The BBC will show snooker come April

BBCSpecialApril2020

Following the BBC annoucements on social media, WST has published this:

The BBC will televise some great Betfred World Championship matches from years gone by during the dates of what would have been this year’s tournament.

The London 2012 Olympics and Euro ’96 are just some of the other memorable moments that viewers on the BBC can relive this summer after the coronavirus pandemic decimated the sporting calendar. For more detail CLICK HERE

The Betfred World Championship would have run from April 18 to May 4 but has been postponed, potentially until July or August.

We’ll also be reliving some magical Crucible moments from the past 40 years on our social media channels – for a taster click here.

Well at least that’s something…

 

Some news about the 2020 World Championship Qualifiers.

Barry Hearn has made no mystery that he is very keen to have the 2020 World Championship organised and run as soon as possible. This is a tournament that carries a lot of prestige and is very lucrative. For the snooker players, who are self-employed, the lack of playing opportunities is a disaster.

WST has rescheduled the Tour Championship to be now played end of July.  This is an eight men tournament and it could, if needed, easily be played without an audience, hence involving a minimal number of persons on site. The coronavirus crisis is expected to be under control, or about, by that time, but nobody can guarantee that social distancing measures will be completely lifted. That’s actually doubtful.

The World Championship itself is a 32 men event. Even played without an audience, it would still involve more people on-site than the Tour Championship, hence present a higher risk. I heard from a trustworthy source that WST and WPBSA are confident that by early September the situation would be such that the tournament could be run safely, and that, hopefully, it could be played at the Crucible.

The real challenge though is the qualifiers. They involve 128 players, coming from all parts of the world, and involve a considerable number of referees, fitters and officials. They require a huge venue, with proper security, and decent conditions. This, in turn, means, in addition to the aforementioned persons, that there will be security personnel, cleaners, on-duty paramedics and minimal catering. This presents a much bigger health risk than the World Championship itself and it’s difficult to see it happen before later in autumn, therefore pushing the main event even further towards the end of the year unless … it goes virtual.

From what I understood, WST and WPBS are considering the possibility to have the World Championship qualifiers run on Snooker 19, the licensed game developed by Ripstone Games in collaboration with Lab42 and World Snooker. The game is available on various platforms and allows for players to play each other online. It has been praised for its very realistic gameplay.

Players would be offered a free copy of the game, on the platform of their choice, and a webcam. The budget initially planned for the rental of the venue would be used for this instead. The shipping should happen in the coming weeks, so that they have time to set the equipment up and get familiar with the game. A help desk will be made available, under the supervision of Paul Collier who is well known amongst the fans and players for his abilities to fix recalcitrant scoreboards. Paul will also organise workshops for the referees involved in the tournament.

During the tournament itself, the webcams will be used to allow the referees on duty to supervise the game remotely, making sure that the players operate the console or computer without external help, but without the need for physical proximity with the players. For technical reasons, frames will be timed – limited to 20 minutes – and played under a 30 seconds shot-clock. The format will remain best of 19 over two sessions but without interval. The player with the most aggregated points will be deemed the winner. There will be prize money for the highest break, but centuries won’t count towards the official tally.

If the experience is a success, the same technology could be used for the Q-school, limiting the need for players’ travel and allowing the Asian Q-school to be held despite the difficult circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

Neal Foulds about his hopes for the World Championship

Neal Fould spoke to Eurosport about his hopes for the World Championship 

Foulds suggests World Championships venue may move due to coronavirus

14 hours ago

I’m not sure that I agree with Neal here. The World Championship does not “need” to be held this year. Why do I say this?

Well, suppose that the event can’t happen before the autumn, which is very possible, even likely given that there are now scientists warning that in Britain the situation won’t be “normal” before about six months from now.  That leads us to end September 2020. Then the qualifiers for the World Championship need to happen and that’s a point that Neal doesn’t tackle at all. It involves 128 players, and, unless the format is shortened, requires a minimum of 12 tables – at the highest professional standard – for eight full days. Basically, the television stages can’t happen before mid-October then and finish in the first days of November. After that – before the next season starts – the Q-school needs to be held. Another three weeks minimum. And, at least a couple of weeks need to be left for the Q-school graduates to sort things like visas, relocation, and other practical aspects out. We are well into December by then with at most two weeks in 2020 left for a possible event, maybe the UK Championship.

Then comes the Christmas break, and after that, we have roughly three months left before the next World Championship. In those three months, how many events can you run? And which ones? I’d say, obviously, the ones involving all tour players should be favoured. It’s the lower-ranked players who will suffer the most. They need to resume playing asap. Their livelihoods depend on it and they won’t have much savings.

There are several consequences resulting for such a shortened season:

  • There is no way that the Coral series can be held. You can’t have a meaningful one year list if only a couple of “128” events are played. This might impact ITV and it commitment to snooker.
  • The Home Nations could be squeezed in those three months, but with, maybe, a German Masters and/or a European Masters. But for both, unless the organisation changes, you have to take qualifiers into account.
  • There would be NO event in China at all. Those are the most lucrative.
  • Players who did well in 2018/19 will have a lot of points to defend, without much opportunities to defend. They will be put at a significant disadvantage.

Circumstances are exceptional, and, in my views, they require an exceptional answer. I would postpone the World Championship until April 2021 and “extend” the current season over two years. It would be two “calendar years” but actually about only 15 months of actual playing opportunities. I would resume the season as soon as possible, with the current field of maintour professionals, favouring events involving all 128 for the reasons explained above. Not running the Q-school would free almost a month for possible events. Why not properly revive the Paul Hunter Classic? Why not have a second serve of the Home Nations? Portugal seems to have controlled the epidemy very well. Why not consider another European event there?

 

 

Eurosport looking at the 10 best snooker tacticians

In this lockdown time, everyone is looking at retrospectives and analysis pieces, and Eurosport has just started a weekly series.

This is the first of these themed articles

All-time top 10: Who are snooker’s greatest tacticians?

Some personal additional toughts…

I was at this Masters match between Mark Selby and Graeme Dott, and, if I’m honest, it was torture to me. It was torture to Dott as well, and to a large part of the audience, although part of them probably left just because they needed to catch the last of the public transport available to them. Alexandra Palace is a bit isolated, and London is big.

Dott was a lot more animated than you’d imagine reading the above. He was actualling fuming. He didn’t bluntly accuse his opponent of gamesmanship, but he certainly wondered aloud how anyone could possibly enjoy playing the game that way!

Mark doesn’t always play that way. Himself admits that he plays better when he plays faster and more open. And, it’s not always a deliberate “tactic” either. For all his succes Mark isn’t the most confident person, and when he retreats into his shell, his game tends to become more “conservative” …

I don’t expect that most of us would think about Mark Williams as a great safety player and yet, he is. Ronnie once branded Mark’s style as “nick and run”. He doesn’t mind messing up the table and waiting for an opportunity to grab a few points, mess a bit more, play safe  and wait again. My husband who plays table tennis competitively but is a “casual snooker fan” was watching Willo when he won the World Chamionship in 2018 and reflected “I never knew that Mark was such a great defender!”

Neil Robertson is right … when he made his breakthrough some 10/12 years ago, he was a scary potter, but not much more than that. His game was very one-dimensional, and his shot selection was frankly baffling, and frutrating at times. True, I didn’t think back then that he would become the player he is now. Even when he won the World Championship in 2010 he was nowhere near the complete player he is now.

What I will write hereafter is NOT a dig at Neil in any way. He was a deserving World Champion and I was genuinely happy for him BUT I always wondered what could/would have happened if the NOTW scandal had not obscured that final. Graeme Dott was managed by Pat Mooney. He knew nothing until he came to his press confrence, after his semi-final win over Mark Selby. I was at that press conference and it was clear that Graeme had no idea about what had happened and it clearly was a huge shock to him. He immediately distanced himself from Mooney.  It was already quite late, he still had to do filming with the BBC and he was in an emotional state of shock. I doubt that he slept well that night, if at all. It certainly wasn’t the best preparation for a World Final. That, of course, was none of Neil’s business, he did what he had to do, and Graeme battled valliantly as he would. But …

 

 

 

The 2020 World Championship postponed

Hector Nunns was first  that the World Championship will be postponed. 

Next month’s Betfred World Championship at the Crucible has been postponed.

The expected decision has been confirmed with an official announcement from World Snooker Tour due on Friday morning.

The 17-day tournament in Sheffield becomes the latest major sporting event to be cancelled, suspended or postponed.

And a tournament due to start on April 18 and preceded by a 128-player qualifying event from April 8 looked doomed as the coronavirus pandemic grew in the UK.

This week’s scheduled Tour Championship was first moved behind closed doors and then postponed until July after discussions with broadcasters ITV.

CrucibleEmpty

And world No1 Judd Trump, after a spectacular record-breaking season with six other titles, will not get to defend his debut success from last year.

It is understood that the decision was only between cancellation and postponement, with staging the blue-riband event behind closed doors considered unacceptable.

And it is hoped the tournament can now be staged in July or August – with uncertainty over other events such as the Olympics preventing a firm decision for now.

I very much doubt that it will be held as early as July or even August, given that the qualifiers must be held before it, with 128 players on 12 tables minimum, enough referees, fitters,  TD staff plus the venue staff, cleaners, security, paramedics, catering … Even without audience that’s a lot of people.

The initialy inadequate and late response from the UK government is likely to eventually result in a longer lockdown period than if they had taken a stronger stance from the start, and there will probably be more casualties as well…

And if the World Championship is pushed further in the year, and the Q-school needs to happen too, the season will be over before it actually starts.

Now the official WST Statement is out… 

Snooker’s 2020 Betfred World Championship has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The qualifying rounds of snooker’s biggest event were due to run from April 8 to 15 at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, followed by the final stages from April 18 to May 4 at the Crucible Theatre.

WST intends to host the final stages at the Crucible on rescheduled dates in July or August. This will be preceded by the qualifying rounds.

We are awaiting feedback from the BBC and our other principal broadcasters before dates are confirmed and we hope to make a further announcement in the coming days.

When new dates are confirmed, tickets for the final stages will be automatically transferred. All ticket holders will be contacted and the Crucible website and social media will be updated – we respectfully ask that ticket holders don’t contact the Crucible Box Office at this time.

Q School 2020, which was due to start on May 18, has also been postponed until after the completion of the Betfred World Championship.

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “These are tough times for everyone but we are determined to get through it. Fans around the world – as well as the 144 players involved – are anxious to know if and when the World Championship will go ahead. I can assure everyone that we are doing all we can alongside our broadcasters, the venues and other partners to confirm new dates as soon as possible.

“Snooker players are self-employed, they need opportunities to earn prize money so we have a responsibility to them. We are currently exploring the potential to stage tournaments behind closed doors to keep the circuit alive, with more details to follow next week.

“Live televised coverage of the biggest sporting events can be an inspiration to people around the world in these challenging times so it is important that we strive to find solutions for our tournaments.”

 

No snooker … and now what?

So … the Tour Championship 2020 has been postponed until end July (21th-26th). And now what can we expect?

The first question that came to my mind, reading the statement by WST was “Is this realistic?”. Well I’m really not sure.

The reaction by the UK government has been a late one. During seven weeks, they have done nothing to prevent or slow down the spreading of the corona virus in the name of the flawed “herd immunity” theory. Those seven weeks won’t come back. You can expect to have a lot of people going on with their life during that time, not suspecting that they have been exposed and contaminated. A steep increase of cases is likely to happen in the coming couple of weeks. And it is to be expected that there will be more casualties, and the “crisis” will be lasting longer than if  the appropriate distancing measures had been taken right away.

The UK government has now recommended to avoid gatherings, to close pubs, bars and cultural venues, and to keep vunerable persons – the elderly mainly – in isolation. But, again, their course of action is “half baked”. They haven’t closed the schools. Kids and young people are at a very low risk to develop a severe form of the illness, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be contaminated and spread it. There is no doubt that they will. Also the UK government hasn’t actually enforced the recommended closings by law. This is a wicked and depraved move. Indeed, as long as it is only a recommandation, and venues have still, in theory, the choice to stay open, they can’t claim compensations from their insurance system. This in turn means that a significant number of them, especially the smaller ones, will choose to stay open. I write “choose” but I know that for many it isn’t a choice really. Closing for a long time, without compensation, nor revenue, will result in them going bankrupt very quickly. Most will never recover from this. But staying open means that, despite their very best efforts and precautions, they will contribute to continued spreading of the virus. It’s not in their hands only (sorry, no pun intended), it also depends on their customers awareness and willingness to take the required precautions and follow the given guidelines.

Also I do expect that, when the number of cases will explode, and it will, some kind of enforcement will be put in place eventually. Putting the final nail in the coffin of the most vulnerable businesses.

All this to say that I very much doubt that the situation will be safe enough and under control enough by end of July. I’m not the only one: for instance, Roland Garros has just been postponed until end September – early October 2020 …

All of this is dramatic for many of those involved in the sport, the lower ranked players in the first place. Today, on Facebook, Elliott Slessor said that he was considering looking for another job; he has become a father very recently and he needs to cater for his family. I have no doubts that most lower ranked players are in a similar situation: they have bills to pay, relatives depending on them …

So, if Barry Hearn really cares about the players, his priority should be to put events on that are open to the lower ranked players, not just to a small elite group, in other words, events open to the 128.

Supposing that he indeed wants to do this, what are the options?

Postponing the World Championship? 

Postponing the World Championship isn’t straightforward. It means of course postponing the qualifiers – an event involving 128 players and an army of fitters, referees and officials. As it stands it takes over a week, in a venue that can take 12/14 tables and has space for a players room, a tournament office, a place for the referees … and of course, it also involves staff at the venue, cleaners, and basic catering being a minimum. And that’s if no audience is allowed. Is that realistic before, say, September or October 2020? I don’t think so. Unless maybe it is split. This season the World Championship qualifiers have a tiered system. Maybe playing one tier at a time, in smaller venues, with less people,  would be easier and safer, but the whole process would definitely take more than 8 days then. No matter how you look at it, the World Championship itself isn’t likely to happen before October or even November 2020. That’s more than six months from now… and then comes the small matter of the Q-school. Another month, plus at least two weeks to allow the rookies to get ready with visas, relocation etc… Let’s face it: in this scenario the 2020/21 season will start in January 2021 at best. Roughly three months before the 2021 World Championship qualifiers start again. And until January 2021, most players will have very little earning opportunities if any. It will also put those who have a lot of points to defend from 2018/19 in an extremely difficult position, by no fault of them, because there is only so many events that can be squeezed in those three months.

A mitigating option would be to simply scrap the Q-school, keep all current players on tour, no relegations, take on board those who have already earned a tour card  – Aaron Hill, Ashley Hugill, Luckas Kleckers and a couple of young Chinese players – and go ahead like that. Why not? After all it’s rare that all 128 players enter an event. Neil Robertson today on twitter expressed the opinion that, given the circumstances, no relegation should be considered, wether or not the Q-school is played.

But if that mitigating option is considered, then why not …

Cancel the World Championship and resume the season as soon as possible?

Canceling the World Championship (and of course its qualifiers), and the Q-school would probably allow to restart the season a lot earlier, probably around early October. That would greatly help the vast majority of players who badly need the earnings opportunities. I write “restart” the season because this should be seen as resuming the current season. We would have a one-off 2019/21 season, slightly longer than the normal one with the opportunity to maybe play some new events, to stage the China Open earlier than March 2021, possibly to reschedule the cancelled Indian Open, and why not properly revive the Paul Hunter Classic? Yes we could possibly have two UK Championships, two Masters and a few other duplicates  but is that really an issue? And also, because the corona virus outbreak started earlier in Asia, and seems to abate there now, the season could maybe even start there a bit earlier. I wouldn’t mind a proper ranking event in Hong Kong or Thailand, with all 128 at the venue, because qualifiers in the UK might still not be on.

Actually, having all 128 at the venue in Asian countries would only be right. It’s been a travesty for too long that Asian players have to come to the UK to qualify for their own events. Just imagine Judd Trump or Ronnie having to travel to Beijing to qualify for the UK Championship. Would that feel right? I bet it doesn’t. Yet it’s what happens with Asian events and it created all sorts of issues like held-over matches and wild cards…

Of course the issue is that it would be more expensive for the UK and European players … Well, the solution is easy: give the first round losers something, not much, but covering the basic expenses. Don’t make it count towards ranking. That way it offers no “protection”. But it would massively help and it would only be right too: it takes two to play a match of snooker, there is always one winner and one loser, even when both play well … or when both play badly. By playing they contribute to the tournament, they create value for the audience, the broadcasters, the sponsors (yeah even the bookies). They SHOULD get something for it.

Would that cost more? Not necessarily. Just make it slighly less top heavy when it comes to prize money.  As an example, giving £200 to the first round losers at the UK Championship would cost a grand total of £12800. It would probably cover accomodations (only one night) and travel inside UK. Would it make a huge difference to the winner to get £190000 instead of £200000, and to the runner-up to get £77200 instead of £80000? I dont think so.

However, if this becomes the plan, WST should make the decision quickly and and make it known now. The earlier the players know where things stand, the earlier they can work on their own contigency plan. They are self-employed, most have familiers relying on them. They need to know in order to be able to get through these difficult times in the best possible way. They need to be able to plan and manage, and therefore they need to KNOW as much as possible what are WST plans, whith realistic calendar so that they can commit fully to whaterver they need to do to get through the “snooker shutdown”.

Yes … I have too much time on my hands right now … months without snooker! Just as well that the summer is coming and it’s the good season to go out and travel and … oh wait 🥴

The 2020 Tour Championship Postponed

WST now posted this less than three hours before action was supposed to start, and after this statement issued only yesterday evening.

WST and ITV Sport have taken the decision to postpone this week’s Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

The event was due to run from Tuesday to Sunday this week, televised by ITV4.

Following Monday’s announcement from the UK government that public are advised to avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues, we have liaised with ITV Sport and come to the decision to postpone the event, with new provisional dates of July 21st to 26th this year at the same venue.

We appreciate this is very short notice and a disappointment for the fans and the television audience, however the assessment could only be made at short notice after yesterday’s announcement from the government which came at 5pm.

The box office at Venue Cymru in Llandudno will contact ticket holders . Those tickets will be transferred automatically to the rescheduled dates. Fans who are unable to attend in July can contact the box office after April 1st for a refund.

Announcements on future events including the World Championship will be made in due course, with all scenarios to be considered depending on further government advice.

There you have it… It is extremely doubtful that the situation will be any better in three weeks, so be prepared for the World Championship to be either postponed or cancelled.

This event, with only eight players is relatively easy to postpone. The World Championship and it’s qualifiers are a completely different challenge altogether.

Barry Hearn decided to “wait for the UK government advice” instead of doing what so many other sports have, listen to the WHO, look at what nearly every other country was doing and act immediately. What happens now regarding covid-19 was entirely previsible and inevitable. Putting fans and players in this position was completely evitable. Refunding tickets won’t refund the fans their travel costs and hotels … hopefully WST does something for the players who are already there.

Yesterday Neil Robertson on twitter complained that he hadn’t been told by WST that the event was to go ahead without audience, even after the decision was made. He must be even happier right now! He surely is in Landudno already, he was due to play at 1 pm local time. As must be Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy who must have traveled from Northern Ireland and Ireland respectively.

Well done!