Tour Players Guaranteed Prize Money Under New WST And WPBSA Initiative
Players on the World Snooker Tour will be guaranteed to earn a minimum of £20,000 during the 2022/23 season, under a new system which offers them security in a difficult economic climate.
The initiative will be introduced with immediate effect, with players to be offered payments of up to £10,000 in September, and a further £10,000 in January.
These payments are set against prize money, so players otherwise earning £20,000 or more over the season will have the up-front payments deducted from their prize money earnings. The system will particularly benefit those who would otherwise earn less than £20,000 in prize money.
WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We are delighted to join forces with the WPBSA and its players organisation to fund this new programme. We recognise that these are tough times for many people given the cost of living crisis and that a £20,000 guarantee provides an important level of reassurance for many players who need to plan and prepare for life on tour.
“The top stars on our tour earn vast sums, in fact three years ago we saw Judd Trump become the first player to earn £1 million in prize money in a single season. But we recognise that further down the rankings, there are no guarantees. We have brought in this new system to support the many talented players who may need a level of security to fund their snooker careers.
“Before Matchroom took control of the sport in 2010, overall prize money had sunk as low as £3.5 million and all players had to pay around £5,000 a year in entry fees. We have since scrapped entry fees and the prize money levels are far higher. Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to stage ranking events in China since 2019, which has adversely affected our tour. But we will return to China as soon as restrictions are reduced, and we are striving to create new events, as we have done with the British Open, Turkish Masters, Hong Kong Masters and World Mixed Doubles.”
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson added: “This new initiative is a fundamental shift in the way we are underpinning the future of our sport. This clearly shows the importance of our new structure at the WPBSA where players are represented and listened to through their own WPBSA players body, and I would like to thank the WPBSA players board for their support. In addition, this demonstrates the value of becoming a World Snooker Tour card holder where we take talent retention and the welfare of our players seriously.”
The new system, open to all 130 tour players, will run this season on a trial basis before the decision is made whether to continue next season.
Ferguson Hails New Prize Money Guarantee Scheme for World Snooker Tour
World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) Chairman Jason Ferguson has welcomed the introduction of a new prize money guarantee scheme that will see players on the World Snooker Tour (WST) guaranteed to earn a minimum of £20,000 for the first time during the 2022/23 season.
Jointly announced by WST and snooker’s world governing body the WPBSA, and supported by the WPBSA’s own players board, the new initiative will provide unprecedented support for all professional players. In particular, the scheme will provide stability for players to compete throughout the year.
Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman said: “We are today delighted to be able to announce this new scheme which will underpin the future of our sport going forwards.
“There can be no question that the World Snooker Tour represents the pinnacle of our sport and that every player who has qualified through our recognised WPBSA pathways is deserving of the opportunity to compete at the very highest level.
“However, we are currently living through challenging times, with the global cost of living crisis combined with the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic upon the international calendar, undoubtedly having a destabilising effect upon players.
“We further recognise that talent can come from anywhere around the globe, there are players from no fewer than 19 countries currently represented on the World Snooker Tour and I am sure this scheme will now make it possible for anyone to achieve their dreams and fulfil their potential. Player welfare is an issue that we take extremely seriously, and there is no doubt that this scheme will ease the pressure for many of our members, allowing them to do what they do best – play snooker and entertain the many millions of fans around the world.
“This scheme demonstrates the value of earning a two-year WST Tour Card and has been made possible through the tripartite structure that exists within our sport. This includes our commercial arm WST, the WPBSA as world governing body and crucially our WPBSA Players organisation, which ensures that the views of the players are heard at all stages. This demonstrates that our new constitutional changes at the WPBSA are working. I would like to place on record my thanks to fellow Chairman at WST Steve Dawson, the WST Board of Directors, and the new Players Board currently chaired by Ken Doherty, all of whom have contributed to making this happen.”
This is indeed a radical shift from Barry Hearn’s “philosophy”, allegedly about “not rewarding mediocrity”. It isn’t “rewarding mediocrity” to pay people for their job done. It isn’t “rewarding mediocrity” to recognise that new players on tour need time to adjust: this is a very difficult sport and the top players play at a very high standard. It isn’t “rewarding mediocrity” to help players who need to “expat” – because of the UK centric nature of the tour – to relocate and settle in their new lives. All this applies, no matter the economical climate, but it is more important than ever in this time of deep crisis.
There is a small risk that a couple may abuse the system, take the money and do nothing, but it’s a small price to pay if this system allows many young talents to develop and thrive. This is about the future, and maybe even the survival, of snooker as a top sport. Well done WPBSA!
Mohamed Ibrahim from Egypt has won the 2022 Snooker African Championship and will be offered a two years tour card. He defeated Hesham Shawky 5-4 on the pink to win the 2022 African Snooker Championship late last night in Morocco. Mohamed Ibrahim had already qualified for the main Tour in 2018/19, by winning the same competition. However, he never played a professional match. What will happen this time remains to be seen.. All the same, congratulations to him!
No event in China at all, not even with a “to be confirmed” tag. No Gibraltar Open either. That’s maybe not that surprising after the problems players faced last season. Indeed, because of Brexit, most players now need a “Schengen Visa” just in case, because of the weather, their plane would land in Spain rather than in Gibraltar. Last season, a number of them were sent back to the UK, after landing in Spain, missing out on possibly crucial ranking points.
BetVictor Continues Partnership With World Snooker Tour
BetVictor, a leading global gambling company, will be title sponsor of nine events on the World Snooker Tour during the 2022/23 season, with the leading money winner across the BetVictor Series to earn a huge £150,000 bonus.
WST is delighted to continue its long term partnership with BetVictor, a dedicated supporter of snooker for many years.
The BetVictor sponsored tournaments will include the four BetVictor Home Nations Series events, the new and innovative BetVictor World Mixed Doubles and four others. The events are:
BetVictor Championship League, June 28 to July 29, Leicester, promoted by Matchroom Multi-Sport
BetVictor World Mixed Doubles, September 24-25, Milton Keynes
BetVictor European Masters, August 16-21, Germany
BetVictor Shoot Out, January 26-29, Leicester
BetVictor German Masters, February 1-5, Berlin
BetVictor Home Nations Series
BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, October 16-23, Belfast
BetVictor Scottish Open, November 28 to December 4, Edinburgh
BetVictor English Open, December 12-18, Brentwood
BetVictor Welsh Open, February 13 to 19, Llandudno
All of these events, other than the BetVictor World Mixed Doubles, will count towards the BetVictor Series. All money earned by every player in the eight counting events will be tallied on the BetVictor Series Rankings. The money list leader after the eighth and final event in Wales in February will earn the £150,000 bonus.
Last season, going into the final event there were 11 players still in with a chance of banking the bonus. In a dramatic finish, John Higgins came out on top and won the £150,000. Judd Trump captured the bonus in both 2020 and 2021.
All of the BetVictor-sponsored events will be broadcast live to hundreds of millions of snooker fans across the globe.
Discovery-owned Quest and Eurosport are the host broadcasters for the BetVictor Home Nations Series. Eurosport are also host broadcasters for the BetVictor Shoot Out, BetVictor European Masters and BetVictor German Masters.
The new BetVictor World Mixed Doubles will be live on ITV and ITV4, featuring the world’s top four men and top four women players. The BetVictor Championship League will be broadcast by streaming partners including Matchroom.Live
The events will also be shown around the world on WST’s broadcast partners which include TrueSport, SportCast, Now TV, Astro SuperSport, CCTV5, Liaoning TV, SPS Mongolia, Pakistan TV Sports, Premier Sports Philippines, Hub Sport and DAZN as well as various streaming partners including Huya, Youku, Migu and Matchroom.Live.
WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “BetVictor has been a fantastic and welcome part of the snooker family for many years and we are thrilled to continue our partnership with them. In the coming season they will sponsor a wide range of events with a variety of formats. Every tournament will feature the very best players in the world at a time when the entertainment delivered by our sport is stronger than ever.
“The BetVictor bonus has provided a fascinating extra element to our tour over the past three years. From the first event, players are striving to top the leaderboard and put themselves in line for the £150,000. To have 11 players in the race over the final three days of the series last season gave us a thrilling conclusion and we hope for a similar story next time.
“Snooker continues to grow in terms of our worldwide television and digital audience, with new and younger fans discovering the enthralling nature of the sport every year. BetVictor have joined us on that journey, bringing their brand to hundreds of millions of followers. They are a great team to work with and we look forward to developing our relationship for many years to come.”
Hull To Stage Tour Championship For The First Time
The Bonus Arena in Hull will host the world’s best snooker players next year, when the Tour Championship comes to the city for the first time.
The tournament is one of the biggest on snooker’s global circuit and features an elite eight-man field. Only the top eight on the 2022/23 season one-year ranking list will qualify for the world ranking event.
Running from March 27 to April 2 in 2023, the event will be televised live by ITV and a range of other international broadcasters.
Neil Robertson won the title last season in Llandudno, beating John Higgins in the final. Also in the field were Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams, Mark Allen, Zhao Xintong and Luca Brecel. A stellar field of the sport’s all-time greats is expected again in 2023.
World Snooker Tour Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We are excited about going to the Bonus Arena in Hull for one of our biggest events for the first time as it is a fabulous venue and the atmosphere when it is packed out is going to be incredible. For the very best players on the planet and for the fans lucky enough to get tickets this is going to be a special experience.
“From the moment the first balls are struck this season, the players are in a race to climb high on the one year list, because only those in form qualify for the elite events in this series. The top 32 make it to the World Grand Prix, then 16 qualify for the Players Championship and by the time we get to the eight-man Tour Championship it really is the cream of the crop.
“We look forward to working with the team at the Bonus Arena and the people of Hull on delivering a sensational event.”
Hull, and this venue in particular, have hosted several important “Seniors” events. It’s a great venue and Hull is a very nice and interesting city to visit. It has both “historical” and “mordern” sides. The locals are particularly wellcoming, and helpful if you get lost! If you plan to go … take some warm clothes with you! The sea coast climate is “tonic” but not exactly hot!
The WPBSA was today alerted to unusual betting patterns regarding the match between Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon and Martin O’Donnell at the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany.
The WPBSA monitors betting on ALL professional snooker and has the most sophisticated methods available today. Working with partners worldwide and by liaising with the Gambling Commission, the WPBSA will review the available facts surrounding betting on this match. A decision will then be taken on whether any further action is necessary.
Firebomb attack on Sheffield home of snooker players in corruption probe
The Sheffield home of two Thai snooker players under investigation for possible match-fixing has been firebombed in a premeditated arson attack, The Mail on Sunday reveals.
Although the police have established no fixed motive for the arson, which resulted in two people needing medical treatment, one line of inquiry is that it could be linked to gambling on snooker.
Violent crime has been a blot on Thai snooker historically. Thailand’s best player, James Wattana, a former world No 3, once had a death threat to encourage him to lose a match, and his father was shot dead in 1992, said to be as a result of gambling debts.
Suggestions that Asian fixers could be trying to influence British snooker will send a chill through the sport – hence the complete secrecy, until now, about the arson attack.
The Mail on Sunday reveals it happened at a house in the Brinsworth area of Rotherham, near Sheffield, early on Friday August 30.
The property is owned by a snooker academy boss, Keith Warren, and two of those to have stayed there are Thai players, Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon, 19, and Passakorn Suwannawat, 27.
The attack came three weeks after snooker’s governing body, the WPBSA, announced they were investigating unusual betting patterns on matches played in Doncaster by Passakorn and Thanawat on August 7.
Money had been placed on Thanawat, the world No 75, and Passakorn, ranked No 92, to lose in a qualifying event for the Shanghai Masters. Both fell to lower-ranked opponents. Bookmakers suspended betting before the matches and the WPBSA announced immediately they would liaise with the Gambling Commission to ‘establish the available facts’.
Almost seven weeks on, the inquiry is continuing. ‘We are continuing to look at the two matches, and I can confirm there was an arson attack,’ said snooker’s head of integrity Nigel Mawer, formerly the head of the Economic and Specialist Crime Command at the Met Police. ‘Whether the matches are connected to the arson, I don’t know, but that is one of several possibilities that could be considered.’
The two players were not in the house at the time of the attack, having left for Thailand three or four days earlier, and wanted to remain anonymous.
A local fire brigade spokeswoman said three fire engines attended a blaze at 2.30am and two occupants were told how to stay safe until rescued. ‘The door area of the house was on fire and the rest of the property was smoke-logged,’ said the spokeswoman. A brigade investigation found the fire was ‘deliberate’ and the police took over.
It is understood that the WPBSA were alerted that cash in Asian markets had been wagered on the Thai players’ qualifiers, and peculiar betting patterns were also seen in the UK.
Snooker is grappling with one major match-fix case already. Former world No 5 Stephen Lee, 38, was found guilty last week on seven counts of fixing games or frames in 2008-09 and faces a possible life ban.
It’s been made public this morning that the residence in Rotherham which houses the Thai snooker players was subjected to an arson attack back in August, just three weeks after two of them fell under suspicion for match fixing.
While it has not been established if there is a concrete link between the dodgy goings-on in Doncaster which saw Passakorn Suwannawat and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon both lose in the wake of unusual betting patterns it does seem coincidental that their house, which they were not in at the time, was targeted.
If this is the case, this is a sinister twist in the story, I understand that the attack followed a visit from the police to question the players about any involvement in match fixing.
Nigel Mawer, the head of the sniffer dogs at the Integrity Unit said ‘Whether the matches are connected to the arson, I don’t know, but that is one of several possibilities that could be considered.’ He didn’t mention what the other ones were.
Thai snooker is no stranger to controversy of this kind and even a casual Google Search of James Wattana will reveal death threats and even murder linked to such things, so it’s not something that you really want to get yourself involved with if you value your health.
The fire brigade have established that the fire was started deliberately and it is now in the hands of the police to investigate who might be behind it and for what reason.
I have also received unconfirmed reports that Passakorn is unlikely to continue his professional snooker career having had his funding withdrawn and is back in Thailand unlikely to return.
Passakorn indeed didn’t return to the main tour, but Thanawhat did.
Bradford-based snooker star James Wattana received a death threat just hours before a major match in Bangkok, it was revealed today.
Wattana was told to “be prepared to die” less than three hours before he lost 5-2 to Ken Doherty in the second round of the Thailand Masters.
The call, which was taken seriously, was made to Wattana’s mobile phone from a public booth believed to be near to the venue.
He was given full police protection, but his mother, Ployrung, still pleaded with her son to withdraw, claiming it was not worth the risk to continue.
The anonymous call, which is under investigation, could well have been linked to an illegal betting ring.
Seven years ago Wattana’s father was gunned down by an assassin in Bangkok while, some 6,000 miles away in Derby, his son compiled a maximum 147 break at the British Open.
“I told James not to play,” said his mother, who was seen crying during the match. “This tournament just isn’t worth the risk. I lost my husband and I don’t want to lose my son as well.”
After the match with Doherty, Wattana joked: “It was good that the guy asked me to lose. What would I have done if he’d asked me to win? Against Ken that would have been very difficult.”
His father Kowin Phu-ob-orm, was shot dead in an argument over gambling debts. Two men suspected of the killing were later shot dead in a Bangkok street by police.
The Daily Telegraph snooker correspondent, John Dee, who is covering the tournament in Bangkok, said today: “We did not know about the death threat until after James had played.
“I spoke to him last night and he was very subdued. After the match he gave his snooker cue and case away – he was suspicious about it bringing bad luck. A lot of the players here are shocked at what happened but James will be moving onto China next week for another tournament and trying to put this behind him.”
Wattana became an adopted Bradfordian in 1989 when he moved to the city from London. He is based in Allerton and practices there at the Cuedos Snooker Club.
In December Wattana, who spends half the year in Bradford and half in Bangkok, broke down in tears at a press conference after a shock 5-1 defeat in the Asian Games in Bangkok.
After a doubles defeat where he was representing his country, Wattana said: “The pressure has been unbelievable , the worst I have ever felt. I could not see straight, walk straight or think straight….it was that bad.”
After last night’s dramatic death threat, Wattana, who was the Thai Masters Champion in 1994 and 1995, lost his match.
Now, what do I make of all this?
Well … so many things feel wrong to me here.
From the moment Thanawhat entered the Asia-Oceania Q-School, there was always a real possibility that he could win it. Why take his money and allow him to compete if he wasn’t going to be allowed to join the main tour anyway?
The “initial” 2015 statement is nearly 7 years old. Why hasn’t this been resolved yet? Why dig it out now?
James Wattana stories and the arson show that some Thai players have been put under very serious threats by – as far as we know – the Thai betting mafia. Whilst match fixers must be punished, it seems to me that in these cases the main culprits – the betting rings – aren’t punished at all, whilst their victims – the frightened players – are put in an impossible situation.
I do hope that WPBSA will explain their decisions further and that we will eventually understand the how and why of this mess.
The WPBSA and Liang Wenbo Disciplinary Hearing Finding
At a WPBSA Disciplinary Committee hearing on 26th May 2022, Liang Wenbo accepted that he had breached the WPBSA Rules and his players contract with World Snooker Limited (WSL).
This case arose from his criminal conviction at Sheffield Magistrates Court on 9th February 2022 and subsequent sentence hearing on 1st April 2022. The conviction was for domestic-related assault by beating where he pleaded guilty. He was fined a total of £1,380 and given a 12-month community order.
Despite this case being a matter outside of the sport itself, and the fact that it had been dealt with by a criminal court, the WPBSA decided that the case was so serious that there was a case for Liang to answer for breaches of the WPBSA Rules and his WSL players contract. The basis for this is that Liang’s behaviour and subsequent conviction is conduct unbecoming of a sportsperson and brings the sport of snooker into disrepute. Due to the serious nature of this, WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson immediately suspended Liang pending disciplinary proceedings just prior to him appearing in the World Snooker Championship.
The Independent Disciplinary Committee has subsequently found Liang to be in breach of the WPBSA Members Rules and his players contract with WSL.
On 3rd June 2022, the sanction imposed by the Independent Disciplinary Committee is that Liang be suspended from playing or being involved in all snooker events for a period of four months until 1st August 2022, and to pay £1,000 towards the costs of the hearing.
Liang has the right to appeal the decision of the Independent Disciplinary Committee.
Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman said “I have no doubt that this was a difficult case for the Independent Disciplinary Committee to deal with as it had already been heard in a criminal court. Despite this, neither I, nor the WPBSA could accept this type of behaviour from one of our members which led me to immediately suspend Liang just prior to the largest event and with the biggest prize money of the snooker season. I am pleased the Committee upheld this decision.”
The WPBSA Members Rules
1.1 Members shall, at all times (i.e., whether at a Tournament or not), behave in a proper and correct manner consistent with their status as professional sportsmen.
1.3 A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards.
WSL Players Contract
3.5.1 Behave in a professional and reputable manner befitting a professional sportsperson.
I deliberately let a night “pass” after the announcement before posting about it.
There were a lot of very strong reactions on social media, calling for a much harder punishment. Personally, I wasn’t surprised by the relatively “short” ban period.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t condone Liang’s actions in any way. What he did is plain wrong, no matter what the private circumstances might have been.
Some of the social media reactions were going about “beating a woman earns you a milder punishment than breaking the betting rules”. Right but … WPBSA has no power to punish Liang specifically for the beating, that’s a matter for the Magistrate. Liang was found guilty by the court, and ordered to serve 12 months of community service as well as paying a fine of £1,380. That sounds pretty mild to me, but then again, I don’t know the private circumstances. Possibly, the combined facts that Liang apparently collaborated with the justice authorities and that it was a first offence explain the rather “light” punishment. WPBSA however were only able to fine him for bringing the game into disrepute.
When it comes to breaking the betting rules, the situation is different. First of all, those are not laws, those are rules set the the sports’ gouverning body, and the same body is competent to examine, judge and punish infringements of those rules. Particularly in case of proven match fixing or intent to fix matches, the fans have to realise that infringements of those rules are casting doubts over the integrity of the sport of snooker as a whole as well as its exponents’ integrity. This in turn is likely to have consequences – serious consequences – when it comes to the public’s, possible sponsor’s and broadcasters’ perception of the sport itself.
Many comments were about the fact that Liang would miss very little of the season. That’s true, but they forget that, because of his suspension, he has already missed the World Championship itself, by far, the biggest earning opportunity in snooker. May I remember all of you that when John Higgins, as the reigning 2010 World Champion, appeared to accept to fix several matches AND be ready to involve other players as well, he was banned for a longer period, BUT, didn’t miss ANY of the majors, despite this “incident” being potentially much more damaging for the sport as a whole than Liang’s behaviour, no matter how terrible it is (and it truly IS terrible). That John was set up is irrelevant, he didn’t know that, so the way he reacted would have been the same if the approach had been genuine.
So those are the reasons why the rather “mild” punishment didn’t surprise me and why I believe that the comparison with what happens when “betting rules” are broken isn’t a valid one.
Having said all that, I have witnessed some extreme emotional reactions by Liang in the past, both in joy and in anger. I’m not sure if this is within the power of WPBSA, but, maybe some mandatory “counselling” on anger management would be a good idea.
On the changes to the prize money structure and the lack of funds for first round losers, a WST spokesperson said: ‘We have made prize money increases to various events and we have made amendments which are aimed at creating a more balanced prize money ranking system. These changes are based on discussions and feedback from players and the WPBSA Players Board.
‘Our two biggest ranking events, the World Championship and UK Championship, now have tiered structures and all players inside the top 80 are guaranteed prize money in those events.
‘Our principal remains that we reward excellence and in most events players must win matches to earn prize money.
‘We are constantly aiming to provide as many tournaments and earning opportunities as possible for all players.’
I do understand and agree with the concept of rewarding excellence but not THIS way. If players do their job properly they should be able to earn from it whilst they are on the tour.
I’d rather look for a way to ensure that players who are underperforming badly can’t return on tour every two years mainly because they have experience with the surroundings and playing conditions whilst more talented/motivated amateurs fail purely because they are placed in a completely alien environment and, with short matches and a plain knock-out system, they get no real chance to adapt.
If a player can’t win a minimal number of matches – minimal to de defined – over two seasons, and have shown no or very little improvement in the second season, then, barring exceptional health or personnal circumstances, it means that either they aren’t good enough, and/or they didn’t put enough work and efforts into their snooker. I would be in favour to “ban” them from Q-school – or any other qualifying process – for two seasons. Time for them to reflect on their own situation and motivation. Time to look at the possible issues and address them.
Predictably, Hearn came back again with the “golf” comparison. Only to get this answer by Steve Feeney, Mr Sightright, who coaches snooker and golf players.
Hearn once scorned at me for saying that the comparison doesn’t hold. Well, it really doesn’t hold. In golf, you play your own ball. Where you find it is where you placed it, There is no interference from your opponent(s). It’s entirely in your hands. Same for darts, it’s entirely in your hands. That’s not the case in snooker. As Steve wrote, in snooker you can play great and lose, snooker is matchplay, it’s different.
Mark Williams also reacted in answer to Sean O’Sullivan’s tweets
It’s obvious that Willo harbours no hope whatsoever for a change regarding the prize money situation despite being convinced that no player would oppose it. The tiered system somehow “softens” the situation a bit as less players stay out of pocket and the lowest ranked ones get more winnable first round matches. But it has other drawbacks of course, notably in terms of exposure, television appearance and experience of the main venues. Exposure and television appearance or the lack of it impact their chances to find a personal sponsor as well.
This is excellent news. I can only suppose that this will also mean a return of eight tables in operation, which is great for the fans who come to watch those qualifiers. It may nor have the glamour of the Crucible but it’s a very important, and very interesting event to attend.
What’s not so great is that there is still no money for the first round losers. That’s bad. It really is, especially in the current state of the economy. If some money was paid – only just enough to cover the basic expenses the players face for doing their job (travel, accomodation and some food) and doesn’t count towards ranking, it wouldn’t “protect” them in any way. Those not good enough wouldn’t be able to stay on tour. It also wouldn’t allow them to really earn a living out of it because that money would only just cover what it costs them to do their job. The “not rewarding mediocrity” argument doesn’t hold. I’ll say it once again: by playing to the best of their ability they bring value to the tournament, the sponsors, the venue and the broadcaster. They should not be out of pocket for doing their job properly. Giving them £250 would cost less than the prize money of one losing semi-finalist. Surely that’s not impossible? If a player blatantly doesn’t try, or doesn’t show up, that’s a different situation of course.
Jason Ferguson on Hong Kong, sponsorship, Ronnie O’Sullivan, prize money and the Crucible
Phil Haigh Wednesday 11 May 2022
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has offered the latest on various things going on in snooker at the minute, from new tournaments, to sponsorship deals to changes in prize money.
Ferguson’s work rarely stops as he promotes the game across the globe and the first piece of business is on the potential return to Hong Kong for an event this season.
A tournament in Hong Kong?
Marco Fu suggested that a tournament in his homeland is on the cards, tweeting: ‘Lots of happy moments in the last major tournament in Hong Kong. Looks like there will be one this summer! Hope it will happen!’
Ferguson told Metro.co.uk: ‘We are in talks in Hong Kong, we do have a broadcaster.
‘There’s a broadcaster in Hong Kong which takes all of the snooker coverage and we do know their viewing figures are huge.
‘We are in discussions over it, it’s not finalised as yet, but we’re very optimistic about it.
‘A lot of it is down to travel restrictions. Demand for us to put on events in Asia is huge, but it’s down to whether we can make it work from a travel perspective.
‘Of course we’d love to go back there. There’s a great following for the sport, the passion is there.’
On what kind of event it could be, he added: ‘At this stage I couldn’t really say how it’s going to pan out. It might be that we have to do a smaller field to try and comply with travel restrictions.
‘The idea is to try and put a marker down, push to get an event on in Asia, put those protocols in place and then push to expand on that.
‘We can’t be too ambitious at this stage, so I imagine it will be a fairly small field if we do it.
‘At the moment we’re looking at 21 days quarantine after travel, which means it’s impossible. At the moment we’re pushing to ease those travel restrictions or get some kind of exemption under sports travel, but it’s very tight at the moment and very difficult.’
On where else we could see new events, the chairman said: ‘We’re more likely to see things like Turkey. That’s been a fantastic addition to the calendar: new market, huge demand from fans and we’re more likely to see that kind of event pop up – around the Mediterranean, snooker is growing and those places are opening up.
‘In the new year, we have put dates aside for China events but if they don’t come off then we are working on things to fill those gaps. While those flights might not be long haul, we will have chance to put some nice events on.’
As Cazoo extend their involvement with snooker by sponsoring the World Championship, Ferguson welcomed them further on board and thanked previous sponsors Betfred for their excellent work.
‘They’re proving to be a great partner,’ said Ferguson. ‘They’ve come back for more sponsorship rights, more exposure and we’re delighted to work with them. They’re a new brand, it’s clean, a great outlook for us.
‘But lets not forget what Betfred have done for his sport and the support they’ve given is, it’s been incredible. Fred Done is an incredible individual. He loves this sport, loves to see it develop and has loved being a part of it. I thanked Fred last week, not just for the sponsorship and high level stuff, but the percentage of investment he puts in that we use at grassroots to get kids off streets and into clubs, keep clubs open. We see that side of the investment on the ground and it’s been an incredible commitment.
It will no longer be the Betfred World Snooker Championship (Picture: Getty Images)
‘It’s a system that we’ve got that makes sure a percentage of what comes into the sport goes into projects and development and we’ll continue that work with the Cazoo support. We’re in good shape as a sport.’
The WPBSA chairman suggested there was more to the move than pre-empting a possible ban on sponsorship by bookmakers.
‘I don’t think that was necessarily the angle,’ he said. ‘All of our rights agreements come up for renewal on a regular basis and there’s always more than one runner in the race for those rights. That’s a pleasing position to be in.
‘You go back 15 years and you were wondering, post-tobacco, where the next sponsorship deal was coming from. We’re here today and we’ve actually sold out, we’ve got more bidders for events than we’ve got events, which is an amazing position to be in. It’s an ongoing position of renewing agreements and some things change. Maybe they’ll be back at the table at some point.’
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s disciplinary matters
The Rocket faced disciplinary action after making a lewd gesture during his first round match at the World Championship, with that process ongoing.
Ferguson explained: ‘There’s no outcome of it yet, but the matter was referred. It will all get wrapped up pretty quickly, there’s a process for these things.’
O’Sullivan’s clash with referee Olivier Marteel in the Crucible final, though, is not being dealt with by anyone else, with the matter wrapped up at the time.
‘It was dealt with within the match and that is the correct thing to do,’ said Ferguson. ‘The referee’s in charge, the referee deals with it and gives the warning. The referee is in charge of awarding frames and matches if he has to, if matters continue.
‘It was dealt with and I know that Ronnie was very decent about it afterwards, he spoke to Olivier and I think he apologised for how he spoke to him in the arena and that matter has gone away.’
Ambitious plans were revealed for a new ‘second Crucible’ attached to the current one by a bridge and Ferguson explains that discussions are ongoing with Sheffield City Council, although the idea remains just a concept at this point.
‘We’ve met with the City Council,’ said the chairman. ‘[Architect] James Burland is someone I’ve worked with previously and we spoke a few months back about rekindling the concept and having another look at it.
‘We talked about the idea, and it’s just a concept at this moment in time. It will need a great deal of studying over feasibility and longevity, is it viable? You don’t want a white elephant stadium, it’s no good for anybody.
‘We’ve met with the council and of course they’re very warm to development and very warm to snooker because it brings millions and millions of pounds into the city year after year. I think the last independent study by Sheffield Hallam said the city had benefited by £100m over the years, but it’s significantly more than that in today’s terms.
‘It’s very much on the drawing board and a concept but it’s a project of interest.
‘Now’s the time to start talking about what the future looks like. We’re very loyal to Sheffield but now is the time to think about longer term, especially if there’s going to be a regeneration project, because these things take time.
‘We should never underestimate the size and scale of this sport, it’s only going to get bigger. It isn’t going to go backwards anymore.’
There is set to be a restructuring of prize money distribution for the season ahead, with a bid to make the spread a bit fairer and for the rankings to more accurately reflect achievement.
‘We’re looking at prize money breakdowns, how that’s balancing the ranking system,’ said Ferguson. ‘Finer detail on that is being done now in terms of how it works.
‘We’re just trying to balance out what players win round-by-round to make a fairer ranking system.At the moment sometimes players get to the latter stages of one event that’s worth the same as one win in another event. There’s bigger and smaller events so we’ll always get some of that, but there’s a bit of work being done around all that.
‘We’re reviewing every event for this season coming. Comparing the winner’s prize to first round matches, and in conjunction with that, what’s the round structure like.
‘It’ll be available very quickly, we’re working very hard on that. I have to compliment the WPBSA players board, they’ve done a real good job in recent months identifying key areas that can be improved and getting the message across. I’m really pleased with that new structure with the player’s body, it’s really starting to work.’
I do hope that amongst the things “to be improved”, they will consider paying a fee, covering basic expenses, to the first round losers, not counting towards ranking. That’s no “rewarding mediocrity”, that’s simply making sure that doing their job, as professionals, doesn’t cost the players. I have said this countless times before, but I’ll say it again: you need two players to have a match. One will lose, but by playing they have brought value to the tournament, the venue, the sponsors and the broadcaster. That should be recognised. They shouldn’t be out of pocket for doing their job properly.
Ronnie O’Sullivan excited for snooker venture as he announces Singapore trip
Phil Haigh Tuesday 10 May 2022
Ronnie O’Sullivan is heading to Singapore for his first ever exhibition in the country and to cast an eye over the work being done at his academy there.
The Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy opened at the end of 2021, with the Rocket speaking of his excitement about the venture earlier in the year.
He told the Sun a year ago: ‘We have already got the facilities. It’s a 16,000-square feet space.
‘We are putting tables in there. We will have some professional coaches. We hope to roll it out all over Asia. Ronnie O’Sullivan snooker academies with the long-term view to try and create an amateur scene.
‘Over there they are much more supportive of their amateurs and juniors and get excited over that. It is something I think will work. While snooker gives me the platform to do projects like that, sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture.’
Now he is heading over to Singapore next month to perform exhibitions from 11-18 June, while he also confirmed that he will be working on coaching in his academy as well.
‘Looking forward to going over to Singapore in June, it should be great. The academy looks fantastic out there,’ O’Sullivan said after lifting a seventh world title.
‘I’m excited to get out there and spend some time there, see what they’re up to. I’ll work out some coaching plans and developing snooker in Asia is going to be a really fun thing to do.’
Further explaining his plan for Asian expansion to the Sun, O’Sullivan said: ‘The idea is to get the first one right, get it successful and then once that is going well, it will be easier to roll out the rest of them.
‘China definitely is a massive part of the plan but the first one will start out in Singapore.
‘The good ones that come through the academy we would like to support them, to try and get their main Tour Card and become professional players.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN EXCLUSIVE: WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPION ON HOW HE BEAT SELF-DOUBT TO LIFT SEVENTH TITLE
Ronnie O’Sullivan passed snooker’s ultimate test to claim a career-defining seventh Crucible title, but the world champion tells Desmond Kane why the journey to potting paradise remains one of the most mentally demanding and draining in professional sport. “I just wasn’t sure if it was possible,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport as he reflected on securing his legacy as the snooker GOAT.
BY DESMOND KANE
Who needs the Rovers Return when you have the Rocket’s return?
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump’s very own epic kitchen-sink drama in Yorkshire last Monday evening proved more engaging for the great British public than Coronation Street or EastEnders on the other two main terrestrial TV channels.
Almost six million viewers piped themselves into O’Sullivan’s rousing 18-13 win over Trump that saw him battle to a magnificent seventh world title and equal Stephen Hendry’s historic haul from the 1990s.
Betty Turpin’s hot pots from Corrie were never as tasty as the hot pots Rocket Ronnie can serve up.
In discovering the level of snooker’s popularity from a breathless 17 days at the 46th World Championship, O’Sullivan said: “Oh really? Wow. Amazing. It is brilliant getting more viewers than Coronation Street.
IT IS REALLY GOOD THAT EVERYBODY IS EXCITED BY SNOOKER AGAIN. MAYBE IT HAS TAKEN A LITTLE TURN AND IS ON THE UP.
“It is a long time playing at the World Championship, a lot of stress and I’m just recovering. It is hard work, but it was job done, so worth it.”
With O’Sullivan installed as 7/2 favourite for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ahead of Tyson Fury – the world heavyweight boxing champion of all things and a genuine sporting goliath – it felt like a trip down memory lane to an era when snooker was the only show in town.
“In the 1980s when there were only four channels, everybody thought they knew you. It was like you were in EastEnders,” commented Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White, the six-time world finalist.
Some four decades on, O’Sullivan’s career-defining victory broadcast to millions across the BBC and Eurosport was as much of a cliff-hanger as Dirty Den divorcing Angie in the Queen Vic as the sport’s two brightest talents illuminated the final with their unique attacking colour.
O’Sullivan is the undisputed king of his domain after an awe-inspiring few weeks saw him reach seventh heaven with his inimitable élan, technical supremacy and swagger with cue in hand.
He stands alongside Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and White as genuine crowd-pleasers who have changed the face of snooker since the Crucible first housed the World Championship in 1977, bringing a greater popularity to the green baize beyond working-class blokes potting balls in darkened halls set against the sweat of heavy industry.
When Higgins lifted his second world title in 1982, the Northern Irishman memorably cradled baby daughter Lauren, wife Lynn and the trophy as the tears flowed.
In a timely little slice of history repeating itself 40 years later, O’Sullivan – the natural successor to Higgins and White as ‘The People’s Champion’ – sobbed as the enormity of the achievement sunk in with dad Ronnie Sr and kids Lily and Ronnie Jr joining him to celebrate. Memories are made of his.
“I didn’t wake up last Tuesday feeling any different. I just thought that it was more about everybody else enjoying themselves,” he said.
“My dad was there for the whole three weeks of the tournament enjoying it, hanging out with a lot of snooker people that follow the game.
“Then I thought it would be great if the kids could be there if they wanted to. It was a good experience for everyone as it might never happen again.
THAT WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO ME. IT WAS NICE TO WIN IT, BUT IT WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAT EVERYONE ELSE ENJOYED IT. IT WAS REALLY NICE.
“It was a relief to get the job done. It was a professional job. It’s a test. That is how I look at it every time I enter a tournament like that.
“You go there and prepare as well as you can. To win it is great. You don’t always win it, but it is nice to win it again at my stage in the game.”
O’Sullivan usurped the Welshman Ray Reardon – the tactical coach behind his 2004 triumph – to become the oldest world champion since the inception of the modern era.
O’Sullivan had 46 years and 148 days behind him when he held aloft the little silver lady on a priceless Bank Holiday Monday.
Reardon was 45 years and 203 days when he completed a 25-18 win over South Africa’s Perrie Mans in the 1978 final to carry off his sixth and final world title.
O’Sullivan concedes the level of play he reached suggests his career at the elite level can run for several more years after rolling in 15 century breaks and 46 knocks over 50.
It is perhaps fitting that O’Sullivan is planning to release a Netflix-style fly-on-the-wall documentary surrounding his rise to a seventh crown.
A camera crew apparently tailed his every move in a style similar to Michael Jordan’s last NBA season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998 titled The Last Dance.
For O’Sullivan, this was never going to be the last chance, but better to tie up legacy loose ends now.
A remorseless single-mindedness in such a cut-throat environment is a quality O’Sullivan shares with Jordan, Roger Federer, Lionel Messi and Tiger Woods in other fields of play.
He knows how and when to get the job done on the grandest stage of all. Like all the great champions, he also senses the right time to express his superior class.
With a record 39 ranking titles carried off and 1,169 centuries compiled, he is the sport’s undisputed GOAT, a seventh wonder of the sporting world since turning professional in 1992. To argue otherwise does not make sense.
There is only one Ronnie O’Sullivan, a figure who will remarkably start the 2022/23 campaign as the world No. 1 – 20 years after he first scaled the summit at the age of 26.
This is astonishing longevity in a solitary, mentally undulating game that can play tricks on the mind when you are stuck in a chair and the other guy is potting balls.
The World Championship is no place for weak or wilting spirit with Peter Ebdon, hardly resembling ‘Big’ Bill Werbeniuk, infamously shedding stones due to the nervous energy of winning the trophy in 2002 with a fraught 18-17 win over Hendry.
Not that O’Sullivan spends too much time isolated in his seat. When he is at the table, he plays like he owns it. He is enshrined by a youthfulness, vibrancy and expressiveness that bewitches millions across the globe.
“I’m 46 banging on 47 so to know I can still win it lets me know I could have another five decent years,” said O’Sullivan.
I DON’T THINK YOU CAN GO FROM WINNING THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TO FALLING OFF THE RADAR OVERNIGHT. IT IS JUST A NICE LITTLE CONFIDENCE BOOSTER REALLY.
“It is such a long tournament. It is a bit like the Grand Slams in tennis when they play five sets rather than just the three.
“It is more about lasting the event more than anything. A lot of players reach the quarter-finals and by then they think they’ve run their course.
“Whereas the top players are better conditioned, have been over the course and know how to pace themselves.
“The World Championship is similar to that. You make the semi-finals and once you get to that point you are still only halfway through so you want to leave a bit in the tank.
“That just comes with experience and knowing what it takes to get over the line.”
O’Sullivan felt his form was on an upward trajectory at the Gibraltar Open in March despite losing 4-3 to Ben Woollaston in the first round.
His optimism was further enhanced at the Tour Championship when he edged out Mark Williams – a marvellous competitor who only lost 17-16 by Trump in the Crucible last four – 10-9 in the quarter-finals in Llandudno before losing 10-9 to Neil Robertson in the semi-finals last month.
He weighed in with 10 tons and eight half centuries to hint at greater riches.
“The minute it switched on for me was when I went to Gibraltar,” he admitted.
“Even though I lost, I felt like I was playing well despite missing the odd few balls. A week before I went to Llandudno, I put some good practice in. I was scoring well.
“There were a couple of things that needed sharpening up in my game, but I played great in Llandudno and went away for two weeks before the worlds.
“I put in a lot of hard work before the tournament, sharpened up and by the time I got to Sheffield I thought: ‘My game is in good shape’.
“If it comes together great, but if it doesn’t what can you do. But I felt my game was alright.
I JUST WASN’T SURE IF IT WAS POSSIBLE TO DO IT. SOMETIMES YOU CAN DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, BUT MAYBE YOU DON’T HAVE THE STAMINA OR THE CONSISTENCY OF A FEW YEARS AGO OR WHATEVER.
“Who knows? But yeah, I surprised myself there.”
Achieving immortality in the toughest of all cue sports does not come easy even for the green baize’s main protagonist. The tale of the table does not always reward the best man.
He trailed 3-0 to David Gilbert in his tournament opener, but was a figure of unrelenting focus in adversity, ending the first session 6-3 clear in a match from which he would run out a 10-5 winner. His unflustered play was a pivotal theme of the event. Almost like he knew the end destination was more likely than not if he refused to panic.
He overpowered Mark Allen 13-4 in the last 16 before shredding Stephen Maguire 13-5 in the quarter-finals.
A match with his fierce foe John Higgins – the player he defeated 18-14 to claim his first world title in 2001 – was always likely to prove the ultimate test of O’Sullivan’s technique in the three-day semi-final torture chamber. The talent has never been in doubt.
Two key moments of that contest summed up O’Sullivan’s commitment to the cause after he had trailed 3-0: his opportunism to force a re-spotted black in the 16th and final frame of the second session that gave him a 10-6 lead before the final day.
And the miraculous clearance of 82 he made leading 10-7 on the Saturday morning after a taut period of tough safety play with the Scotsman attempting to turn the match back in his favour.
That break was arguably the most memorable of the tournament, ranking alongside the 92 he produced in the seventh frame of the 2012 final against Ali Carter in an 18-11 win.
It provided O’Sullivan with the impetus to complete a comfortable 17-11 victory over Higgins, who was left proclaiming him as the greatest in history.
“It is a mammoth tournament,” O’Sullivan commented.
I DON’T THINK I’M THE BEST POTTER OR THE BEST IN ANY DEPARTMENT. I’M ABOUT EIGHT OR NINE OUT OF 10 IN EVERY DEPARTMENT AND IT WAS THAT CONSISTENCY OVER THE 17 DAYS THAT GOT ME THROUGH.
“I was just competing in every area and doing all things pretty well.
“I remember nicking a frame when I needed two blacks and won it on the re-spotted black against John. I also remember we had a long drawn out safety battle with me and Higgins then potting a long red before clearing up.
“Just lots of frames were big turning points. When you win the close ones against John, you know you’ve got a chance.
“It is alright winning frames with big breaks. That is nice, but at some point in these events you are going to face someone who is scoring as well as you and then it comes down to who can pinch the close ones.
“As I got into the match with John, I started to eke out a few of those close ones. That dented his confidence, gave me more confidence and probably changed the momentum of the match.
“John is more suited to winning the tactical frames and I’m probably more suited to the open scoring frames, but it was good to compete with him in the ones where he was probably favourite.”
O’Sullivan’s impeccable rise to the title in the final was far from a coronation. He galloped 12-5 clear on the first day of the final only for Trump, the 2019 champion, to claw his way back to 14-11 behind before the conclusion loomed large with the destination of the title unclear.
Rather than look over his shoulder, O’Sullivan quickly disposed of the permutations with a composed air emanating from his cue, compiling unerring breaks of 82, 88, 75 and 85 to complete a stylish gallop to the game’s biggest prize.
One recalls speaking to Jimmy White during the 2012 Masters when the elite tournament was first staged at the Alexandra Palace.
O’Sullivan had lost 6-2 to Trump in the quarter-finals of the event, an encounter that was being described back then as a “changing of the guard”.
When asked if O’Sullivan could add to his three world titles, White responded:
“I know O’Sullivan and he will be out to put this all right by the World Championship.
“Ronnie has got five or six world titles left in him. He is too good. He is far too good.”
The Whirlwind has turned out to be a snooker soothsayer. O’Sullivan has lifted another four titles since that point. Who would bet against him reaching 10 before he pots his final ball? Certainly not Jimmy.
The work carried out with celebrated sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters to maintain a positive mindset and maintain mental equilibrium was a key element in his latest triumph.
AT TIMES I FELT LIKE THE CUE BALL WAS ON A PIECE OF STRING. I WAS PUTTING IT WHERE I WANTED. IN SOME WAYS, IT DIDN’T MATTER WHERE THE BALLS WERE.
“I just knew there were keys shots I had to get to and I was confident I was able to do it.
“It is a good feeling winning frames from virtually impossible positions.”
Car retailer Cazoo will replace bookmakers Betfred as sponsors of the 47th World Championship next year, but O’Sullivan hopes the viewing figures can entice greater interest in the sport.
“If you want a blue-chip company, you have to change the image of the sport in many ways,” he said.
“At the moment, it is dominated by betting companies, but other sponsors may not want to be associated with that. I don’t know.
“In Formula One you have betting companies and Rolex so maybe that isn’t right. It just depends on how they see snooker.
“It would be great if the game could kick on like the 1980s. Tobacco companies sponsored snooker and a lot of the big sporting events back then but who knows?
“The viewing figures are great so that is always a good thing to put in front of people.
THEY’RE LOOKING FOR EYEBALLS AND THERE ARE 4.5 MILLION EYEBALLS WATCHING THE FINAL SO ANY SPONSOR WANTING THEIR PRODUCT TO BE SEEN…THESE ARE IMPORTANT STATISTICS TO SHOW THEM.
O’Sullivan famously took a season off between his fourth and fifth victories at the event in 2012 and 2013 respectively, but plans to throw himself into the new campaign with new worlds to be conquered. A few more of them in Sheffield perhaps.
He could return at the European Masters in August, but the British Open in late September is likelier.
His appearance as world champion in Brentwood for the English Open in December should be one to savour before a raucous home crowd.
“The season starts again in August so I’m pretty much going to play in most things,” he said. “I won’t practise much. I’ve got a few exhibitions and a few holidays with the family.
“Come September/October time, I’ll start getting my head down again to practise. I’m just going to play in virtually every tournament.
IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I WIN OR LOSE. AS LONG AS I KEEP THE RUSTINESS OFF SO WHEN I DO START PRACTISING IT WILL ONLY TAKE A WEEK TO GET BACK IN FULL FLOW.
“I haven’t looked at the calendar properly, but I’ll take a look and decide from there.”
O’Sullivan’s opportunism is perhaps only rivalled by the launch of his own ‘7 Collection’ the day after the final that included the amusing “You saw nothing” response to referee Olivier Marteel after he had been accused of an inappropriate gesture.
Clothing and cups are all the rage these days in sport, but what was the plan if he had not reached seven?
“Keep them for next year mate.”
Judging by this latest astonishing triumph for O’Sullivan’s timeless vitality, the merch could be out of date by then.
What surprised me most here is what he says about his feelings about his game in Gibraltar, although it’s not the first time I hear/read about a player assessing their game seemingly at odds with their recent results. The thing is: we can only watch, they know how they feel.
On the topic of distancing themselves from betting companies, I’m not sure I entirely believe that the move to Cazoo is unrelated to the recent developments when it comes to raising awareness and tackling gambling addictions – in youth in particular – as well as what happened at the 2021 Scottish Open. Remember? It had to be moved to Llandudno after the venue’s management took the decision to no more host events sponsored by bookies.
Note that many parts in bold are my “highligths” and were not in bold in the original text.