The provisional qualifying criteria for the professional Main Tour places for next season was announced yesterday with changes that could lead to great damage to the Irish scene.
For years, the top prize for finishing top of the Irish Senior rankings as an amateur was a ticket onto the pro circuit for the following campaign.
That reservation has now been withdrawn – as have the nominations for each of the four national associations that make up the United Kingdom.
The criteria otherwise stays mainly the same as in previous years with the extra places being awarded to the top players in the Americas, Africa and Oceania regions – as well as more places for Asian players.
By itself, this is undoubtedly good news as the sport continues to go global with an effort to continue introducing snooker on a more profitable scale to traditionally untapped areas.
However, for Irish snooker it is a complete disaster.
With relatively low prize money and a questionable structure, the incentive for young players to continue travelling for weekend tournaments around the country could fall dramatically when time would arguably be well spent – or well earned more importantly – doing something else.
Irish number eight Johnny Williams said after the sixth ranking event earlier in March that there was already a worrying sign with regard players entering tournaments.
“Snooker all over the world is getting very big but if the number of entrants in this ranking event is anything to go by it’s diminishing in this country and that is a real shame.”
This announcement could put the nail in the coffin of many of the fringe players and possibly even more of the top players who will feel there is no point wasting their time on something that offers little reward at its conclusion.
For the 2013/14 campaign the Main Tour will rise to 128 players so it is debatable whether or not World Snooker will start offering the place again this time next year but for the meantime the future of Irish snooker is at a crossroads.
With the Q-School deadline for entrants approaching this Friday, only three Irishmen have entered so far and, with due respect to the other two, only John Sutton of the trio has a realistic chance of emerging triumphant.
If he doesn’t, and Davy Morris and David Hogan both drop off the professional circuit this season as looks to be the case, next year there is a distinct possibility that there will be the embarrassing total of two Irishmen on the Main Tour – veterans Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien.
The fact that this country is still relying on those two a decade after they were in their prime is worrying, and potentially crippling.
The professional criteria for the 2012/13 season can be viewed by clicking here.