The snooker calendar was once filled with international events all around Europe and afar, with the potential high for worldwide growth.
As things stand, however, there are only two ranking tournaments left outside Britain and Ireland – the European Masters in Fürth and the German Masters in Berlin.
News of the cancellation of the Turkish Masters on Monday represents another major blow to a sport already reeling from the match-fixing scandal involving ten players from China.
“WST has taken the decision to cancel the 2023 Turkish Masters, following discussions with our partners in Turkey,” a statement released yesterday by the World Snooker Tour read.
“We have made every possible effort to keep this event on the calendar over the past nine months, since the inaugural Turkish Masters took place in March 2022.”
“Unfortunately, attempts by the local promoter to guarantee adequate funding for the event have been unsuccessful.
“WST always seeks assurances over the viability of events for its players and unfortunately on this occasion, these assurances could not be provided in the timeframe necessary for this event to be delivered.”
Around a decade ago, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the development of snooker in Europe with the relative success of the Players Tour Championship minor-ranking event series.
Tournaments were staged all across the continent, from Poland to Portugal, Belgium to Bulgaria, Czechia to Latvia.
The PTC Series had its problems, including low prize funds which made it expensive for players to actually travel to compete.
Sponsorship, a bit like what has seemingly happened in Turkey, also proved difficult to arrange on many occasions.
Yet many of these events boasted big, enthusiastic crowds who wanted to express their support for the game and were thankful to have opportunities to watch the best players in the world up close.
It also demonstrated optimism in expanding the sport’s reach, introducing it to newer regions, and inspiring young players from different nations to take up the game.
After the PTC Series folded at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, some of these three or four-day competitions survived and became full ranking events.
The Riga Masters in Latvia and the Gibraltar Open – albeit never a tournament well-received by players and fans alike – briefly continued on the calendar.
Other destinations were trialled, such as Romania and Austria for the European Masters, which has since moved to Fürth.
That city was once synonymous with the Paul Hunter Classic, a popular event that was initially well-supported but poorly developed and one that eventually suffered its own disappointing demise.
Outside Europe, tournaments in India and Australia were previous fixtures on the calendar, while a promised competition of riches in Saudi Arabia is yet to get off the ground at all.
It’s obvious that the pandemic did not help matters, with snooker forced indoors in Milton Keynes for much of the 2020/21 campaign.
However, the signs of regression were already there before that period, and it has only gotten worse more recently.
A poor current economic situation should be taken into consideration, but questions need to be asked as to why snooker is struggling so badly to host international events in mainland Europe and afar.
Too much emphasis seems to have been placed on being patient while China comes out of its strict regulatory phase with regard COVID-19.
No Chinese tournaments have been staged since 2019, and although that looks set to change later this year, it feels like not enough has been done to find fresh openings and possible replacements elsewhere.
The return of ranking events in China would drastically change the present outlook, although a lucrative landscape similar to the one four or five years ago may not be guaranteed pending the outcome of the case concerning the ten players embroiled in the betting scandal.
Playing opportunities overall, meanwhile, for lower-ranked players at the moment are nothing short of dismal.
With the qualifiers for the German Masters and most of the Welsh Open already complete, this week’s Shoot Out will represent the last chance for some players to earn money ahead of the World Championship unless something new pops up on the calendar at the last minute.
The sport has previously filled these gaps with mundane versions of the Championship League or the drab WST Pro Series.
But those kinds of events only serve to temporarily mask the wider problem and provide a shield for the management to hide behind.
Nobody is suggesting it is easy to run a sport, but if the role of the WST and the WPBSA is to source opportunities to finance its players and entertain fans on a global scale, they are unequivocally falling short at the moment.
In terms of the players, Louis Heathcote and Elliot Slessor are just a couple of the main tour professionals who have repeatedly voiced their disdain at the lack of earning chances.
Recent Masters finalist Mark Williams and fellow former world champion Shaun Murphy, who despite qualifying for most events as highly ranked players, have also recently questioned why so many tournaments are open to limited fields.
The Hong Kong Masters may have generated positive headlines for its record-breaking crowd of 9,000 people, but the invitational event only boasted eight of the circuit’s 130 professional players.
With regard fans, those from the UK might not have qualms with the sport’s current setup given how the vast majority of events are currently staged there.
Other international snooker supporters from all around the world, though, are generally left wondering why events don’t exist in their countries, or why they are constantly folding despite apparent public interest.
Featured photo credit: Nirvana Turkish Masters