The Color of Money

This was shared very recently on social media

Profit increase of 150% for World Snooker shareholders in 2020/21

By Craig Edwards, March 8th, 2023

Prize Money falls on WST circuit as dividends soar!

New Figures revealed shareholder dividend increased by 150% in 2020/2021 while Prize money on the World Snooker Tour fell by over 25%.

World Snooker Holding Limited submitted accounts to Companies House for the financial year 2020/2021 that revealed World Snooker shareholders received a bumper dividend increase of 150%. In 2019/2020 WST shareholders received £1,400,000 and the total prize money distributed amongst their membership was just over £12,500,000. A review of 2020/2021 saw shareholders receive a 150% increase to £3,500,000 while the players prize money fell to £9,263,200.

Those published profits of shareholder dividend are in stark contrast to Ali Carter’s comments who said: “Maybe 90% of the Tour are skint”, in the BBC’s Framed Podcast last month after winning the German Masters. In the Podcast, Ali Carter expressed his opinion further, when he added: “The tour should probably be cut. “If you do get your tour card, you’re guaranteed a living, a good living.”

Looking through the money list from the 2020/2021 season revealed WST players had earned a total of £9,263,200 — a fall of 26%. Breaking that down further, it was noticeable the top 20 professionals won £100,000 or over while there were 45 players earning £50,000 or more. Lower down the rankings, pickings were sparse, as Mark King in 65th won £32,250 while Farikh Ajaib occupied 128th with only £4,750 before expenses.

With snooker being drawn in a one-on-one format, the numbers of players derived for the tour are in 32-player increments and with 96th earning only £17,250 before expenses, Ali Carter’s comments seem to offer credence.

Compare those player struggles to make ends meet, with shareholders receiving dividends totalling £3,500,000 there appears a growing disparity between the profits of shareholders and the profits of its players’.

The glaring statistic is the jump in shareholder dividend paid to World Snooker Holding Limited with the perspective of recent years applied with the knowledge that the dividend was stable between £250,000-£700,000 between 2014 and 2018 for accounts at Companies House. Taking a further look through previous filings revealed a jump from £450,000 in 2018 to £1,500,000 in 2019 which was a noticeable 200% plus increase. Then 2020 saw a slight fall to £1,4000,000 before the huge increase of 2021. It is right we make allowances for crossover periods in accounting of any twelve-monthly period but regardless of that, any 150% increase in shareholder dividends asks a plethora of questions and scrutiny given the falling wages of its snooker professionals.

Image below: Practice routine used by professionals

Image above: Practice routine used by professionals

Snooker Professionals Reactions — Past and Present

One former top 16 player from the halcyon days of snooker in the 80s and 90s, said: “If I was still playing, I’d be asking about this stuff!”

Another top 16 player from the past said: “Why are the players not informed, in my day, you got to see issued accounts from the W.P.B.S.A. at least, even if you didn’t like them.”

Clive Everton, is the former esteemed BBC commentator and snooker historian who owned Snooker Scene for many decades and was well known for his strong investigative exhaustive enquiries, acting as snooker’s fourth estate.

When interviewing the two retired players from the top 16, both mentioned the name “Clive Everton” who often delved into similar issues in the past. One did say, he would try and get in touch with him, but I mentioned he had now retired due to ill health.

There is an overwhelming worry from professionals that speaking out might prejudice their future in the sport. I think they are all grateful for Barry Hearn’s involvement in the sport which has turned the fortunes around in recent years. The London entrepreneur is well known for his huge acumen in the field of promoting professional sport as many boxers, darts players and snooker professionals will testify.

Hearn has taken a back seat in recent times and there’s become a growing resentment building amongst the rank and file at the way the board is handing out “two-year tour cards”.

Image: The Crucible Theatre — home for the World Championship that begins on the 15th of April.

It was easier for the older players to speak out, than for the modern players currently earning a living from the sport but there were several willing to give their thoughts confidentially.

One of the World Snooker player’s when asked about the disparity in the 2020/2021 accounts, expressed dismay, admitting to feeling “shocked”. The snooker professional added: “Being a player on tour, I am downhearted to see that it has been taken out of the players pockets.”

The tour player interviewed continued further when he added: “The other frustrating factor is, that during that season the players had no guarantees, like nowadays.”

The guarantee, the player is referring to, is a payment of £20,000 to all tour players for the first time in the current season 2022/2023

The lower ranked professionals have been grateful for the guaranteed income regardless of results. But, for the record, it was an unexpected move and a huge U-turn on Barry Hearn’s policy of only rewarding winners.

Back in December of 2018, Hearn said: “This is a brutal sport, it doesn’t reward first-round losers. “The biggest issue is about opportunity for young players coming in and I want the cream to rise to the top.”

The Shareholders of World Snooker Holding Limited.

Shareholder 1: Matchroom Sport Limited 280,000 = 56%

Shareholder 2: W.P.B.S.A Limited 130,000 = 26%

Shareholder 3: Parker Whitehall Trustees Limited 15,000 = 3%

Shareholder 4: E.J. Hearn 25,000 = 5%

Shareholder 5: B. Parker 25,000 = 5%

Shareholder 6: S.J. Dawson 25,000 = 5%

World Snooker have been asked for comment on the 150% increase in dividend given the player prize pool falling by over 25% but they’ve made no comment so far.

This, of course, is about the 2020/21 season. Since then the decision has been made to guarantee a £20,000 income to all players, which is a big step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the above does indeed raise questions and I’m surprised that WST didn’t express their views on the matter.

As someone who follows trends and news on social media, I have noticed that there has been a lot of similar situations in all economic sectors in post-Brexit UK. Whilst a lot of people struggle badly to make ends meet, many big companies see their profits grow significantly and their shareholders are the main beneficiaries of that growth. Shareholders who invest in a company take risks, it’s normal to reward them properly. But those who do the actual work also deserve proper reward, because, they are ultimately the ones who generate those profits.

Of course, that season there were no tournaments in China, which definitely impacted the players earning opportunities and WST/WPBSA could do nothing about the missing Chinese tournaments, nor about China’s covid policies. But if the money was there why did they not improve the player’s prize money in the remaining tournaments? Especially in the early rounds?

A general Players Meeting has been called for today or tomorrow, I’m not sure. What will be discussed, and whether the above is “on the menu”, I don’t know. Shaun Murphy has urged players to come and participate, especially those (unnamed) who have been “vocal” in recent times. But this meeting has been called at very short notice, it’s to be held today or tomorrow which is the first day of the last ranking event of this season before the World Championship. There is A LOT at stake for many of the players ranking wise. Maybe the matter that needs discussing popped up very recently and is of uttermost importance? If not, then calling the meeting at very short notice is the perfect way to ensure only a few will show up.

I can’t help wondering …

9 thoughts on “The Color of Money

  1. Not know what the future is, but the inflation harms much. (Seeing what the prize fund of world championship 20 years ago… it has risen approximately 3 times only!)

    World Snooker definitely need to find ways of income.

  2. It would be intriguing to know what possible justification can exist for this monstrosity.

    It’s also alarming that players don’t feel able to speak out. This problem seems to have grown much worse over time. Yes, Clive Everton’s reporting was a catalyst for openness, but there also seems to have been a culture in years past of more freedom of expression.

    I wonder what the players are afraid of.

    PS Who called the players’ meeting?

    • I don’t know who called it, but Shaun Murphy was on twitter urging the players to participate, saying it’s very important.

    • It is hard to make a solution without research/analyze and then persuade the company, especially in such a gloomy moment(shame on those bankers and brokers! it is always the honest people harmed)…

  3. “Whilst a lot of people struggle badly to make ends meet, many big companies see their profits grow significantly and their shareholders are the main beneficiaries of that growth.”

    This is exactly what I also wanted to say or would have said. I know it’s a snooker blog, so not the place to cry or rant over all bad things in the world, but indeed why this segment of life would be different? 😿😿😿

  4. The 150% increase of approx £3m appears to have been taken directly from the players’ share. It’s a very similar amount.

    • So the tour should make more tournaments or more prize money in each event(latter is unlikely)…
      (data below from wikipedia)

      A (former ranking in 2019~2020 not held 2020~2021 onwards)
      2019 World Open £772,000
      2019 International Championship £802,000
      2019 Riga Masters £278,000
      2019 China Championship £751,000

      B1(former ranking in 2020~2021)
      2021 WST Pro Series £420,500
      B2(former ranking in 2021~2022)
      2022 Turkish Masters £500,000
      B2(this year)
      2023WST Classic £427,000

      and C(former ranking2017~2022 not held this year)… Gibraltar Open £500,000…

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