Snooker bosses announced the new £20k scheme to help lower-ranked professional players earlier this week.
There has been a lot of chatter surrounding the recent revelation that all players on the Main Tour will receive a guaranteed £20,000 in earnings this season.
Players will receive £10,000 in September and a further £10,000 in January, helping to ease woes during a difficult economic period.
However, the sum will be offset against prize money from snooker events, meaning if players earn £20k or more per season through victories on the Main Tour, they will have the up-front payments deducted.
An important stipulation is in place that requires participation in every ranking event of the 2022/23 campaign, barring exceptional circumstances.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the new plan.
There has long been a call for players to earn a minimum amount in prize money, especially after achieving professional status.
During the 2021/22 campaign, 88 professional players earned at least £20,000 through prize money earned on the circuit, with the remaining 34 competitors falling short of that mark.
Former World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn was widely praised for his excellent work in lifting the sport off its knees across the last decade.
But one point of contention with regard to his policies was always the fact that first-round losers in ranking events never got paid prize money.
While that remains the same, there is at least finally a system now in place whereby every player on the Main Tour can be assured of some earnings.
Many people will agree with Hearn’s ideology that sport shouldn’t reward losers, but every player on the pro circuit has earned the right to be there, and in that sense they should be rewarded in some capacity.
When annual expenses are taken into account – travelling to and from tournaments, hotels, food – players at the bottom of the rung can easily find themselves out of pocket.
This guarantee of £20k will provide them with a much-needed safety net, which should take a significant amount of pressure off and allow them to focus on the task at hand – playing snooker.
New pros should get money. They’ve earned being pro. Money that doesn’t need repaid by prize money but will ease the pressure and let them continue to earn on top of that. 20k a year for 2 years is fair to give it a proper go but winning matches should add to that in my opinion
— Mark Allen (@pistol147) September 7, 2022
While the new initiative has been met with widespread approval overall, some have questioned the finer details.
World number 14 Mark Allen has been one of the most vocal to challenge the plan, and he certainly has a point.
In the Northern Irishman’s opinion, it’s not fair that somebody who ends up earning £40,000 through wins on the Main Tour (across two seasons) will receive the same amount of money as another player who loses every match but gets to keep the handout.
In this scenario, the player who has won matches is actually getting punished for doing so.
That this player will probably incur additional expenses for lasting longer in tournaments ensures that he or she will, in fact, likely be worse off than the consistent loser.
Winning matches, of course, will help in guaranteeing tour survival and moving up the ladder in the rankings.
But a total of £65,500 was needed across two seasons to secure tour survival among the top 64 in May, meaning both players in such a scenario would have been relegated regardless.
To put it plainly, it doesn’t seem right that players who win matches could end up earning the same amount of money as players who don’t.
That the WPBSA and WST have taken steps to solve what has been a long-running issue with regard lower-ranked competitors is undoubtedly a good thing that should be applauded.
It’s not going to be cheap either, with the tour having to fund an extra several hundred thousand pounds per season as a result of the scheme’s introduction.
However, there could be unforeseen problems ahead and not just limited to those already mentioned.
Match fixing has long been an issue within the game, and this plan does seem to leave the door ajar for potential problems in that area in the future as well.
Perhaps a tiered system of deductions could be adopted, with players who, for example, earn between £20,000 and, say, £30,000 through match victories only having half of the handout deducted rather than the full amount – although there could end up being similar issues here, too.
An ideal scenario would simply be to see first-round losers earn prize money, but the snooker bosses seem set in their ways to avoid this.
Either way, it would be a surprise if this doesn’t become a big talking point again at the end of this season and beyond.
Featured photo credit: WPBSA