To be a worldwide sport you’ve got to have the backing of America, I think. Pool has the potential to do that, whereas snooker is still struggling, that’s why I’ve gone over there to suss out the market and see what can be done.

There’ll be a lot more noise. It’s not good when you’re losing and I’m probably going to lose so it’s not good for me, but when you get on a winning streak in that kind of environment you can feel invincible.”

Judd TRump about moving te World Championship away from the Crucible and making it shorter.

Judd Trump: The World Snooker Championship needs to move on from the Crucible

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Five
Judd Trump feels the World Snooker Championship could do with a new venue (Picture: Getty Images)

Judd Trump believes it is time for the World Snooker Championship to move on from Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, feeling that the pinnacle of the sport deserves a bigger venue.

The World Championship has been held at the Crucible since 1977 and has become the sport’s spiritual home, with the likes of Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis winning all their world titles there.

However, it is a relatively small venue with a capacity of around 1,000, less than half the number that Alexandra Palace in London can accommodate for the Masters, for example.

Trump accepts that the uniquely tight conditions the Crucible provides helps create the special atmosphere in the room, but also feels that snooker bosses should look to expand if they want to grow the sport.

‘It’s an amazing venue but is it the best place for the World Championship now? Probably not, I don’t think,’ Trump told Metro.co.uk.

‘It needs an historic, prestigious event there, maybe put the UK Championship there but the Worlds needs to go to a bigger venue, for me.

The pinnacle of the sport shouldn’t be held back spectator-wise, there should be thousands! If you can sell the Masters for 2,200 people, the Worlds should be getting 5,000 at a massive stadium or arena, not a little theatre.

‘I know it brings the excitement with the crowd so close, it makes you more nervous but I think they could do that on a bigger scale somewhere else. It’s the World Championship, everyone’s going to be excited, everyone’s gearing up for it all year, but I think it’s just a little bit held back.

The 2019 world champion was speaking after Neil Robertson suggested a reduction in the length of matches in the semi-finals and final of the World Championship, with the Australian also suggesting playing the first few rounds elsewhere before returning to the Crucible for the one-table set-up.

Robertson was making the point that casual or non snooker fans will struggle to stay engaged over matches that last four sessions and Trump agrees that changes are needed to attract new supporters.

Nobody wants to make changes, but Neil’s not saying that for his benefit, he’s thinking of a bigger picture,’ said Judd. ‘He knows that to play snooker over two days, four sessions, the die-hard fans watch it, but the people who we want to appeal to, to grow the sport aren’t going to watch all four sessions.

‘They’re going to come in at the last session and watch the end, it doesn’t really get going until it gets to like 12-12 or something like that. I can see where he’s coming from.

‘The format needs to be long, it needs to be two or three sessions, but first to 18 might be a bit too long these days.

World Snooker Championship - Day 17
Trump beat John Higgins to win the World Championship title at the Crucible in 2019 (Picture: Getty Images)

The semi-finals taking three days…a round should never take longer than the final. I’ve played in second round matches that take three days, which is absolutely ridiculous.

‘Three sessions is enough, you could even do it in a day, play 10am, 2.30pm and 7pm and have it done in a day. I think it could capture the audience more.

‘Going to the first day of a match is not the same as seeing the outcome. I wouldn’t go to, say, golf and just watch the first 12 holes and not the finale. I wouldn’t watch the first set in tennis then not the rest of the match.

‘Probably from a commercial point of view, extending the tournament makes more money, sells more tickets, better viewing figures, but the game could head in a different direction in that tournament.

The Ace enjoys playing at the Crucible and recognises the vast history connected with the venue, but strongly believes it is in the good of the game to move on and try new things to attract new fans.

It’s such a special event with so much history behind it, but unless you were around in that era…I don’t think kids these days go back and watch the 1978 or 1980 final. I know I don’t,’ he said.

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White
Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White have contested some memorable Crucible matches (Picture: Getty Images)

It’s an amazing place to play snooker, it’s hard to say and a lot of people won’t like it, but maybe put another tournament there and move the World Championship somewhere else, or maybe you could have it there every couple of years at first.

‘Neil’s not saying what he said to benefit himself and neither am I, it’s beneficial for the future of snooker. People aren’t going to like it now but you’ve got to think about 10 years’ time.

‘To grow the game it’s got to go to a bigger venue. It’s not an easy change to make and the Crucible will always be attached to snooker and should have a tournament there, but I’m not sure it should be the World Championship.

Judd Trump Neil Robertson
Trump and Robertson are in agreement that they would like to see the World Championship shaken up (Picture: Getty Images)

Trump has been happy to speak out about the future of snooker in the past, telling Metro.co.uk earlier this year that dress codes, commentary and the marketing of the game all need to be shaken up.

On taking over from Barry Hearn as World Snooker Tour chairman this year, Steve Dawson said he was looking forward to talking with Trump about his ideas for the future.

‘The door is always open,’ Dawson told the BBC in April. ‘It will be good fun to talk.

‘There are formal channels which players should go through but there is no reason why we shouldn’t listen to players and groups of players and their ideas.’

Asked whether that chat has taken place yet, Trump says is hasn’t, but understands that it has been a difficult time for snooker chiefs, trying to get tournaments organised as the impact of the pandemic rumbles on.

‘Not yet. I think it will happen in time,’ said Trump. ‘At the moment it’s been quite quiet, it’s probably stressful them with not many tournaments and people moaning that they can’t earn money.

It’s nobody’s fault but it’s a bit of a struggle and stressful time for a lot of people at the moment. They’re obviously working hard behind the scenes but as soon as we can start getting back to tournaments again and crowds back in, and we know it’s not going to be taken away at any given moment, then that’s when we can really get into the nitty gritty and give our opinions on how we can grow the game for the benefit of snooker.’

Trump believes it is not just his opinion that needs to be heard, but all players should have more of a say on how the game is run.

The world number two has the whole of September off as the Turkish Masters was postponed and the top 16 now go straight to the venue for Home Nations events, with qualifiers brought back in for those outside the elite, which take place this month.

The change was brought in for this season and the former World, Masters and UK champion feels players should get a say on such things.

It is quite hard because players don’t really get a say in anything,’ he said. ‘For me, there should have been a vote over whether players want to play in qualifiers or not, but it’s just done instantaneously, all of a sudden a letter’s sent out and people have to go to qualifiers.

‘Everything is brought upon players so fast and I think players need more of a say in stuff.

OK, in short, here are my views:

  • If Judd wants to grow snooker then he should make sure that snooker remains snooker and is not made to look more like pool, be it when it comes to the rules, the dress code, the atmosphere. If people want to watch pool, they will attend pool events.
  • Formats should certainly NOT get shorter. I would go back to best of 9 as the standard, maybe event best of 11. I want the best players to get through, I want tension to build. I’m a traditionalist, not a sensationalist (or a gambler) loving “shocks”.
  • The format of the World Championship offers a unique challenge and should stay. There are two changes I would want to see though: a return to the best of 31 for the SFs – to possibly avoid the very late SF2 night finish – and the Final to conclude on a Sunday, not on a Bank Holiday Monday, which is only a holiday in the UK. If WST has serious ambitions to make snooker global the latter is a must.
  • The Crucible is an iconic but inadequate venue in many respects: it’s cramped, it’s too small, it’s poorly ventilated, it offers little room for hospitality. However, IF the World Championship is to be moved, it should be moved around the World, not just more or less permantly moved somewhere else in the UK. The BBC would probably never agree to such change though.
  • Putting the World Championship or any snooker event in a big 5000 seats stadium is just preposterous. Already at the Tempodrom, if you are sat in the rafters, the table looks very small and you need good eyes … There is no point to be sat in a big venue, and to pay good money, only to have to watch on TV screens to see the action properly. If it comes to that, you’ll be more comfy at home … maybe with a very good bottle of wine that will cost you (much) less than the price of the ticket + travel + hotel.

In principle I would agree on a vote on qualifiers. However, no qualifiers would mean, having to travel to the main venue for all, and this in turn would mean added costs for the UK players, whilst it would stay the same, or be cheaper for the “oversea’s” players and for this reason I’m afraid that, even if nobody likes qualifiers, they would still stay because UK players are a majority, and the current UK centric bias would only be reinforced by the fact that it would then be the result of a “democratic vote”… and that UK bias in turn is one of the reasons why the UK players continue to be a majority. It’s a vicious cercle.

The only way to get out of this vicious cercle would be to scrap qualifiers, play the tournaments as a whole at or near the final venue, and to pay basic fees to the first round losers, not counting towards rankings, but covering basic expenses. It would only be right: you need two to play a match of snooker. As long as they give it their best, the losers contribute to the event, entertain the fans, generate money for the broadcasters, sponsors and venue management. they should get something for it, it should not cost them. It’s not “rewarding mediocrity”, it’s paying for a work done.

Having said all that, good luck to Judd at next week event, and safe trip.

14 thoughts on “Judd Trump: pool, shorter formats and moving the World Championship

  1. I would be over the moon if Trump just decided to stick to pool (9-balls pool that is, the atmosphere and dress code – or lack thereof – seem to suit him there) and forget about snooker completely…

  2. At least Judd Trump is developing his opinions beyond an ephemeral view on dress codes. Also I don’t want snooker tournaments to have the atmosphere of a discotheque. But his talk about pool and shorter formats is probably just hype – I doubt whether he really believes in that himself.

    As for qualifiers, the best-of-7 tournaments were fine without. That does require at least 6 tables, but to fit a full event in 7 days is ideal in many ways. The Home Nations events and perhaps some overseas events could use that format, for example during a 2-3 tournament cycle in China. For events with a more limited capacity (e.g. German Masters) qualifiers are only necessary if we stick to this rigid 128-player nonsense system. There needs to be flexibility in order for the tournament landscape to grow and diversify.

    Whilst I totally agree that the Crucible is an inadequate venue, I don’t think that moving abroad is necessary. In my view we should have several showpiece events each season, including the China Open and World Open (different each year?). For a World Championship venue, I do agree that the maximum capacity would be much less than 5000. The largest theatres in London have just over 2000, and a custom snooker set-up might reach 3000 but probably not more. After a couple of years everybody would say it was wonderful.

    • Don’t underestimate the Crucible and what it gives Snooker far exceeds the negative of it size.

      Every seat in the house gives you a great view of the table and the atmosphere is electric in every match with a large or a small crowd it feels there’s more people there than about 2,000 at some venues, and it comes across on TV

      If you’re going to move it you could rip the Heart out of the tournament and make the atmosphere feel flat.

      • We all know that the Crucible is inadequate, but are in denial. I’m sorry, but atmosphere is provided by PEOPLE not by bricks. I’m seriously concerned that a certain generation of fans (of which I belong) are looking too inwardly, just trying to sustain our own cherished memories. History doesn’t disappear if we make changes – Dennis Taylor will still be the 1985 champion; nothing gets destroyed. But to keep history going, it is necessary to provide for the future, just like the courageous people were doing in 1977.

  3. The fact is snooker is not growing so something has to be done and incrementalism is not going to achieve anything. The target demographic is the younger crowd and these folk are enticed with online gaming and extreme sports from a young age. So big changes need to be made to appeal to them and may cast some aspects of the game to the corridors of history.

    Whilst I agree you should not make snooker look like pool keeping too monkey suits of the 1930’s is entirely contrary to project g a modern image of the game. Basically wear a smart prestigious outfit but loose the penguin butler look.

    I look at snooker like cricket and the massive excitement they generated from a game when they recognised that a 7 day cricket match was not going to hack it and they introduced the one day format. Whilst I am not suggesting exactly the same it helps provide a concrete example of the scale of change required.

    Moving the world championship around the world is a great idea but snooker needs to entertain at least quadrupling the available formats. One day matches, timed games (only one tournament does this and look at the levels of excitement and customer engagement), pot luck tournaments where you get to pick a name from the hat from the audience (no registered pros or amateurs allowed) and play 6 reds with a 30 start for $5,0000 to the winner. If the pro wins then the money could go to charity. A tournament of mixed cue sports (snooker, speed billiards, pool etc.) etc…
    Also follow the model the NBA uses of making a show of individual skills of the game, they have a dunk competition, so why not a spectacular shot challenge e.g, a supporting event before the start of a major com which includes a comp for most spectacular shot champ. For example, blue ball challenge, screw back challenge, best escape challenge (based on setup voted on by the public), best swerve shot (our version of the NBA best dunk shot) etc…

    You really need to think well outside the box because it’s becoming a coffin. I have seen the sport go to life support in Australia and other countries.

    Also do not underestimate the impact of COVID. Do not expect the same number of crowds to come back post COVID. It has accelerated the decline because as the sport is not digitally enabled and is largely inaccessible the time away from the tables has resulted in youngsters who may have been inductees got lured to other sports they could play.
    Also, people who where thinking of quitting after many years of participation have hung up their cues.

    Lastly, COVID has further reinforced something that big business has known for over 20 years. If you are not digital you are dead. This is not the time to think of possibilities of Digital, it’s time to use it. Because millions of dollars of investment are going into those revenue opportunities. The money made in one xbox or play station game outstrips a Hollywood block buster in a 1,000th of the time and at a fraction of the budget with ongoing revenue Streams that last for years and start with a wider and younger audience.

    If snooker doesn’t beef up a majority of its investments in digital it has had it. I am passionate about this sport as many are but numbers don’t lie, and tell an especially stark story when compared to growth rates of other successful sports.

    Happy to discuss further.

    • A number of things you suggest above are/were actually done in exhibitions and were well received. However the current contracts that WST has put into place to “protect” their broadcasters rights are severely restricting the opportunities to show those exhibitions online, nevermind on TV. Mind you … qualifiers for the seniors events – under WPBSA umbrella – can’t be streamed because some main tour low ranked pros are possibly involved. And charity events, like the Pink Ribbon, couldn’t be streamed without seeking permission, despite being played when no professional events were on. I have always thought that this is counter-productive because it seriously restricts the exposure of the sport, and actually almost obliterates certain aspects of it completely.
      Regarding the dress code, the “smart prestigious outfit” is a great idea, but don’t leave in the players’ hands … Some manage to look shabby even as it is now. That said, especially for events with a restricted field, it could be an opportunity for a designer to show off their creations.
      WST (World Snooker at the time) organised a “digital” World Championship running alongside the actual World Championship in 2019. It wasn’t particularly well received and the experience wasn’t repeated. Personally, I’m not convinced at all that this is the future of any sport. It’s a different market and a different audience.

      • Thanks for your reply. To clarify by digital I mean all mediums, streaming, video/YouTube, social, xbox, play station, egames where the pros play the public (a bit like the f1 drivers compete online). Most this digital investment would be to massively ramp up visibility. I agree it’s not like other sports but it does need more exposure.

        We need more PR to create characters that are recognisable. The fact that players like Ronnie (the most popular player currently) could not even get on the short-list for sports personality of the for decades is evidence that visibility is too low.

        If TV companies are limiting the growth of the game the those contracts need to be renegotiated.

        Regarding attire I agree it should not be down to players s and a designer would be a good two way benefit for the designer and snooker.

    • Yes, I agree that a large responsibility falls on the media to package snooker better. They are equally stuck in the past with their coverage.

      But I disagree that we just have to follow other trends. For example, a lot is made of younger people’s shorter attention span. How to address that? We can either pander to it by having shorter formats and gimmicks, playing disco music between frames, etc. Or we can try to absorb newer audiences, draw them in, and increase their attention. This does require imagination, innovation and leadership. Unforunately such qualities are rare, and organisations tend to play ultra-ultra-safe.

      In terms of structures and formats, WST haven’t shown us much. They have introduced league formats, which is promising, but they haven’t addressed issues such as dead matches, and the broadcasters have focused only on one main table, which slows the pace and often leads to an anticlimax.

      In this extended gap, they could have tried other tournaments, such as one for Scottish players, for young players (e.g. the 16 youngest professionals), team events (GB vs. China?). The problem is the broadcasters seem keen to only show ‘ranking’ tournaments. So yet again, we are strangled by this luddite ranking system… A global, digital ranking system, available by mobile apps, would fix almost all these problems. Such things are used by online gaming, so are hardly alien to young people.

      • I think we are saying the same thing, I don’t see it as pandering but agree we shouldn’t lose the fundamentals and special nature of the sport. You can modernise the sport respectful of its genesis, much like renovating an old home so it merges the new with the old to produce a better outcome.

        You have a product to sell and you can’t change your customers. You can certainly bring them to the sport but they have to see the appeal and in these fast moving (what you would call low attention) times you have to structure the product introduction appropriately.

        Whether we like it or not speed of engagement is king. Look at the dramatic change to the composition of music brought on by streaming. Long introductions and lead ins have practically vanished because its so easy to swap to the next song.

        The same applies to choosing sports. I think you are 100% correct that innovation and leadership is key but we have a fantastic opportunity whilst we still have a relatively large following. There is no harm in experimentation to prove what works. Think of some sports that might be on life support that don’t have that.

        The key message is be brave in small steps (experiment) and leverage the large base of people interested in our sport.

        I love the suggestions you made which are I think in line with my earlier suggestions. I work in IT and have been helping with business strategies for years. Something I have observed many times is the tendency to blame external factors. This is your business and it is you that owns the strategy. We can’t blame the TV sponsors.

        We need to realise that the TV sponsors first signed up because you created a viable marketable product and it is our responsibility. You don’t have to break the current TV contracts and can build something to help your business. It takes guts and investment if a business lets themselves become hostages to their past success that is a path to decline. It doesn’t have to be about what you can do in TV. For example the future of the sport is the junior game and I’d suggest the disabled community with the massive acceptance of diversity (think paralympics).

        I love these types of strategic challenges and discussions. Great to talk to you all.

  4. “the Final to conclude on a Sunday, not on a Bank Holiday Monday, which is only a holiday in the UK.”

    It’s not only a holiday in the UK. It’s a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland too, which is not a part of the UK.

  5. “Trump believes it is not just his opinion that needs to be heard, but all players should have more of a say on how the game is run.”

    With respect to Judd they did have a say a massive say and they cocked it up that’s why there was a call for change.

    its now run as a professional business, i for one dont agree with everything they do but having sat in meetings my self you discuss things for a hour about 10 different ways of doing things and you come away further back than you started.

    This way its done for the interest of everyone, not just top players or even players in general

    There are avenues to voice concern but from what i can gather players like to do it on twitter than go to meetings about their issues.

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