February 8, 2018

World Snooker Challenge Tour Further Details Announced

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:03 am

It’s a chance for amateurs to get a taste of the big time.

More details were released yesterday by World Snooker about the Challenge Tour for the best amateur players which will be starting next season. The main points are summarised in the bullet points below.

  • Ten events, played over two days using a minimum of eight tables
  • Each event will consist of the top 64 from the 2018 Q School Order of Merit (who have not qualified for the World Snooker Tour) plus a maximum of eight wildcards, giving a maximum field of 72 players.
  • If any of the top 64 do not enter an event, the eight wild cards will then be added. If there are still less than 64 players in the event, we will use the Q School Order of Merit to top up to 64.
  • Events will be played in a mixture of venues being used by World Snooker for other events, plus selected snooker clubs.
  • Players will be allowed to play in both World Snooker Tour and Challenge Tour events if eligible.
  • Once agreed, a tender will be issued for clubs to host events in the UK and National Governing Bodies to host events in mainland Europe.
  • The events are likely to be played at regular intervals between May 2018 and March 2019, taking place in a mixture of venues in the UK and continental Europe.
  • The Top Two from the final Challenge Tour Order of Merit at the end of the season will receive World Snooker Tour cards for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
  • The prize money breakdown for each Challenge Tour event will be:
    Winner £2,000
    Runner-Up £1,000
    Semi-Finalists £700
    Quarter-Finalists £500
    Last 16 £200
    Last 32 £125
    Total £10,000
  • Each event will have an entry fee of £50. World Snooker will retain all entry fees and issue draws/formats
  • All matches best of five frames.

Well, the first thing I will say is that this is great news for amateur players who are serious about a career in the sport. There is potential for the very best to earn over £10,000 of the overall £100,000 pot as well as having playing opportunities at professional events.

The model is basically a carbon copy of what Shaun Murphy and I proposed, the only difference with our model is that I was asking for £100,000 in the form of a loan to get it off the ground. World Snooker can raise this themselves so it makes more sense for them to take the idea and run with it.

I hope that the wildcards are put to good use in encouraging junior players, it wouldn’t be fair if these were hand-picked old professionals who could just be dropped into any event and win it. Logistically, 64/72 player fields are manageable, I think we proposed a tour of 128 for financial reasons and in order to make the tour self-sufficient quicker and pay the loan back, but the number selected makes it more compact and would have been my preferred field.

The one thing of course that all the players on this tour will need to think about are expenses, particularly with some events seemingly heading all over Europe. Anyone routinely losing in the first and second rounds will need pretty deep pockets to compete in all the events. It is however good news that they will only be played over 2 days, which cuts down on the old PTC style expenses.  

The one tweak that I would definitely make is to reward the next 8 or 16 players in an overall Order of Merit list outside of the top two who win the tour cards. It’s not unfeasible that there could be two runaway winners of the top two spots that begin to become clear after half the events have taken place, after seven or eight they could be home and dry. That would leave a bunch of players who are there or thereabouts but mathematically have no chance of the top spots being expected to play in the last couple of events. My experience as a tournament director would lead me to believe that the way of ensuring that these players commit to all events is to offer a further list which rewards them for their season efforts.

Whether this ends up being a final knockout event for a further tour card or even perhaps takes the form of a few free Q-School places for the following season I don’t know, but I think that’s something that they need to consider.

Overall however, this is a huge step in the right direction for amateur snooker and should be embraced by all. I really look forward to keeping a close eye on it next season.

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