Barry Hearn has announced that a new Challenge Tour will be launched for amateurs featuring ten tournaments in Europe.
The Challenge Tour, already successfully implemented in darts, which is similarly controlled by Hearn, is set to begin during the 2018/19 campaign.
The tour will be open to players who enter next year’s Q-School.
Each tournament, to be initiated in partnership with the WPBSA, will offer prize money that will work towards a ranking system in which two Main Tour places will be up for grabs every year.
The news will come as a terrific development for amateur players across Ireland, the UK, and further afield into mainland Europe as a measure to counteract the wave of emerging Chinese talent.
Meanwhile, Hearn also revealed that, for the first time ever, players’ entry fees into professional events on the Main Tour calendar will be scrapped.
Savings of up to £5,000 will satisfy some of the concerns long felt by a number of the players, particularly those further down the rankings who struggle with the expenses necessary to survive on the circuit.
Prize money in tournaments, which is to rise to £12 million, is also promised to be more evenly distributed with higher rewards in the early rounds of competitions set to be enforced to again help support the lower ranked competitors.
Other announcements included a long-term TV deal with Chinese broadcaster CCTV while Hearn hinted at further pledges surrounding the Chinese market in the coming weeks.
For the World Championship, Hearn said that the prize fund is set to increase again in 2018, with the winner to receive a whopping £425,000 – a rise of £50,000 from this year’s edition.
In a wide-ranging interview on BBC and a subsequent press conference at the Crucible, the World Snooker supremo defended himself and the WPBSA in the face of allegations made against the authorities of late concerning the players’ contracts.
Hearn reiterated that there are mediums in place, such as the Players’ Commission fronted by Shaun Murphy, for all the players to voice their issues in a more structured manner and that bullying claims made by Ronnie O’Sullivan are unfounded.