Barry Hearn Announces Changes

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn held a press conference at the World Championship today that will have an overbearing impact for the sport across various platforms.

Although any one issue could be deemed as a major headline, probably the biggest revelation was the confirmation of a change in format for certain ranking events from next season onwards.

As things stand, players ranked outside of the Top 16 have to go through qualifying rounds for each of the ranking tournaments, in some cases as many as four.

However, this will cease to be the case for the German Masters and the Welsh Open, where now the players ranked 33-96 in the world will play one qualifying round and then join the players ranked in the Top 32 at the venue stage.

This continues Hearn’s continuing trend to construct a Tour based on equal fairness and the supremo admitted that other, more established events would follow a similar pattern sooner only for the obligation to fulfil current contractual requirements with host broadcasters.

This is undoubtedly very exciting for every player outside of the Top 16 to get their name more well-known, particularly for Germany where the crowds are massive.

Personally, I can’t wait for these two events now as the open nature will generate even more excitement, shocks and new stars.

Hearn stressed the importance of the European market, revealing increased prize money for the six Players Tour Championship events being held on the continent for the upcoming campaign – of which there will be two in Germany, one in Belgium, Bulgaria and Poland (TBC) and another elsewhere.

As well as increased prize money for the Welsh and German Masters, the PTC Grand Finals also receives a major boost with the overall champion being awarded £100,000 – Stephen Lee claimed £75,000 in Galway last month.

This is in line with the overall plan to increase the season’s prize money to at least £10million per year – a target they seem well on their way to achieving – and Hearn pinpointed the tournaments that do not already have pre-determined broadcasting contracts attached to them will be the ones that receive further prize hikes in the near future.

The rise in prize money and these alterations towards meritocracy will culminate in two years time with the introduction of a ranking system based on money earned rather than points.

Again, I’m in favour of this – it has worked in tennis and darts, as well as golf and, while not perfect, it just seems an all-round fairer way to determine the ranking list.

Two-year exemptions have been granted to the top two Europeans that finished outside the world’s Top 64 this season – crowd favourite Tony Drago and teenage wonder-kid Luca Brecel.

Drago aside, the inclusion of Brecel on the Main Tour for the next couple of years was an absolute no-brainer for most people given the amount of excitement he has generated in both his own country Belgium but all across Europe in the last couple of weeks – nations on the cusp of experiencing genuine snooker booms.

Finally, it was confirmed that Mark Allen would indeed be referred to the disciplinary committee for his controversial comments made about Chinese snooker players yesterday – no surprise there.

Next week, Hearn will hold another press conference to speak about the future of the game in the Asian market.

So, exciting times all around, eh?

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