Stephen Hendry has received a second invitational tour card, it was announced on Tuesday.
Fellow former world champion Ken Doherty will be another beneficiary, with the Irishman accepting the invite for a third time.
Both players will be able to compete on the professional circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.
The awarding of invitational tour cards began around a decade ago but has remained somewhat controversial.
They don’t technically take away opportunities from other players striving to join the Main Tour.
However, there are many who still feel that these players are undeserving, and that their time at the top of the game should be over.
While Doherty has at least taken his previous invitational tour cards seriously and competed regularly, the same can’t be said for Hendry.
The Scot surprised many in 2020 when he announced his comeback from retirement, but there were several delays before he first appeared in a ranking event.
During the 2020/21 term he only participated in two tournaments – beating old rival Jimmy White in a high-profile World Championship qualifying encounter.
Hendry began this season with the intent of playing more frequently, but poor results seemed to dissuade him from following through on that promise.
The 53 year-old hasn’t hit a shot in anger since being thrashed 6-1 by Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the first round of the UK Championship in November.
That said, there are understandable reasons why the World Snooker Tour considers the appeal of awarding the invitational tour cards.
The likes of Hendry, Doherty, and White – who is also currently playing under the system – all still bring considerable attention to the sport.
Article posts on SnookerHQ, for example, continue to generate a lot of interest and the trio remain fan favourites.
It’s additionally hard to say that they aren’t deserving in terms of their overall legacy and their achievements within the game’s history.
WST chairman Steve Dawson said: “We have decided to offer Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry invitational tour cards for the next two seasons.”
“They are both great ambassadors for our sport and they have both done a huge amount to grow snooker around the world over many years.
“Both Ken and Stephen continue to generate interest from fans, television and media.
“We wish them all the best for the next two seasons. We will review this invitation at the end of the two-year period.”
It will be interesting to see if Hendry, in particular, takes his second offering more seriously than his first.
Featured photo credit: WST
I’m supportive of these two wildcards but if they weren’t offered then an extra two places for the tour could be available at Q School.
I have no problem with offering invites, but why do you say
“They don’t technically take away opportunities from other players striving to join the Main Tour.”
Unless these invites are in addition to the 128, then of course they do.
There are rules in place for when there are more than 128 entries to an event, so the normal system of inviting Q School Order of Merit places to top up to 128 should apply first. Then if the 2 ITC players want to enter, the prelim round rules come into play.
The criteria for 2022/23 tour cards was released way back in September 2021. I agree with you that more Main Tour spots, in theory, could go to amateurs, but if the criteria is already set these ITCs aren’t impacting on that. That is, they aren’t taking away places to make room for Hendry and Doherty.
Anyway, it’s happened before that the ITCs have been surplus to the 128. In 2017/18, for example, there were 128 official tour cards + 3 extra ITCs.
Yes, but they are potentially taking away places in the draw, whether they would have been filled by professionals or by amateurs from the QS top-up list. This season two amateurs have made use of their top-up position to gain entry back via the 1-year list – a much more controversial issue than the one raised by Shaun Murphy (which has swiftly been addressed by the changes to the UK Championship). In 2017/18 the rule was that the ITC players wouldn’t get into main draws if all the regular professionals entered, but it’s unlikely that will happen now, especially since Igor Figueiredo probably won’t reappear and there are doubts about some others, not least Hendry himself. We may not get an African ‘nomination’ for some time and there may be funding difficulties from the Asian Q School qualifiers (it appears Sunny Akani and the Chinese contingent will be playing in the Sheffield Q School, so all kinds of obscure players might emerge from Bangkok).