Barry Hearn has launched a scathing attack on several of the top professionals in the sport.
The chairman of World Snooker Ltd. sent letters out to the entire circuit bemoaning those that failed to accept invitations to the upcoming Brazilian Masters.
The inaugural staging of the tournament does not carry any ranking points and comes only a few days after the conclusion of the Shanghai Masters next month but Hearn feels it is an opportunity missed in selling snooker to a currently untapped market.
In an audacious and direct act of defiance, Hearn has even named and shamed all those players who refused to take part in Brazil – even though we would have generally known who he was referring to at any rate.
John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Stephen Maguire, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen and Matthew Stevens – all currently occupying slots in the elite Top 16 of the world rankings – were the players in the firing line throughout the letter.
Indeed, Trump, winner of PTC 2 on Wednesday, and Chinese Sensation Ding were the subjects of further condemnation following the duo’s decision to play in an unsanctioned televised exhibition in China during the Brazilian event.
This is a debate that has been approached several times in the last year since Hearn took over and initiated a welcomed influx of new tournaments to the calendar.
Last season, the amount of tournaments rose from less than ten to almost twenty, while that number is set to rise beyond 30 for this campaign.
There is scope to suggest that, with so much playing time, players should be allowed to pick and choose certain events to contest in order to maintain an individually balanced playing season.
However, with specific respect to the Brazilian Masters the attitudes of some of these players is understandably unacceptable in the eyes of Hearn.
Only 18 months ago, snooker remained handcuffed to the old regime and in danger of going further into the doldrums of obscurity despite obvious potential across Europe, in the Far East and beyond.
The sport, and therefore the players, have a lot to be thankful for to Hearn in creating a scenario where the players are now full-time professionals rather than the part-timers they were for much of the last decade.
Without doubt, the expectation of forcing somebody to travel twice across the world in a short space of time should be looked at in the future but, for the sake of this year and the fact that it is the first time a major event will be held in South America, all of the biggest names in snooker should feel it their duty and responsibility to be present.
As it is, the line-up that will contend the Brazilian Masters is hardly woeful – Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Australian Open champion Stuart Bingham, Ali Carter and Stephen Lee will be there as well as legends and exemplary ambassadors to the game in Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.
Yet, it is clear that without the likes of O’Sullivan, Trump et al the maiden hosting of the Brazilian Masters will probably suffer and the implications of that for future events there – and in South America more generally – could immediately suffer.
What is crystal clear, though, is the conviction of Hearn’s stance on the matter and his directive should act as a stern message to all of the circuit’s professionals to take the more widespread success of their sport more seriously.