Professional snooker players are waiting months to get paid from some international events, Shaun Murphy said on Friday.
The Magician was discussing the topic on the latest episode of his podcast with Phil Seymour.
Last week, a new lucrative event in Saudi Arabia was announced with only the top eight from the world rankings plus two wildcards invited to participate in March.
As the world number six, Murphy is provisionally in line to receive one of those invites, but there has been some disgruntlement from those further down the rankings.
Several players have spoken out about the lack of opportunities for those outside the elite bracket.
While Murphy can see both sides of the conundrum facing the World Snooker Tour in entering new markets, he is also sympathetic towards those craving more chances to earn.
Of particular concern is the fact that, as the 41 year-old outlined, there have been events in China this season from which the players haven’t been paid yet.
“Pre-covid we were promised a full-field ranking event out (in Saudi Arabia),” Shaun Murphy said on the OneFourSeven Snooker Podcast.
“My overriding feeling was relief that a version of that has landed, quickly followed by where’s the full-field ranking tournament that we were promised?”
“Where is it? Where is the tournament for everybody?
“If you go back as far as you want, taking a select field of players to promote the game in that area, in that culture, in that territory – getting it off the ground followed by a full-field event for everyone a year or two later – that’s very normal.
“That’s been a key marketing strategy for World Snooker since day one.
“It was out in China, it was Hong Kong, India. Pretty much everywhere we’ve been, that’s been the model.
“Just with my player’s hat on, I think one of the things that motivates some of the players to be a little bit crestfallen about it is that – and a lot of people won’t know this – for instance, we’ve opened our markets back up to the Chinese events.
“I think most of the public won’t be aware, but as we record this we are nearly at 11 weeks post the International Championships, and nobody has been paid.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of it. This is a WST matter with the promoters out in China.
“But for the overseas events, the players aren’t paid by WST. They’re paid directly by promoters.
“We are told that getting money of quite large amounts in a lot of cases out of China is quite a complicated matter.
“There’s obviously tax to be paid, the way you’ve earned it, and the foreign entertainment tax, and all of these types of things, which are very normal when you earn money internationally.
“But the process is ridiculous, and how long it takes is a joke.
“There are players who earned quite well the last time we were out in China, in Tianjin. In terms of cash flow, we are all self-employed.
“From a cash flow point of view, having money that you know you’ve won but haven’t seen is a difficult world to live in.
“Meanwhile, a tournament is announced for the top eight who are, in most cases, fairly financially stable. It would be seen as a bitter pill to swallow.
“Now that prize money from China, 11 weeks deep, is coming. WST are contracted to pay it to the players should it not be paid in a certain period of time.
“But having to wait that long for payment is a contributing factor to this mess.
“You’ve got to pay (your travel costs), and you’ve got to pay them for the next batch of tournaments, so flights to Germany next week aren’t cheap.
“Funnily enough, it’s not easy to get to from the UK – Berlin, for some reason.
“Everyone who has just qualified this week for the World Open has to fork out thousands of pounds to get out there for the World Open in Yushan.
“That’s not an easy venue to access. That’s at least two flights to China and an internal flight, because you can no longer take your cue in its case on the bullet train from Shanghai to Yushan.
“This has only just happened as well, and people aren’t aware of this, but it’s an extra cost.
“There’s some new law coming in about luggage length and sizes, you can’t do it. So that means we’ve got to fly to Beijing.
“Then take an internal flight to Shangrao, which is next to Yushan, so it’s a constant moving target.
“You’re asking players to fork out, and they are waiting up to three months for payment on an event that was months ago.
“It’s a little bit of a mess, so I can understand when this new, very big, very exciting event is announced for just a special few, it irks. I do get it.”
With snooker following a lot of other sports in entering the Saudi Arabian market, questions have understandably been raised concerning the human rights issues in the country.
For many years, Saudi Arabia has been accused of sportswashing – using sport as a promotional tool to cover up for other serious wrongdoings.
However, Murphy doesn’t believe that should prevent snooker players from taking advantage of the opportunities provided to them in the region.
“I’m uncomfortable with the assumptions that are made,” Shaun Murphy later said.
“Because you support these events and want to enter and play in these territories, that somehow equals supporting these regimes.”
“I don’t believe the two go together, I really don’t believe that you can make that link.
“Without going super political, at all, I think that when you watch the news and you feel sympathy for what’s going on in the Middle East at the moment in Palestine, that doesn’t make you antisemitic.
“You can do both. You can have sympathy without judging and belittling a different nation. The two aren’t linked.
“Wanting to go play snooker in Saudi Arabia in a tournament that’s a very big tournament, a very glamorous event, wanting to see the world and travel and do all of those things, doesn’t mean you support a regime with a poor human rights record.
“It doesn’t mean that at all, and I wish people would stop making those links.”
Featured photo credit: WST