Snooker News – 27.04.2022

Several important news popped up in recent weeks.

This one came out some time ago already.

Hong Kong Sports Institute delivers snooker ‘a huge blow’ as it cuts Tier A status and millions in funding and support

Ng On-yee, seen here at the Eden Women’s Masters in Brighton, has blazed a trail for the sport in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

Ng On-yee, seen here at the Eden Women’s Masters in Brighton, has blazed a trail for the sport in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

The high-profile sport of billiards will be demoted to Tier B by the Hong Kong Sports Institute from April 2023, costing them not just millions of dollars in funding but also their occupancy at HKSI.

Sources have told the Post billiards is facing the chop because it did not meet the required funding criteria as an Asian Games sport.

“It is disappointing because we can’t work out why they’re doing this a year after it was announced that billiards will return to Doha Asian Games in 2030,” the source said.

Marco Fu has immediately reacted to the situation 

Texting Carrie Lam: how Marco Fu raised snooker’s multimillion-dollar question with Hong Kong leader

  • Quarantined ace opts for a direct approach to grab the attention of the city’s chief executive, who acknowledges Fu’s message in Facebook post
  • Cue sports could lose 80 per cent of their funding from 2023, with grants to players halved, governing body says
Carrie Lam posted a photo of herself with Marco Fu on Facebook as she discussed sports funding. Photo: Facebook
Carrie Lam posted a photo of herself with Marco Fu on Facebook as she discussed sports funding. Photo: Facebook
Not many people can claim to have a head of government’s digits in their phone contacts, but Marco Fu Ka-chun is one.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said she was alerted to a financial crisis for snooker when she received a text message about it from the city’s most famous player.
Cue sports face losing most of their public funding from next year, slashing support to players including three-time ranking event winner Fu and three-time women’s world champion Ng On-yee – a point made to Hong Kong’s leader when Fu contacted her personally.
“I received a text message from Marco Fu,” Lam said in a Facebook post that discussed funding of Hong Kong sports.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam (centre) meets Hong Kong’s leading snooker players Marcu Fu and Ng On-yee. Photo: Facebook
Chief Executive Carrie Lam (centre) meets Hong Kong’s leading snooker players Marcu Fu and Ng On-yee. Photo: Facebook
Fu was in quarantine at a hotel in Hong Kong after travelling to the UK to take part in the World Championship, in which he has twice been a semi-finalist. He bowed out in the qualifying stages, but has returned home to arguably a sterner test, with cue sports in danger of losing Tier A status under the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI).
It hinges on whether they can gain readmission to the Asian Games in 2026. After last featuring in 2010, they will return in 2030 in Doha, but are not included, as yet, in the 2026 edition in Nagoya, Japan.
The rules state that, to avoid demotion to Tier B next April, a sport must have featured in, or expect to feature in, at least three Asian or Olympic Games between 2010 and 2030.

The Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council (HKBSCC) sent a letter on April 8 to the Home Affairs Bureau’s Sports Commission, copied to Lam, urging it to reconsider or extend until 2026 billiard sports’ Tier A status, held since 2009.

Fu, who had knowledge of the letter, followed up with a personal message to Lam to ensure she had received it. He and Lam have met a number of times, and one of Lam’s sons is a fan of Fu who has watched him play on many occasions in the UK.

“We are very grateful to Marco – it’s mainly because of Marco’s message that Carrie Lam found out about billiard sports,” said Vincent Law Wing-chung, the HKBSCC chairman. “We didn’t ask Marco to talk to her.”

Law said Lam had replied saying that she would speak to the bureau.

In the meantime, the HKBSCC is to campaign for inclusion in the Nagoya Games, including a “rescue coalition” on social media to appeal to cue sports aficionados across Asia.

Billiards and snooker were part of the Asian Games four times in a row from 1998 to 2010, with Fu leading Hong Kong’s haul of four gold, three silver and three bronze medals.

I hope we get as much attention as possible,” Law said of the campaign. “If cue sports are downgraded to Tier B, we will lose 80 per cent of our funding, which amounts to millions of dollars, while players will lose 50 to 60 per cent of their training grants, in addition to training and logistical support.”

Marco Fu has returned to the professional tour after a two-year absence because of the pandemic. Photo: World Snooker Tour
Marco Fu has returned to the professional tour after a two-year absence because of the pandemic. Photo: World Snooker Tour
The HKSI’s 20 Tier A sports are entitled to financial support and use of the world-class facilities at its Fo Tan campus.

There are 39 funded players in cue sports, in elite and junior categories. Including Fu and Ng, 13 players receive elite monthly funding of HK$32,700 to HK$38,540 (US$4,000 to US$5,000). Demotion to Tier B would roughly halve this.

Law described Lam’s Facebook post, in which she said she hoped to see cue sports return to the Asian Games, as “a positive response as well as a hint to push us to act as quickly as feasible”.

“It’s an issue of urgency, like a tough fight on the baize,” he said. “We can’t control the outcome, but we’ll do everything we can to win this battle.”

From another Hong Kong source, I understand that snooker is relatively safe for another four years, but solving such issues may take time. It also shows why, although IMO, cue sports are not particularly suitable for the Olympic games ans similar competitions, having them in those events is important, and not just in Hong Kong. In Belgium, snooker is not considered to be a sport, but would be if it was included in the Olympics. This would have huge implications regarding funding, but also regarding the support athletes can get, in particular, the younger ones who are still under “mandatory education” status and often find it difficult to fulfill their school duties AND their sports’ training.

Yesterday Steve Dawson made a number of announcements:

Steve Dawson Announcements

WST Chairman Steve Dawson was at the Crucible today making a range of announcements about the tour. These were:

Cazoo UK Championship

We’re delighted to announce a very significant format change for the Cazoo UK Championship which will have huge benefits for the players, fans and broadcasters.

The event will exactly mirror the format for the Betfred World Championship. So the top 16 players will be seeded through to the final stages in York. All other players will compete in a qualifying event with 16 going through to the venue.

The strength of the top 16 has never been greater and we are seeing this in our biggest events such as the World Championship and the Masters. For television viewers, this format guarantees the biggest names at the final stages.

There will be 128 players in the qualifying rounds – 112 tour players and 16 invited amateurs. This will create its own drama and storylines, just as we see at the World Championship.

We have a mixture of formats on the tour, with some flat draws of 128 players, and others where the top players are seeded through.

We have also increased the prize money from £1,009,000 to £1,205,000, with the first prize up from £200,000 to £250,000.

The event will remain at the York Barbican, its home since 2011, with the televised stages running from November 12 to 20. This will be immediately preceded by the qualifying event.

Matches will remain best of 11 frames up until the final.

The Cazoo UK Championship is a fabulous event, one of our Triple Crown, and this innovation will help it to grow and evolve into a bigger and better tournament.

Invitational Tour Cards

We have decided to offer Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry invitational tour cards for the next two seasons. They are both great ambassadors for our sport and they have both done a huge amount to grow snooker around the world over many years.

Both Ken and Stephen continue to generate interest from fans, television and media. We wish them all the best for the next two seasons. We will review this invitation at the end of the two-year period.

Star Xing Pai

In a hugely momentous new agreement for our sport, we have signed a ten-year extension to our current deal with Star Xing Pai to be our official table supplier.

There is no question that Star make the best snooker tables in the world, and they are an integral part of our ambition to provide the best possible playing conditions. The quality of play, the number of centuries and 147s and the positive feedback we have from players is testament to the excellence of Star Xing Pai products.

Star has been our official supplier since 2007 so we have worked them for 15 years and we had no hesitation in joining forces for another ten years. This has been one of our sport’s most successful long terms partnerships of recent times. As well as providing official tables, Star has promoted events in China, and worked with the WPBSA in producing ‘Little Star’ small tables to help more school children to play our sport.

We look forward to building this relationship for many years to come.

Jessie May

Steve Dawson

Finally, an important announcement for our fantastic charity partner Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home as we have agreed to continue to support them for another three years. The financial support we provide includes donations for century breaks from our sponsors, including an incredibly generous donation from Betfred year upon year, of £200 for every century which is always rounded up to £25,000. The work done by the Jessie May Nurses for terminally ill children and their families is extraordinary. They rely very much on private donations and we are pleased to help for a further three years.

I have mixed feelings about the UK Championship change of format.

On one hand it gives lower ranked players more winnable first matches, and an better opportunity to earn some good money and ranking points whilst gaining experience. On the other hand, this is another event where they won’t be at the main venue nor mix with the biggest stars and experience the biggest venues’ atmosphere.

It’s not “protecting” the top players, who will come cold in the last 32, and won’t get any ranking points shoud they lose.

The change is obviously driven by a number of commercial factors; the broadcasters – in this case the BBC – and the venues’ managements  and the sponsors want to have the big names at the latter stage. Also, less players at the main venue makes it easier to organise hospitality.

I also have mixed feelings about the invitational tour cards, Hendry’s one in particular. Of course he’s one of the greatest players in our sport, but he has got one already and barely used it.


8 thoughts on “Snooker News – 27.04.2022

  1. “Billiards” is an umbrella term covering lots of cue sports such as English Billiards, Carom, Pool and Snooker.

  2. If they are going to stick to the existing dates and venue for the UK Championship then they will need 8 tables, which is what they used to use anyway for the first two rounds, although even that will mean playing on the first Friday. Alternatively, they might continue with the 4-table limit for the L144, L112 and L80 rounds, and allocate extra qualifying dates in a subsidiary venue, perhaps behind closed doors. That’s probably the intention for 2023, as the upcoming season has already been scheduled.

    It would appear that Steve Dawson’s preferred format is to have a number of high profile weeks involving the top players, but with the rest of the season dribbling along with endless qualifiers. For somebody like me who likes to follow players outside the elite, it’s just a quagmire, and not really feasible for me to attend any more. All the tournaments are now broken, there’s no cohesion.

    Before accepting their free passes, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry might reflect that their entire season will be played in qualifying cubicles, with 4 tables and a handful of spectators, if allowed.

    • I understand that viewing these matches is near impossible, but maybe they could do something to improve feasibility: after all they could make some money selling some tix, unless the idea is that nobody wants to watch them anyway. But it might be useful for these players not to play top players immediately and streaming has been relatively good this year. On the other hand the broken structure of tournaments is very irritating, unless they do something about I

      On another note I hope Hendry will either beplay or reject the card and looker it go to someone else

  3. Hmm, interesting timing switching the format of the UK after featuring a final with two young players outside the Top 16, and Top 16 players losing to “amateurs” in the first round.

    I’d be more for the change if they were going back to best-of-17s, but no, they’re sticking with best-of-11s.

  4. If there was one tournament that needed fixing, from a fan’s point of view, it was not the UK.

  5. Forgive my confusion here but this story is stating Billiards and sometimes ststing snooker and sometimes both. Can someone confirm Which cue sports this funding drop relates to?
    On the face of it this seems to be a major negative for the sport world wide as Asia is the biggest growth potential currently as far as I understand it.

    To those of a pessimistic persuasion it could be taken as yet another nail in the already well established downturn in our adoption and growth rates.

    • Sometimes the term ‘billiards’ is the result of a translation error, either for ‘snooker’ or for ‘cue sports’ more generally. There is probably scope for appeal, as the Asian Games schedule was obviously impacted by covid, and the HK classification rules aren’t clear.

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