August 14, 2011

So, that letter….

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:56 pm

'Mr O'Sullivan lives at number 24 Cyril'

It’s been a quiet weekend on the baize since Judd triumphed in Gloucester and the main talking point for us snooker folk is undoubtedly the letter that Barry Hearn has posted to the players.  

For those of you that have been totally obsessed with another sport or sports this weekend a copy of the text in the letter is below. It is directed at both the named players declining to take part in next months invitational Brazilian Masters tournament and at a certain pair, also named, that are instead playing a presumably financially lucrative, but ultimately pretty pointless exhibition match in China. As usual where Big Bad Bazza is concerned he doesn’t exactly mince his words.

He writes:

“The fact that Mark Williams, John Higgins, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Allen and Matthew Stevens have all declined their invitation to the Brazilian Masters is very, very disappointing.

“A year ago all these players were moaning about lack of tournaments and yet now I am getting excuses ranging from “I think I’m worth a few more bob” to “I do not want to be away from the wife and children!”

“It is time for all players and in particular the top players, who have so much to gain, to understand that snooker is a sport not a hobby and they are professional sportsmen not part timers.

“This tournament could open up the whole of South America and it needed the support of all the top players to get us a major ranking event next year. Frankly, the commitment is just not good enough.

“I know it is a long trip coming so soon after Shanghai but they were the only dates available so we had no alternative. Nevertheless, it is time some players realised their responsibilities to the sport if they want to share in the future success.

“So let us start by behaving like professionals please – there is a massive amount of effort going into revitalising snooker and it is very demotivating to see that the support from the so-called “stars” is not really there.

“On another negative note, I am disappointed to see that Judd Trump is intending to play Ding Junhui in a televised match in China at the same time as the final of the Brazilian Masters.

“I am disappointed that they are not playing in Brazil, but more disappointed that they have not read their players’ contract which prohibits any Pro Tour player playing in a event that is not sanctioned by World Snooker.

“The organisers have now applied for a sanction belatedly and providing they adhere to our terms, we will not unreasonably withhold it, taking into account that they actually agreed to the terms of this match prior to the players’ contracts being signed.

“These exceptional circumstances will not exist in the future and all Pro Tour members are reminded that they cannot play in any televised match, anywhere in the world, without the sanction of World Snooker.”

Now I am aware that this subject has been covered on Dave Hendon’s blog and discussed at length by his contributors, but I am also aware that there are some of you that don’t always get to catch both our sites, so I felt, as it is a very strongly worded letter that it was worth duplicating on here.

I can see this from both angles myself. The season is so massively different to last season and adjusting to life in the fast lane as opposed to life in the cycle path must be fairly difficult for some players that are used to sunning themselves all summer before resuming practice around now.

But Bazza is right, it was largely these very same players that were the most vocal in their support of him and their frustration at the previous administration of Sir Rodney F-Fing Walker and this is a great opportunity to expand the sport further and out into the global market. One that because of their no-shows, might not be open to us again.

The calendar is, in my view, a little too condensed. But I’d also argue that it isn’t as bad for the players at the top of the game than for those in the middle and lower ranks who are attending qualifiers at their own expense fairly regularly where the top 16 are not.

A nod's as good as a wink

On balance I think the players that have turned this opportunity down but are actually available are wrong and should take more responsibility for promoting the sport. It’s their job and their duty to do so. I am particularly surprised to see John Higgins’ name on the list, I would have thought he’d know better than to cross Bazza so soon after his last off-table shenanigans.

I also think Judd and Ding are out of order. This seems to be a decision based solely on self-interest rather than in the interest of the sport that pays their wages. They are technically within their rights to play as this was apparently arranged before the players contracts were signed which binds the players to stricter rules. Strange that, I’d not heard anything about it until a few weeks ago.

But there we have it, the Brazilian Masters goes ahead without the current and previous World Champions, the World Number 1, the sport’s biggest draw and his heir apparent. But the players that are making the effort, though I wouldn’t go so far as to thank them for simply doing their job, should be commended for doing so in such a congested season.

PTC3 gets underway this week and hopefully the bookies will get round to pricing it up in plenty of time.

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