UK Championship snooker
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UK Snooker Championship Reverts to Old Tiered System

The World Snooker Tour has decided to adopt changes for next season’s UK Championship.

The second oldest ranking event will have a revised format which guarantees that the world’s top 16 players will compete in the televised stages.

From the 2022/23 campaign, the tournament’s structure will mirror that of the World Snooker Championship.

The top 16 in the world rankings will be seeded through to the last 32, with 16 additional players qualifying from preliminary stages.

Prize money has been increased from £1,009,000 to £1,205,0000, with the first prize up from £200,000 to £250,000.

The final stages of the tournament will run from November 12 to 20 at the York Barbican, its home since 2011.

This will be immediately preceded by a qualifying event featuring 128 players, made up by 112 professionals and 16 invited amateurs.

The UK Championship was first staged in 1977 and is one of snooker’s longest running events.

It is broadcast to a global audience of hundreds of millions by BBC, Eurosport, CCTV5 and a range of other outlets worldwide.

China’s Zhao Xintong is the current champion having beaten Belgium’s Luca Brecel in the 2021 final.

In recent years, the event has started with all 128 players in a flat draw, but the decision to seed the top 16 to the last 32 round ensures that the sport’s biggest stars will feature in the televised phase.

Matches will remain best of 11 frames up until the final, which will take place over 19 frames.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “This format works perfectly for the World Championship so it is also ideal for our second biggest ranking event, the UK Championship.”

“This guarantees a star-studded line-up for the final stages, while the qualifying event itself also creates drama and great storylines as 128 players battle for 16 coveted spots at the fabulous York Barbican venue.

“We are also delighted to increase prize money for the event, to the benefit of every player on the tour.

“These changes will enhance the status of the Cazoo UK Championship as one of the outstanding events on our calendar.”

Comment

While this format is being unveiled as ‘new’, it’s actually a scenario in which the World Snooker Tour is reverting to type.

For years, snooker operated under a tiered system that offered a certain level of protection to those ranked within the top 16.

But around a decade ago, while the sport was beginning its road to recovery under the leadership of Barry Hearn, the majority of tournaments began to implement open flat draws.

There are pros and cons to both styles of formats, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the continued implementation of each in the future.

In terms of the tiered approach, the marquee names are guaranteed to be involved at the latter stages when the viewing reach is as its highest.

However, there are clear cases to be made that it benefits the lower-ranked competitors as well, who now have easier opportunities, on paper at least, against similarly ranked opponents in the earlier rounds.

One notable disappointing aspect to the UK Championship updates is that the length of snooker matches will remain the same.

With fewer encounters taking place at the Barbican Centre, it seemed feasible to increase the format from the best of 11, at the very least for the semi-finals.

Featured photo credit: WST

8 Comments

  1. Jamie Brannon

    Totally agree with your comments as I’m supportive of the initial announcement of a tiered structure for the event but disappointed by not increasing the frame length to reflect its status as a triple crown event.

  2. Michael Waring

    Does the term “flat draw” really apply when it is a fully seeded event?
    Previously it was 1 v 128, 2 v 127 etc etc – so there wasn’t actually a draw as such.

    WPBSA claimed recently that this format was unique to the UK and part of what made it special?

    More events should be tiered to allow players to compete with their peers and have more chance of earning some money!

    As the rankings are updated after every event, rather than just a couple of times a season, there is less ‘protection’ for the top players. And if the ranking points were calculated on a fairer basis, rather than prize money, the best of the lower ranked players could be swapping places with the ‘worst’ of the higher ranked players more often.

    It’s not really rocket science but some can’t see it and clinging on to outdated traditions is slowly strangling the game.

  3. Yes I agree. There haven’t been any new ideas in snooker for 40 years – everything is just a rehashing of old ideas. The purpose of all of this is to promote the elite players, exclude lower-ranked players, and conform to the 4-table streaming limit. This is very much present-focused, and potentially damaging to the game’s future. There now aren’t any tournaments which take place at a single time in a single location (apart from Gibraltar). Quite a few players (including Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty and Jimmy White if they decide to take up their tour cards) face an entire season played in qualifier cubicles, away from the main event. As you say, the prize money ranking system has become strained beyond fairness, and is riddled with anomalies. But nobody seems to care about that, so long as the famous names are on our screens…

  4. Carl Hungness

    Would like to see a break-down of prize money paid for each tournament so we fans can get an idea of how much a player makes. The reports on the tournament activity are just great but I recall how much the (auto racing) fans loved to see just how much each place paid for any given race.I think it would be a worthwhile addition to each tournament report.

  5. Jamie Brannon

    It’s too extreme to say there’s not been any new ideas. The Home Nations Series and the Cazoo Series have been wonderful additions to the calendar under Hearn.

    While the flat draw will be in operation at more tournaments than it isn’t.

    I’d like to see a change to the ranking system. The current system is too weighted in favour of winners and the World Championship. I’d also have prizemoney available for every tournament from round one.

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