World Snooker announced an update to their rule book on Wednesday in an effort to counter against the rise in withdrawals that have occurred this season.
At the World Championship in April, Barry Hearn made the welcome announcement that tournament entry fees for all professional players would be scrapped from this campaign onwards.
While this was met with widespread approval at the time, with it particularly aiding the finances of competitors further down the rankings list who find it difficult to earn a living from the Main Tour, there has been a noticeable drawback already in the early months of this term.
In each of the ranking events contested this summer, a host of players has taken the opportunity to enter events only to withdraw at the last minute without any major penalty incurred.
That seems likely to change, albeit it still remains to be seen whether World Snooker’s fresh implementations are going to be stern enough.
The most positive result is that there will now potentially be the opportunity for players to be replaced in the draw, should those pulling out give World Snooker what is effectively a full business day of due warning.
At the very least this should mean that there will be fewer walkovers in the early stages of ranking events, especially the ones that located remotely or offer less prize money, thus proving popular with some players to avoid.
Players obviously have the right to pick and choose the tournaments they compete in but it’s clearly fairer for all concerned if there is a more transparent deadline for any decision to opt out at the last minute.
It would be interesting to learn about the exact fines that players receive through the various late notices but one can only guess whether that precise information will ever be published.
The full range of changes to the rules include:
- Withdrawal after the closing date, but before the draw has been performed, will result in no fine imposed.
- Withdrawal after the draw has been performed, but before close of play (17:00) on the penultimate business day prior to the first day of qualifying (Proposed Cut Off Point), will result in a fine from the appropriate level of the tiered fine system, as is currently the case for all players. In these circumstances, World Snooker will seek to replace the player with the Next Highest Ranked Eligible Player, in a straight swap in the draw.
- Withdrawal after the Proposed Cut Off Point (Late Withdrawal) will result in an appropriate and proportional fine, taking account of the full circumstances of the withdrawal. In these circumstances, World Snooker WILL NOT make a place available in the draw for the next highest eligible player.
- World Snooker reserve the right, as provided within the Players Contract section 7, a, ii, to impose any such sanction against a Player as World Snooker consider appropriate at their sole discretion for a withdrawal without exceptional mitigating circumstances that is provided after the Proposed Cut Off Point.
- For the avoidance of doubt, it would be highly likely that the fine imposed for a Late Withdrawal will be higher than the fine that would have been imposed under the tiered fine system as it is considered by World Snooker that a late withdrawal is more damaging to the reputation of the sport. World Snooker will consider exceptional mitigating circumstances as part of this process and reserve the right to not impose any fine if no fine is considered appropriate.
- The ‘Next Highest Ranked Eligible Player’ will be either:
i) the next highest ranked professional player who otherwise didn’t qualify for the tournament, or
ii) the next highest ranked player on the Q School Top Up list If the next highest ranked professional player had already been afforded the opportunity to enter and compete in the tournament and had not accepted this invitation before the expressed deadline.
- An example of the Proposed Cut Off Point: the International Championship qualifiers are currently due to start on the 26th September (TUESDAY), the penultimate business day prior to the first day of qualifying will be 22nd September (FRIDAY) so any withdrawal after 17:00 on Friday 22nd September would be considered a Late Withdrawal.
- The Late Withdrawal option will not be applicable in either the Paul Hunter Classic or Gibraltar Open, or any similarly formatted Pro-Am event. In these events there will be no replacement of any player who withdraws.
- This process only applies to the first round of an event, any withdrawal after the first round of an event will automatically qualify as a Late Withdrawal and there will be no replacement player.