The inaugural Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker will take place this March in Saudi Arabia, it has been announced.
The invitational event is due to be staged between March 4 and 6 at the Boulevard Arena in Boulevard City, Riyadh.
The new tournament will feature some of the world’s top snooker players including the world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan, the world number two Judd Trump, and reigning world champion Luca Brecel.
The top eight players from the world rankings plus two wildcards will participate.
Each game will be played under World Snooker rules and regulations but with the introduction of an innovative new concept.
There will be a 23rd ball – coloured in gold – known as the Riyadh Season ball.
This gold ball will be worth 20 points and can only be potted once all other balls have been successfully cleared from the table if a player is on a maximum break to make it 167.
The agreement for this tournament was signed between Eng. Faisal Bafarat, CEO of GEA, and Steve Dawson, chairman of World Snooker Tour, in the presence of HE Advisor Turki Alalshikh, as well as sports promoters Eddie Hearn and Barry Hearn.
HE Advisor Turki Alalshikh said: “We are thrilled to be hosting our first-ever professional snooker tournament in the Kingdom.”
“Snooker is watched and played by millions around the world and we look forward to welcoming some of the greatest players and snooker fans to our country and showing them what Saudi Arabia and Riyadh Season has to offer.”
Steve Dawson said: “It is a great privilege for the World Snooker Tour to work in partnership with HE Advisor Turki Alalshikh to stage an event in Saudi Arabia for the first time.”
“This is a huge breakthrough for snooker into a new territory, and we see this as the beginning of a new adventure for our sport in the region.
“We are looking forward to being a part of Riyadh Season on this fantastic new event featuring the world’s best players.
“We will be honored to bring our sport to the amazing city of Riyadh, and for the local fans this will be their first chance to see some of snooker’s all-time greats.”
In December 2019, WST announced a 10-year deal to stage a lucrative new tournament in Saudi Arabia.
Total prize money was planned to be in excess of £2 million, but plans for the event were tabled soon after as a result of the global pandemic.
There had been much speculation since last year about whether or not a Saudi Arabian event would be rescheduled, and for when.
Now, it appears as though the sport is finally dipping its toes into the controversial territory.
Despite serious concerns surrounding how Saudi Arabia is run and its human rights record, it has become increasingly common in recent years for various sports to stage tournaments and leagues in the country.
According to WST, confirmation on all ten participants and the schedule for the Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker will be announced in the coming weeks.
Featured image credit: WST