Something which went a little over everybody’s head in the last couple of months was the release of the provisional calendar for the 2017/18 campaign.
World Snooker provided an initial overview in February but an updated revision was uploaded onto its website in recent weeks.
The calendar has 19 ranking events scheduled for the upcoming season, with a potential new event in the Far East – not yet conclusive to being a ranker or not – possibly being staged in mid-July.
Most of the current term’s ranking events remain on the schedule, which has been shuffled around a little bit to cater for the return of the World Cup and the inclusion of the World Games – which will both also be staged in July this summer in China and Poland respectively.
The only tournament which appears to have been shelved is the on-again-off-again World Open, which was won by Ali Carter in 2016.
The lucrative China Championship, which to the dismay of many will be altered from its prestigious invitational status to a generic ranking event open to all 128 tour members, moves from November to August, just before the Paul Hunter Classic in Furth.
One would have hoped that this could have been an opportunity then to ensure that the Champion of Champions in Coventry wouldn’t start immediately after a Chinese event, like it did this season when it commenced a couple of days after the conclusion of the China Championship.
But alas, the International Championship has been pushed back, scheduled to finish on November 5th before the start of the Champion of Champions a day later in England.
I suppose it didn’t affect John Higgins too much this season as the Scot pocketed a tidy sum of £300,000 for capturing the China Championship and Champion of Champions in quick succession despite having to swiftly fly from one side of the world to another.
Even though the Indian Open has similarly been reshuffled, there continues to be no real continuity of the events which are staged overseas.
Maybe World Snooker has a master plan to eventually get all these events lined up in a more coherent system which will allow the players to travel and compete in an Asian leg, a European leg, and a UK leg, but on the face of it, it appears more like random selection.
Obviously a lot of hard work and strenuous planning goes in to ensuring all these events can take place and it’s not easy to slot everything in perfectly with numerous variables to consider.
Yet, it’s been mixed up like this for seasons now with no evident sign that much improvement is being made.
For ranking events between late June and early November, the competitors go from Preston qualifiers to Riga to the potential new tournament in the Far East, back to Preston, to China, to Germany, to India, to China, to Preston, to Romania (if the European Masters is confirmed there for a second season), to England, to China.
The 6 Reds World Championship in early September at least means that there’s a mini Asian stint of sorts for some of the players who will compete in Bangkok, and subsequently India and Shanghai.
However, there remains too many swings back and forth between China and Europe – England in particular – which seem like they could be solved with more stringent organisation.
With the inclusion of the World Cup and the World Games, there does seem to at least be a fuller summer schedule which will help solve the problem from previous campaigns of there being too many periods of lull in the opening few months.
Everything else on the provisional schedule stays pretty much the same.
The Home Nations looks set to continue in Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow, and Cardiff, while the World Grand Prix and Players Championship will again be ranking events in which entry is determined by the one-year money list.
The Shoot Out, which will keep its ranking event status, stays in Watford while the Championship League again runs from January until March.
The prestigious UK Championship and Masters, along with the popular German Masters, stay in their familiar dates in December, January, and February respectively.
The 2018 World Championship takes place in Sheffield between April 21st and May 7th to round off what will be another hectic year on the circuit.
It’s a shame to see the first half of the season continue to look like a bit of jumble but, despite that, it’s great that there remains ample opportunity for the players to compete and the fans to watch their favourite stars in action.
It all begins less than a month after the conclusion of this year’s World Championship at the Crucible.