Shaun Murphy
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Shaun Murphy – ‘You can’t buy history, you can buy prestige’

Shaun Murphy has reacted to the recent announcement that there will be a new ranking event in Saudi Arabia next season.

The Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will take place this summer in Riyadh, boasting an enormous prize fund of over £2 million.

That will put the tournament behind only the World Snooker Championship for prize money offered.

In contrast to the invitational Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker that was announced last month, the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will be open to all 128 players on the main tour.

Six local wild cards from the Saudi Arabian Billiard & Snooker Federation will also be invited to participate in the competition.

“There were rumours of this event pre-Covid,” Shaun Murphy told co-host Phil Seymour on their award-winning OneFourSeven Snooker Podcast.

“I think Barry [Hearn] either had or was very close to a signed deal very similar to this pre-Covid, and obviously the pandemic spoiled everything.”

“We’ve managed to resurrect the deal. Listen, I know most of the tour were screaming that there was another invitation event for the top eight players and this, that, and the other.

“They had enough, and to some degree I understand that. But the art of selling into new territories has always been done by taking an invitation event – that’s very normal.

“Usually, that does lead to full-field ranking events. It’s great to see that formula has been tried and used again out in Saudi.

“I think it’s the last week of August into the first week of September next season.

“It will be fantastic for everyone, a fantastic opportunity for players to see a new territory, go and play snooker in front of a new audience, and hopefully make a load of money.”

One element of the news that immediately proved controversial with fans was with the intention to classify the new tournament as the sport’s “fourth major”.

According to the WST, this would rank the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters, which has been signed to a ten-year deal, alongside the prestigious Triple Crown events on the calendar.

While the Magician understands the importance of the bigger prize funds, he doesn’t believe that’s the only thing that can be considered.

“I think in this argument, you can agree you can’t buy history. You can’t buy that,” Shaun Murphy continued.

“One of the things that makes the majors – the Triple Crown events or whatever you want to call them – so special is the history.”

“It’s the historical element of them. You go on YouTube and look back at vintage footage of the Crucible, the World Champs, the Masters, the UK Championship, you can’t buy that. You can’t fake that.

“When you as a player, when you walk down those steps at the Crucible onto the same playing arena that all of those great moments happened – where Alex [Higgins] cried for his baby to be brought on, where Cliff [Thorburn] made the first maximum, where Steve [Davis] and Dennis [Taylor] went on til twenty past midnight or whenever it was – you are aware of the historic element.

“You are aware it happened in that room. You can’t buy that, it’s not for sale. I think you can buy prestige. They’re not the same.

“If you ask a player if they’d rather win the World Championship or the new Saudi event, they’re going to say the World Championship.

“Would you rather walk into the final at the Crucible? That still wins, because it has history.

“But the prestige does come from the prize money, I think those two things are linked. Not all the snooker players on the tour are custodians of the sport.

“They’re not all that bothered about it. They just want to win money, put it in the bank, and put food on the table for their families.

“So that prestigious element comes because the event is so wealthy, and I think what I’m looking forward to is that it perhaps improves the other events.

“They will have to dip into their savings to compete.”

Meanwhile, Murphy again defended Ronnie O’Sullivan after the world number one’s latest withdrawal from this week’s Welsh Open.

The Rocket cited “stage fright” as the reason he pulled out of a tournament for the eighth time this term.

“Each to their own. No players are under any obligation to play in any tournament any week, and they can all pull out at any stage.”

“There are quite strict rules around players withdrawing from tournaments once they’ve entered it.

“But once you’ve issued a doctor’s note, or a medical exemption or reason, it’s not that the scrutiny goes away, but just that you accept it at face value.

“Ronnie has said that he has been suffering, and we wish him well. The tour wishes him well and a good recovery, and hopefully he’ll be back soon.”

Featured photo credit: WST

6 Comments

  1. Money definitely isn’t the only factor when ranking events based on prestige. Golf has richer first prizes handed out at some tournaments that eclipses those given out at the Majors. No golfer claims these are more prestigious tournaments. The WTA Finals of 2019 provided the biggest first prize in tennis history. That didn’t mean it suddenly became a more prestigious event than the Grand Slams.

    • Jakob Kidde Sauntved

      The difference is that golf and tennis are far wealthier sports than snooker, so even the lower ranked players are mostly financially secure and the top players are multimillionaires. In a “poor” sport like snooker financial incentives are more likely to completely dominate which tournaments the players prioritize and the media will then have to adjust to that. Keeping events that’s are not the most lucrative as the most prestigious require the players to be willing to prioritize them, and I think Murphy is right that won’t be the case in snooker (and he’ll of course know the attitude of the other players much better than us outsiders).

      • That’s a fair point about the financial differences between those sports but sports on a similar financial footing have a pecking order in terms of prestige that is not necessarily dictated by the prizemoney. The PDC World Matchplay in darts is often described as the second biggest title rather than the more lucrative Premier League.

        Mark Allen has said he still thinks for now the Triple Crown events will be bigger.

        Are we also seriously suggesting that if this event supercedes the World Championship financially it then surpasses it for prestige?

        • I agree that prize money doesn’t automatically add prestige (in the beginning). It’s a big pay day for somebody, that’s it.

          However, ranking positions DO have prestige and affect a players profile, seedings for other tournaments, etc. A big money tournament has a significant effect on the rankings.

  2. did no one asked him a question about the regime in saudi arabia? or is this wst- propaganda?
    strange for a sport which speeks highly of players when they call a foul on themselfs or maybe even suspect it from them.

    smoking sponsoring is prohibited but a human chocking beheading regime isnt’t.

  3. Why was the Hong Kong Masters not repeated this season? It seemed to be successful and there was talk of it eventually being a full ranking event.

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