The thunderous sound of silence …

So that general meeting happened on Wednesday … and the first thing we heard about it was this by Hector Nunns

So the people in charge of the sport wanted to prevent players to voice their feelings or opinions about its future anywhere other than in the secrecy of their internal meetings? Surely that can’t be good, can it?

I can see only one reason for such move and it’s to hide the truth about the real state of the sport and its future. The same happened in 2010. Ronnie was interviewed during the 2010 Masters and basically said that a lot of players were desperate and the the mood on tour was very low. He was criticised by the authorities for saying that and crucified by the fans for putting the game in a bad light. He was only telling the truth as it became plain in the following months, those months that lead to Barry Hearn taking over a sport that was in a terrible state indeed.

Of course, some players did talk as those two pieces show

Jack Lisowski wants to cut the tour to 64 to make it sustainable

‘It’s a shame, it’s sad, but I think it has to get cut’ – Jack Lisowski calls for World Snooker Tour to be halved

Phil Haigh Thursday 16 Mar 2023 10:30 pm

Cazoo Masters - Day Two
Jack Lisowski wants the number of players on tour to be halved (Picture: Getty Images)

Jack Lisowski reckons the number of players on tour should be cut in half as professional snooker is not financially viable for the bottom half of the rankings.

There are currently 131 professionals on the World Snooker Tour, although usually the number is 128 and Lisowski has backed this to be chopped down to 64.

There have been calls from other players for the tour to be cut, with the likes of Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire voicing that opinion, and Jackpot has joined in.

So far this season every player ranked below 50 in the world has earned less than £30,000 in ranking events and Lisowski says it is unsustainable for the lower-ranked players financially.

When you look at the tour, there’s been quite a bit of chat about cutting it to 64 because it’s too big. These people are making no money whatsoever outside the top 32. You call yourself a professional snooker player but you’re not making a living off it. I’m starting to think that needs to happen,’ Lisowski said after winning his opening round match at the WST Classic.

There’s no way they can support themselves. They’ve got to do other things, get sponsors. I think I now agree with people that we need to cut the tour because it’s just not economically viable for everyone.’

Lisowski feels a strong amateur tour which leads onto a higher-quality, smaller pro tour means everyone could benefit from the change.

Even though some players won’t be able to call themselves professionals, they can go back to amateurs and it might actually do them a favour,’ he said. ‘We can get a good amateur tour going, then when they do turn professional they’d be a lot more ready and they’d be making a better living.

I think we have to accept with what’s going on in the world at the moment that we can’t support 128 players, it’s too many for the tour. Let’s make it more quality.

We could have a more compact tour with better events, marketed better, better set-ups. Just have more quality over quantity. People aren’t making a living. The game’s gone a bit stagnant recently. We’re losing tournaments abroad, the circuit is getting narrower and narrower, it’s just not working.

It’s sad for players if they got cut, it would feel like a step back for a lot of players, but I think they’d reap the rewards if they could get back onto a 64-player tour

They call themselves professionals at the minute, but there’s not enough money in it. I think it would be doing them a favour, go back to amateurs, get back on and guarantee themselves a good living. It’s a shame, it’s sad, but I think it has to get cut.’

There is truth in what Jack says but is it the right answer? I don’t think so. The benefits would last only for a short while. Supposing that cutting the tour to 64 would mean keeping only the top 64 on board would probably render the whole tour even more UK centric, older and would make it harder for young players to get/stay on it. It might help for a little while, but you have to wonder what will happen when the current top players, who are putting bums on seat and money in WST’s bank account – the Ronnie, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Ding … – will leave. NO, what the game needs is a steady injection AND promotion of young and international talents and to make it interesting and financially sustainable. The 20000 pounds guaranteed allowance is a step in the right direction to help the players but it isn’t enough. Ultimately they want to PLAY, and quality in events organisation will ultimately promote quality in the game through higher motivation of the players.

Where Jack is right is that the tour needs better quality events and that probably means events with a reduced field. But reduced field should not necessarily mean “the top 8, 16, 32” or any other number that would suit the particular venue or format. It could be events for a specific population: the rookies on tour at the start of the season, a youth festival for the under 25, a “Champions event” for the former World Champions, an “European Show” with the mainland Europe players, in European cities. One of the main reasons that makes this nearly impossible for now is the rigid money list ranking system. There are alternatives to the money list that would make this possible as Lewis explained in this piece. A rating system would allow for simultaneous events as well. Of course WST should still make sure that all players get fair opportunities to earn money, but there would be far more flexibility to do so without having a 128 field in every “ranking” event.

Neil Robertson also voiced his opinion

Neil Robertson says ‘absolutely insane’ levy on snooker players ‘just has to go’

Phil HaighThursday 16 Mar 2023 7:01 pm

2023 Betvictor Welsh Open - Day 2
Neil Robertson hopes for a Players’ Association to fight for changes in snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Neil Robertson wants to see changes off the table in snooker, including scrapping the ‘absolutely insane’ 2.5 per cent WPBSA levy on prize money.

As the WPBSA tour induction states: ‘There will be a levy of 2.5 per cent deducted from all prize money paid which is paid to the WPBSA and help funds the activities of the association.

It is not a very popular situation among players on the professional tour, especially with the reduction in tournaments on the calendar since the pandemic restricting earning opportunities.

Ahead of the WST Classic this week, every player outside of the world’s top 50 had earned less than £30,000 this season so far in ranking events, meaning money is tight for lower-ranked players.

Robertson is not short of prize money himself, but thinks that players having to give away 2.5 per cent of their winnings to help fund the WPBSA is crazy and should be stopped, or alternatively the money would be put aside for players’ retirement funds.

I believe the sport desperately needs a Players’ Association, a proper, one. So if they see something happening in the game, they will bang their fist on the desk and really fight for the players,’ Robertson said after winning his first round match at the WST Classic on Thursday.

There’s a few things still lingering in the game that shouldn’t be there. The 2.5 per cent levy for one is absolutely insane, in my opinion. For me it just has to go. It just doesn’t seem right.

If there is a 2.5 per cent levy it should be in a players’ superannuation fund or something when they retire, so the 2.5 per cent they’ve been paying they get that at the end of their career.

It doesn’t make any sense for it to go back to the WPBSA when the sport’s so well run and making a ton of money.

WPBSA of course needs money to function, but does it need to come from the players pocket? And if it stays should the levy be as high as it is? I don’t have a definite answer BUT it seems that there has been a “transfer” of money from the players’ pockets to the shareholders’ pockets in recent years and THAT is NOT right in my opinion. Yes, shareholders deserve a reward for taking risks and investing in the sport, but do they “deserve” it more than the players who actually MAKE the sport? I don’t think so and maybe, with a fairer distribution of the money, the levy could be reduced, or even scrapped.

11 thoughts on “The thunderous sound of silence …

  1. It’s a total myth and a nonsense that there is not enough money to support 128 pros or even more pros on the main tour
    The big issue here is PRIZE MONEY DISTRIBUTION in the professional game .
    The top 10 players currently earn more than 35 TIMES more than players ranked 100 -110 . In tennis and golf it’s around 10 to 15 times more . I’ve sent a revised prize money distribution model to the powers that be and it guarantes EVERY player on tour over £15,000 a year without winning a match .
    We want snooker to grow into a global game and cutting the tour to 64 would be catastrophic for the growth of the game .
    Had the tour been at 64 when Neal Robertson and Jack Lisows ki were amateurs they may have never got to be professionals .
    Remember when Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams turned pro at 16 years of age there was no qualifying needed they just paid to be professionals with relegation from the tour being impossible.

    • I agree with you Barry, cutting the tour would be catastrophic and would further hinder the development of snooker outside UK/Ireland. And I’m sure there is enough money in the game, but it’s far too top heavy as it is now. All that to allow the ones in charge to boast “oh look how much Trump, ROS … have won this year. Never been a better time to be a snooker player!” But that’s a misleading picture.

  2. If the tour is cut to 64,

    The lower 32 will be cut off from the tour…
    32 losers will receive nothing in the 1st round…
    (Does that means a cut in half means double in prize money in size? I strongly doubt that)

    Considering current voting system, number33~96 will less likely approve it.

    For monies, the WPBSA should be taken from world tour, not from players, for taxation reasons…
    (Neil has high tax, he reached the third class of 45%(beyond 180000AUD), quite much of him… )

    • Cutting the tour to 64, keeping the same type of ranking system and relegations rules can’t work. Some stability at the top is needed for promotional reasons. Fans like a “household” name.

    • All 64 players could be paid when they enter a tournament. As they all are now with the £20k guarantee.

      The WPBSA are already a 26% shareholder in World Snooker Ltd.

  3. I think the frontier between amateurs and pros is already way to blurry.
    We need a clear difference and the two aspects to be governed by separate bodies.

    I did read the rating thing (the Lewis Pirnie influenced one?).
    It’s way too complicated for me. I hate the current money system but it does survive on its simplicity. I would have a points based system with possibly a point per frame won?

    • A point system would help – but not frame based especially if some events are not open to all. But, yes, as it would better reward consistency. But you can’t call yourself a World tour if it’s as UK centric as it is with the whole qualifying (both for the tour and for events) system strongly contributing to maintain that situation. Non UK players having to qualify for their home events in the UK and forced to come to live in the UK as expats isn’t right.

      • With 64 players, all ranking events can be open to them all and they could all be in the same city, if not the venue. The Home Nations events all worked well with the 128 at the venue prior to Covid.
        The other limited number showpiece events shouldn’t be ranking events.
        The WST needs to be played all over the world with no qualifying events. The UK bias, which appears to be moving more to an England bias, needs to end.

    • It’s not as complicated as you think. It’s just unfamiliar to us in snooker. Basically if a player does well it goes up; if they do badly it goes down.

      What is much more complicated is WST’s money lists: in order to work anything out, you have to look up the prizemoney from every event, and check the results from 2 years ago to take points off.

      But those of us who try to do ranking calculations by hand really are dinosaurs. Any younger person would just expect a mobile phone app to do the maths. Snooker desperately needs to modernise, and ‘ranking points’ can’t scale up to a global game.

  4. I agree with Jack.
    64 true professionals and a good system of promotion relegation is the way forward.
    The WST should be seen as the professional side of the sport rather than a tv programme relying on nostalgia and gimmicks.

    • Michael, that’s a dead end. I will kill the game within a few years. What the game needs is to blurr that frontier between amateurs and pros, to allow for more flexibility, diversity, fluidity … and accept to break WST “monopoly” to an extend. Have you read the piece I linked about a rating system? If not, please do. I would really appreciate to read your opinion on that one.

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