What’s Been Happening?

In short, not much.

Ronnie O'Sullivan Face Off
Ronnie O’Sullivan won the last event in Northern Ireland in 2008 – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

It’s been almost two weeks since the conclusion of the Indian Open, where Anthony McGill collected his maiden ranking event trophy, as the stagnated start to the 2016/17 campaign continues.

The biggest tournament of the season so far gets under way on Monday with the return of the World Open in China, after which there’ll be another month’s break from the baize.

There’ll be a preview of the upcoming event in Yushan in due course, but what else has been going on?

Well, the height of the recent news has surrounded the venues for the inaugural Home Nations series.

This year, Irish, English and Scottish Opens have been placed on the calendar in addition to the already well-established Welsh Open to initiate the Home Nations, whereby there is a bonus of £1 million for any player able to emerge victorious in all four.

The first will be the English Open in Manchester in October (10-16), back in Event City which previously staged the Players Championship at the tail end of last season.

It has to be said that it’s a surprising choice, given the fact that the Players was dreadfully attended amid concerns that the arena isn’t easily accessible via public transport.

A month later (Nov 14-20) the series, which will feature 128 players in a flat draw, heads to the Titanic Belfast as Northern Ireland stages a major snooker event for the first time since 2008.

Home favourite Joe Swail said: “It’s brilliant. Everybody has been asking about having a tournament in Northern Ireland and now we’ve got one for the first time in eight years. In that time every exhibition I’ve done in Belfast has been full. There’s definitely an appetite for a ranking event. Belfast is a brilliant place and I think the event will be a great success.”

The two-time World Championship semi-finalist added: “I feel as if snooker is coming home with these new big events in the UK. I know the game is growing massively in China and it’s nice to travel. But for snooker in the UK to keep improving, it’s important that we develop the game at grassroots and it helps the profile of the game having tournaments like this.”

Just before Christmas (Dec 12-18) the players will go to the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, with pro snooker also returning to Scotland for the first time in six years.

Scottish great John Higgins felt that “it has been a long time coming. In recent years we’ve had a lot more tournaments on the calendar and there should be one in Scotland because of the support for snooker here. I hope we get good crowds and it is well received.”

It will certainly be interesting to see the number of fans these events pull in.

It’s good to have events in the UK and Ireland but they should be planned meticulously and properly promoted to ensure that there is a big attendance.

There’s nothing worse than seeing empty arenas, especially in the latter rounds, and this is magnified when the competition is being staged in the traditional home of the sport.

In February (13-19), the Home Nations will be completed with the usually well attended Welsh Open in Cardiff.

Aside from this and the odd amateur event, not much else has been going on.

There’ll be a look at the World Open over the weekend.


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