Queen Elisabeth II died peacefully in her Balmoral residence yesterday afternoon. She was 96 tears old. She was a queen before I was born … and I’m a grand mother. Immediately, all over the Internet, respects were paid, tributes were written, and pictures were shared. Most of those images showed her, smiling, wearing her crown with pride… the only one that was in my mind, was of her, petite, frail, all dressed in black, wearing a mask, alone, mourning her husband, the man she had loved since she was 13. Alone, following the rules while those who set those rules were partying in Downing street. Those were the same people who were now flooding social media with tributes. It angered me beyond words. It saddened me beyond words.
Of course, there were also many thousand of sincere tributes, notably from snooker players, including Ronnie.
Tributes and token of respect came from all over the world. The flags were taken at half mast in front of the European Commission building in Brussels. European countries expressed their solidarity with the UK people and shared their sorrow.
Rest in peace Elisabeth Windsor, Queen, mother, grand-mother, grand-grand-mother … a formidable woman in a male dominated world, a unifying force in a profoundly divided country, a beacon of dignity in the face of a deeply corrupted political class. I hope you are now reunited with your love.
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!
Live snooker returns tomorrow with the 2022 British Open qualifiers. Among the players scheduled to play tomorrow is Stephen Hendry. His opponent is Zhang Anda, the man who pushed Hendry all the way in the first round at the Crucible in 2010. Zhang, at the time was only 18.
No reason has been given, and maybe something important and unexpected happened forcing Hendry to withdraw. We don’t know of course, but I haven’t a good feeling about this, and going by reactions on twitter, I’m not the only one.
The 2022 European Masters qualifiers have been played already of course, and now WST has shared this trailer about the main event:
I’m glad to see snooker returning to Fürth and the event should be well attended but I’m still sad, and to an extend angry, at the way WST actually “killed” the biggest and best European Pro-Am by turning it into a ranking event.
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.
Thailand’s Dechawat Poomjaeng has regained his professional status with a 4-1 win over compatriot Narongdat Takantong in the final round of Asia-Oceania Q School in Bangkok.
Poomjaeng lost his place on the World Snooker Tour at the conclusion of the 16/17 season and has not regained his professional status since then. He has now earned a fresh two-year card.
The 43-year-old is a fan favourite and is fondly remembered for his run to the last 16 of the 2013 World Championship, where he scored a thrilling 10-9 win over Stephen Maguire.
He had to recover from the setback of losing out in the final round of event one, where he was defeated by fellow Thai Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon. After losing the opening frame today, Poomjaeng held his composure to rack up four on the bounce and emerge victorious.
India’s 30-year-old Himanshu Jain came through an epic clash with former professional Kritsanut Lertsattaythorn 4-3 to earn the other place. The pair battled for over four hours, with Jain eventually winning the deciding frame on the final pink.
Jain earns a place on the tour for the first time and will become the first professional from India since Aditya Mehta left the circuit in 2018.
Many will be happy to see “Poomy” back … but Stephen Maguire is probably not one of them. I’m happy for Poomy but, well, he’s another rather “old” qualifier.
Himanshu was very emotional at the end of the match. It obviously meant a lot to him. I do hope that he will adapt to the life in the UK. Indian players, notably Pankaj Advani, have often felt very homesick living as expats in the UK. They were missing their family, the food, the sun, the different social life.
The 2022 EBSA under-21 Championship has now reached the semi-finals stage, where Florian Nüssle from Austria will face Aidan Murphy from England and Ben Mertens from Belgium will face Liam Pullen from England. Ben beat Iulian Boïko in the quarter-finals, putting an end to the young Ukrainian hopes of an immediate return to the Main Tour.
That said the 2022 EBSA men Championship is now underway. It’s called “men” championship, but, unless things changed as compared to last year, it’s actually open to both genders. There isn’t a single female in the draw though. Most of the youngsters who played in the under-21 event entered this one as well. Former professionals Robin Hull and Eden Sharav are in the draw. I’m not sure if this event carries a tour card for the winner. It used to be the case.
There are also separate Women and Seniors events, as well as Team events. I noticed that there are only three female players under 30 years of age in the women’s draw and that’s actually a big concern. The youngest one is 23. Young girls are not getting into snooker it seems, quite the opposite.
Tomorrow, both the 2022 Asia-Oceania Q-School Event 2 and the EBSA Under-21 Championship will be played to a conclusion.
This is the semi-finals line-up for the Asia-Oceania Q-School Event 2:
The winners of these matches will get a two years tour card. We have three Thai players, and an Indian player. Of the three Thai players only Narongdat Takantong has never been a pro. Himanshu Dinesh Jain has never been a pro either. Dechawat Poomjaeng would probably be a popular winner tomorrow although Stephen Maguire may disagree …
The EBSA Under-21 Championship is at the quater final stages:
It’s a rather international line-up: Kledio is Albanese, Aidan and Liam are English, Florian is Austrian, Julien and Ben are Belgian, Iulian is Ukrainian and Nicolas is French.
Iulian has both been professional. Florian has not been a pro, but has played in main tour events. Julien has already earned his tour card via the Q-Tour. Tomorrow Florian and Julien will face each other and Florian may feel aggrieved, should he lose, to have lost to someone who had little pressure, whilst himself is trying to gain his tour card.
Iulian will face Ben and although he’s the one fighting to regain his tour card, he’s the youngest of the two. I have mixed feelings about this one. I would like to have three Belgians on the Main Tour, I also want Iulian to regain his professional status. He was far too young the first time, and is only starting to improve significantly. It would be a shame if he suffered a setback in his development now.
For me, the “surprise package” of this line-up is Nicolas Mortreux. I will admit that I know nothing about him, although he’s done well in EBSA events before. Actually, Nicolas, Julien and Florian were all involved in the QFs at the 2019 EBSA under-18 Championship in Israel.
In other snooker news, Sunny Akani‘s father put a post on his son’s Facebook page. Automatic translations are not always accurate, but from what I understood, Sunny will go back or is already back to Thailand and doesn’t intend to play on the Main Tour next season, despite beeing “high” on the Q-School order of merit. Akani struggled with health issues and with his game over the last three years. He wasn’t enjoying his snooker anymore. He’s hoping that going back to Thailand, and playing there without the pressure of the main tour will help him to rediscover his form and his love for the game.
And in other news … Ronnie and Zhao were on their way to Singapore
and Mink was also on her way …
… to play in this …
Hopefully I’ll be able to find some kind of report and pictures…