Irish Open to be Launched as Part of ‘Home Series’

Barry Hearn has today announced that an Irish Open in Belfast will be on the calendar for the 2016/17 season.

Hearn congratulating Mark Selby after last year's World Championship win - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
Hearn congratulating Mark Selby after last year’s World Championship win – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

A further Scottish Open and English Open are also set to be added to run alongside the currently existing Welsh Open, ensuring that more of the game returns to the Isles that originally helped to make it popular.

The four tournaments will be branded as the Home Series, with a one million pound bonus on offer to any player who can emerge victorious in all of them.

A European Open, which will see staging responsibilities shared between the various popular countries on the continent, will also be launched.

In a wide-ranging press conference, the World Snooker supremo also expressed some of his new five-year plan, having just completed his initial agenda from when he was elected to lead the sport in 2010.

Significantly, by 2018 at the latest the total prize money for the World Championship will exceed two million pounds, with £500,000 on offer for the champion.

A two-year target has been set to increase the total annual prize fund from just over eight millions pounds to over 10 million.

The World Grand Prix, which Judd Trump won as an invitational event in 2014, will be transformed into a full ranking event from next season.

32 players will still qualify from a one-year, money-earned order of merit and, from the 2016/17 campaign, the Players Championship will be changed to feature the top 16 players on that list in a FedEx Cup style series that is similarly lucrative in golf.

After expressing that the last five years were “five of the most motivating I’ve had in any sport”, Hearn revealed that 12 million pounds more in prize money has been dished out to the players than he had originally promised.

While admitting that the lower-tiered competitors should potentially get a better slice of the pay packets, the 66 year-old reaffirmed his stance that professional sport should reward the best.

The London promoter, though, did provide plans to expand Q-School, with qualifying tournaments set to be staged in every continent in the future.

Hearn also hinted at imminent negotiations with the BBC and Sheffield City Council to extend the current World Championship contract with the Crucible, as he has no desire to take the blue-riband event away from its spiritual home.

The World Championship will also become the only tournament to not be played under the flat 128 draw format when current existing contracts end with the Shanghai Masters and Australian Open.

Further reaction to some or all of the above will come in the coming days.

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