This week sees the return of the Premier League to our screens and I’m not referring to the football on Saturday.
Tomorrow, the 2012 Premier League snooker campaign gets under way as ten hopefuls go in search of the coveted league title.
In the last decade there has been one man and one man only who has dominated the PL, under various different guises and systems, and that was Ronnie O’Sullivan.
However, the Englishman will not be contesting the nationwide-staged event this season having not signed the players contract in time to stamp his name on the entry form, or because he was on holidays – whichever you are led to believe.
That means there will be a new champion for only the second time in the last nine years come November – Shaun Murphy being the sole competitor to have dislodged the ‘Rocket’ from his dominance in 2009.
It will be a shame not to have O’Sullivan in the line-up because with the shot-clock and the short format it is a tournament that suits his silky skills and flamboyant style, and one that helps to ensure that each PL night is packed to the rafters.
Nonetheless, there are ten others who will be vying for top spot, each deserving in their own right of a place having joined the winners enclosure at one point or another during last season.
The only one who didn’t enjoy any success in that time-frame is O’Sullivan’s replacement, but John Higgins too has the necessary credentials to be in such prestigious company as a four-time world champion.
Thankfully, alterations have been made to 2011’s dastardly set-up that, in essence, wasn’t even a proper round-robin at all.
This time around the ten players have been split into two groups of five players each.
The five players in each group will play each other once over the course of the series in best of six contests. There will be two points for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss while the time limit reverts back to the old 25 seconds per shot.
The top two players from each table at the end of the league stage will advance to the semi-finals where, that weekend, a new victor will be donned.
Joining Murphy in Group A is Ding Junhui, Stuart Bingham, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson while Group B consists of Higgins, Judd Trump, Stephen Lee, Peter Ebdon and Mark Allen.
One would imagine that the format should suit the likes of Judd Trump and Ding Junhui but it will be interesting to see how rookies Stuart Bingham and Mark Allen adapt to their first time contesting the event.
Of similar intrigue is how slow-poke Ebdon will fare as his methodical and often farcical style of play is in complete contrast to the attacking brand of snooker the PL is attributed with having promoted in the past.
That said, most snooker enthusiasts will be aware that when Ebdon does perform more fluently he is usually a better player for it.
The PL is not for everyone – some argue that it is another gimmicky form of the game that is a far cry from the old traditions with it being faster, noisier and more casual than what is custom.
But this is unfair. The Premier League is not Power Snooker, the format is largely the same only to be slightly tweaked to attract a different audience and the calendar does not suffer because of it.
If each tournament followed a routine pattern the seasons would become very monotonous indeed so it is refreshing to have varying formats offered from time to time.
And don’t let anyone tell you the Premier League isn’t prestigious – it is after all now the fourth longest running event after the three majors.
The Fixtures (CLICK HERE FOR TICKET DETAILS)
Thursday 16th Aug 7:30pm
Embassy Theatre, Skegness
Ding Junhui v Shaun Murphy
Judd Trump v Stephen Lee
Thursday 6th Sept 7:30pm
Biddulph Valley LC, Biddulph, Staffs
Stephen Lee v Peter Ebdon
Mark Selby v Neil Robertson
Thursday 13th Sept 7:30pm
The Sands, Carlisle
Shaun Murphy v Stuart Bingham
John Higgins v Mark Allen
Thursday 27th Sept 7:30pm
Spiceball LC, Banbury
Mark Allen v Peter Ebdon
Neil Robertson v Shaun Murphy
Thursday 4th Oct 7:30pm
Stuart Bingham v Ding Junhui
Judd Trump v Peter Ebdon
Thursday 11th Oct 7:30pm
Mark Selby V Ding Junhui
John Higgins v Stephen Lee
Thursday 18th Oct 7:30pm
Penzance LC, Cornwall
Mark Allen v Stephen Lee
Neil Robertson v Stuart Bingham
Thursday 25th Oct 7:30pm
Stuart Bingham v Mark Selby
Judd Trump v John Higgins
Thursday 8th Nov 7:30pm
The Dome, Doncaster
Mark Selby v Shaun Murphy
Judd Trump v Mark Allen
Thursday 15th Nov 7:30pm
Spennymoor LC, Durham
Neil Robertson v Ding Junhui
John Higgins v Peter Ebdon
Saturday 24th Nov 7:30pm
Sunday 25th Nov 7:30pm