The Scottish Open qualifiers came to an end on Friday after six days of preliminary-round action at the Chase Leisure Centre in Cannock.
With a limit of up to only eight matches being played per day, it was a slow and elongated process that in previous seasons would have taken only two or three days to complete.
It’s a clear ploy by the World Snooker Tour to hoodwink people into believing its snooker calendar is fuller than it actually is.
In reality, the first half of the 2022/23 campaign has been a shambles on different levels, and there are players down the rankings list who have been going weeks and months without the opportunity to play.
The schedule picks up a little from next week’s Northern Ireland Open, but there remains significant gaps on the calendar.
A similar scenario materialised last year, which was naturally and understandably attributed to the COVID pandemic.
There were struggles with regard travel and staging events outside the UK, but a lot of those issues don’t exist any more in 2022.
The inability to host tournaments in China – a country that still incorporates strict COVID restrictions – has of course been a major problem.
But it has been obvious for a long time that China would be a no-go destination for the foreseeable future, and there has been hardly anything done to supplement its loss.
It begs the question as to what kind of planning has actually been going on behind the scenes in an effort to keep the tour active.
This season started all the way back in June, but ahead of next week’s Northern Ireland Open there have only been three ranking events so far.
The campaign-opening Championship League – boasting a schedule longer than the World Championship itself – took a month to finish.
Since then, there have been four batches of single-round qualifiers for different events including the Scottish Open this week – taking up 28 days of the calendar in the process.
Actually had a chance to build momentum aswell instead of months off at a time 🥱
— Elliot Slessor (@sless147) October 14, 2022
The European Masters preliminary stage in July lasted an astounding ten days, all giving the allure that the schedule is more hectic than it really is.
Despite that, there have still been lengthy intermissions in the play altogether, with the most notable being a month of September that was practically barren of snooker on the pro circuit until its final week.
Many have already queried why smaller events like those from the old Players Tour Championship (PTC) series couldn’t have been reestablished.
Popular with a lot of the players further down the rankings, these minor-ranking tournaments provided vital earning potential and opportunities to maintain a competitive standard of play.
They also helped to introduce snooker to different regions of the world – particularly in Europe when events were previously held in the likes of Latvia, Bulgaria, and Poland.
With venues, sponsorship, and prize funds to consider, nobody is suggesting that it’s easy to launch new competitions – especially in a difficult current economic climate.
Yet isn’t that a crucial part of WST’s role? Rather than acting proactively, there has been a distinct sense of laziness and an apparent mindset of, ‘well, let’s just wait until China is back in the game’.
From this season, players are being financially supported with a guaranteed £20,000, albeit that handout is being offset against future prize money earned.
It’s been heralded as a step in the right direction, particularly in protecting those down the lower end of the rankings list.
The irony is that, in order for WST and the WPBSA to recoup that money, more tournaments with more prize money need to be staged.
In that sense, this season until this point has been a bust.
Featured photo credit: WST