Shaun Murphy has shared his views on the ongoing standoff between the so-called Macau Five and the World Snooker Tour.
It was revealed earlier this week that five high-profile players had agreed to compete in an unsanctioned event in Macau later in October.
The quintet comprised world champion Luca Brecel, four-time Crucible winners John Higgins and Mark Selby, and former ranking event champions Ali Carter and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
It prompted an aggressive response from the World Snooker Tour, which released a statement outlining that, if they continued to participate, those involved would be in breach of their players’ contract.
That is because the Macau event was scheduled to clash with the venue stages of the Northern Ireland Open on the sanctioned WST calendar.
As it happens, it was reported on Thursday that the Macau promoters have duly made the decision to postpone their event.
But while that might provide a temporary solution, the greater question remains as to whether or not WST has the right to restrict the earning potential of any player.
Shaun Murphy had an opportunity to give his two cents on the controversial topic during the latest episode of his podcast.
“I understand it from both points,” Shaun Murphy said on the onefourseven Snooker Podcast alongside Phil Seymour.
“Obviously having sat on the board of the WPBSA, having chaired the former Players Commission and fought very hard for players rights in the contracts and reviews that we’ve had through the seasons, for issues like this I do see it from both sides of the fence.”
“I do believe, for what it’s worth, that as professional snooker players – and self-employed tradespeople, for want of a better phrase – (we) should be allowed to play in whatever tournament we like, whenever we like.
“But that isn’t the case, and when you sign up to play on the WST, you agree to the terms of the players’ contract, or not.
“Part of those terms and conditions is that you cannot play in events that conflict with the World Snooker Tour – certainly if they are unsanctioned.
“You can’t get involved in these activities that diminish, or are seemed to diminish, WST’s product.
“World Snooker Tour own the commercial rights to professional snooker, so if that is taking place, the promoters of these new events have to pay a sanction fee to WST.
“Without that sanction, we’re not allowed to compete in them – it’s as simple as that.
“So the Macau Five, from my point of view, are clearly in breach of their players’ contracts.
“That’s a sad state of affairs that they are either aware of, or they are certainly about to become aware of it.
“How they get out of this position, I don’t know. And whether they should be is another question.
“As I say, my primary position is to try to negotiate freedom of activity for professional players.
“You know, we’re not employees of WST, we’re not employed by Matchroom, and it has always seemed overly onerous on their part to restrict us in this manner.
“But we’ve negotiated the contract to where it is, you sign it in good faith, and if WST didn’t keep up their end of the bargain, we’d all be up in arms.
“So for the Macau Five to stick two fingers up and do what they want seems slightly unfair as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all pans out.
“There’s been two or three exhibition events out in China since the summer – I’ve been invited into them all.
“It’s not a small amount of money that you’re offered to go.
“I mean, just to give you some clarity, to earn more money in the Northern Irish Open than what I was offered to go, let alone what I might have won, you’d have to get to the final (in Belfast).
“From a player’s point of view trying to earn money, I can understand why players would go.
“There’s no stress, it’s not a tournament really – it’s an exhibition event, you get flown out and looked after like a rock star.
“You get all the red carpet laid out for you everywhere, all of your expenses are paid, and you’re given an appearance fee worth more than the runners-up cheque at the Northern Irish Open.
“So I get it. It’s very, very difficult, and if it were up to me they wouldn’t get a sanction.
“If it were up to me, we should be able to do what we want. We should be able to play when we want to play and wherever we want to play.
“It should be up to the promoters, of which WST are one of, to make their product as good as they possibly can.
“WST need to ask themselves why some players are preferring to go to Macau than go to one of their prestigious events.
“However, these players will be sanctioned I’m sure, and Barry Hearn came out fighting, didn’t he?”
Hearn certainly did, with the former WST chairman responding in a remarkable fashion that only served to fuel an already well-lit fire.
“All of these players going to Macau are just selling their souls and themselves down the river for an extra few quid,” Hearn said, as quoted by the Mirror.
“I am disappointed in how selfish they have been, and how small-minded.”
“I expect these five will be referred for disciplinary action by WST. And then we’ll see whether they get fined, banned or thrown out.”
The irony of Hearn’s comments that the players were allegedly “selling their souls….for an extra few quid” was lost on nobody, given the promoter’s lifelong dedication to serving his own financial interests.
It’s fair to say that tensions within the game are high at present.
Featured photo credit: WST