Hearn Makes Tour Changes

Barry Hearn made a number of announcements today regarding tournament formats and the tour structure.

As has been the case for a number of seasons, the World Championship offers snooker’s supremo the opportunity to unleash a flurry of changes amid a frenzy of extended media attention.

Most, if not all, of the announcements at the Crucible on Wednesday wont come as a major surprise to most but are still important for the upcoming future of the sport.

Primarily, matches in the World Championship will remain at the very least best of 19 frames.

The top 16 players in the world will continue to be seeded through to the first round proper, rewarding their consistency and status at the top of the game.

The overall championship will be increased from 128 players to 144 and there will be scope to offer invites to former world champions.

A major change sees that the players ranked 17 and below will enter the qualifying tournament in the first round, where an initial loss will provide zero prize money.

However, in general the prize money in the early rounds has increased, with winning the first match guaranteeing a player £6,000.

As for the issue of the tour legends of the game, in addition to former world champions being invited back to the big one, there will be an opportunity for four season-long wildcard invitations to be granted to the top four players in the lifetime earnings list.

This, in theory then, allows the likes of Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis an easy avenue back onto the circuit should they choose to accept it  – as well as Jimmy White, whose place in the top 64 is still under threat with Michael Wasley’s continued presence in this year’s World Championship.

This potential quartet will have to sign the players’ contract just like everyone else, with any prize money earned counting towards the new world rankings list.

The only snag for these legends is that they can only enter an event should there be fewer entries than the 128 required for a draw.

The reason for this is to ensure that players who have gained a pro ticket by other, more regular means, will not be effected by the Hearn’s change in meritocracy stance.

Hearn, who revealed he is celebrating his 40th year in sports promotion, admitted that friendship and loyalty – to, presumably, Davis – led to his change in opinion with regard wildcards.

Usually in the past tournaments have needed to be filled with amateurs so the days of Davis and Hendry are certainly not at an end just yet.

Elsewhere, negotiations are in progress to change the Australian Open and Shanghai Masters so that it falls in line with the flat 128 draw, with the former to be altered in 2016 and the Chinese event moving next year.

So these are the major plans. Nothing hugely controversial really and altogether in line with Hearn’s usual vision for the sport.

What are you thoughts on the announcements?

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