Snookerbacker

June 23, 2016

It will be FINE

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:59 am

It’s a momentous day today as we all know.

Yes, today is the day that we finally get to see what fines and punishments have been dished out over the last three seasons to those naughty potters. Some of the offences are a lot more serious than others but all have one thing in common – they are all seen as serious enough to haul in a player to explain himself, here they are in full.

  2014 fines

2014 was a pretty quiet year on the disciplinary front although there were three pretty hefty additions to the World Snooker Xmas Party Fund as they decided to fine Ronnie a total of £7000 for his erratic behaviour on Twitter which included him posting a photo of a friend of his performing an act of acrobatic self pleasurement, for want of a better phrase. Liang Wenbo’s temper got the better of him in a match in Germany and he was particularly unpleasant to a referee and rightly fined heavily because of it. Ding didn’t turn up for the World Snooker Awards bash and found himself on the wrong end of an £11,000 fine following previous warnings. It also looks like our old mate Padgey and Jamie O’Neill were getting a bit fresh in a hotel while Gerry Greene said something on social media which I must have missed.

2015 fines

The rebels were really out in force in 2015 with Ronnie again featuring heavily on the naughty step, it was beginning to look like he might as well just set up a direct debit. This time he was done for loose talk on TV and in press conferences, the heinous crime of not answering a letter, failing to report an approach to fix a match, which to be fair he probably only said to sell his book and also breach of a suspended sentence, whatever that was. Matt Selt breached the dress code and made an inappropriate comment on Facebook, which is very unlike him. The Chinese lot were hauled in en masse for something they did on TV, which might have been something to do with sponsors perhaps, John Higgins decided he didn’t want to talk to the media and got a very severe punishment for it while John Sutton was of course banned for match fixing. The interesting one here is Michael Holt being fined for ‘not playing to the best of ability’, a very subjective judgement and not clear what match it refers to. I’ve backed a few that haven’t played to the best of ability more times than I’d care to mention, perhaps I’ll make a list for the WPBSA, anyway, Holty was singled out and fined £500 for it.

2016 fines

Things have been a little quieter this year but there is plenty of time for that to change, for example Ronnie will no doubt be there again for not speaking to the press following his first round match at The Crucible. But for now, the new bad boy of the baize is undoubtedly Matt Selt, who has been done for swearing and twatting the table. Pottymouth Ding Junhui also said something he shouldn’t and his loose talk got him a suspended £1000 fine which presumably has now been written off. Anthony Hamilton’s dress sense cost him £500, which would probably have been better used on some new clobber at a Pottingham Tailor and Liang continued his poor conduct with referees and also decided to throw in a profanity at a press conference, he’s obviously looking to overtake Selty at the top of the naughty ladder. Oh and Charlie Walters ran off from a hotel without paying, we’ve all done it….haven’t we? 

June 21, 2016

The Riga Masters – The Season Begins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:21 am
Kyren Wilson - on the up.

Kyren Wilson – on the up.

This week sees the snooker season beginning in earnest as the first trophy will be handed out over in Riga in what used to be a EPTC event and is now a fully fledged ranker, if still largely run under a rather rushed EPTC format over just three days.

It’s best of sevens all the way to the final, when we get to see a rare best of nine finale. Indeed when you look at the calendar these days it’s something of a novelty not to have best of sevens dominating, I’ve counted 12 events in the entire season that are best of seven or less and that to me is a great shame and largely switches me off for quite a fair chunk of it. It comes to something when I am only really looking forward to The Masters, to a lesser extent the UK and The World Championship when the season hasn’t really even started yet, but that’s how Bazza has decided it’s going to be and he won’t listen to a boring old traditionalist like me.

A handful of the top players didn’t bother entering this one including for some reason the holder Barry Hawkins, Shaun Murphy who decided to get married instead, as you do, Ding who never enters this type of event and of course Ronnie who only plays in the UK these days unless it’s an exhibition for a load of dosh. But we do have the likes of World Champion Selby, Robbo, Judd, Higgins etc. to keep the crowd entertained.

I’ve decided that this season a solid tactic is to back two or three players blind in the hope that they deliver a title at a decent price over the course of the season. The first is Kyren Wilson, who continues to come on in leaps and bounds and is now into the top 16 with plenty of scope to climb higher and solidify his Masters place. He impressed throughout last season and has to be one to keep on the right side of in this one. I’ll also start having a punt each time on Dave Gilbert, I’ve always rated him and he’s playing as well now as he ever has so I’d expect to see him competing at the business end a few times this season, he’s also my biggest fan, he told me in Sheffield.

It is always interesting to see who breaks through in a particular season and there are plenty of names at long odds that are more than capable of raising their game and nabbing a title, for this particular comp you see the likes of Michael Holt and Sam Baird at 150/1 in places, the promising Zhou Yuelong (or as Dennis prefers to call him Ghou Yolonge) starting at odds of around 200/1, SBC Champ Sam Craigie at 500/1 and the man he faces in the first round here former SBC champ Martin O’Donnell as long as 300/1 and you just never know who might turn the corner this season and nab a title at astronomical odds just as Kyren did last season in Shanghai.

Apparently the live TV coverage of this isn’t up to much and we’re still waiting for the new improved streaming service that is yet to replace the World Snooker Live Streaming Channel, not really sure what’s happening on that front.

Following Riga we have another fortnight gap until the potters pack the Imodium for India. It’s a bit like last year in that the start of the season is a little bit stop/start, but once we hit September it’s pretty much blanket snooker all the way through to the end of the season. I just wish they’d not have so many best of sevens.

The draw for the Riga Masters is here and the format is here and it all kicks off on Wednesday and finishes on Friday, at which point we will know if the UK still wants to be part of Europe or not. There are a couple of heldover matches, one sees the return to pro snooker for Welshman Darren Morgan who recently won a European title to bag a wildcard, the other sees Marco Fu taking on a local lady player who the bookies rate at just 1000/1 to take the title when arguably she should be that price to beat Marco, at least Dick Turpin wore a mask.

Recommended Bets: Outright – Kyren Wilson at 22/1 and Dave Gilbert at 80/1. First Round Acca – Jimmy Robertson, Ali Carter, Stuart Bingham, Zhao Xintong and Kyren Wilson pays just on 9/2.   

English Amateur Snooker Board Embraces English Partnership

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:20 am

epsbplamnSaturday saw a change in how amateur snooker is run in England as the National Governing Body status of the English Amateur Snooker Board (EASB) will soon be transferred to the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards (EPSB), once certain conditions requested by the EASB have been met.

The EPSB is the brainchild of WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson and aims to unite amateur snooker under one umbrella organisation, bringing together junior, disabled and ladies snooker as well as the mainstream amateur game.

What does it all mean? Well, one of the initiatives is to introduce a Kitemarking Scheme for what’s left of the falling number of snooker clubs in England, with the aim of making them more welcoming and safer places to be, encouraging more people to take up the sport.

Other stated aims of the project are:

  • Ensuring there are no barriers for talented individuals to reach their full potential.
  • Promoting and marketing the sport to women to increase participation levels.
  • Inspiring facilities that can accommodate disabled players providing equal opportunities for all.
  • Creating pathways for future Paralympians
  • Encouraging children from schools into the club environment ensuring a transition into adult participation in sport in England.
  • Encouraging people over 55 to keep active through Snooker and Billiards, improving the physical and mental health of an ageing population.
  • Promoting the physical and mental health benefits of playing Snooker and Billiards.
  • Educating people through sport. Aimed at improving basic numeracy and literacy of people of all age groups.

Amateur players still reading this (if you haven’t nodded off yet), will probably be scratching their collective heads wondering if this will make any difference to them this season. Well, the short answer is probably not. Whilst it’s all very noble and ticks a lot of political boxes in Jason’s quest to get snooker into the Olympics, it doesn’t seem to address the concerns of many amateurs at the lack of competitive and meaningful competitions to play in this season, following the removal of the European Tour.

The EASB will continue to run their competitions, including the English Amateur Championship and their various ongoing tour contests. But despite claims that this agreement brings together professional and amateur snooker there are still no competitions other than Q-School that offer promotion for amateurs onto the professional ladder.

I’m at a crossroads with my own tournament and only after discussions over the next few weeks will I make a decision whether to run it or not, largely because I am a little discouraged at not being afforded even a sniff at a pro-card for the winner despite 5 years of growth and success, compare this to a recent minuted EASB meeting which expressed serious concern at the lack of participation in their events, I’ve seen quite the opposite.

In short, to me this is about ticking boxes. It is very heavy on wording and political correctness but to me lacks any detail about how amateurs are going to be catered for this season, other than through the existing system of voluntary organisations and unpaid or underpaid helpers. Unfortunately, the plan that myself and Shaun Murphy had in mind seems something that was dead before it even got off the ground despite receiving almost universal support from players and high profile people involved in snooker.

I remain concerned for the future of the amateur sport in the UK despite this latest development. Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

June 5, 2016

Good Week, Bad Week

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:21 am
Happysad

Some left Preston a lot happier than others

The concentration of no fewer than three ranking event qualifying matches in one week in Preston was bound to produce some winners and losers. For some, the first few events are crucial to their chances of staying on the tour and it is precisely these players that would have been looking to hit the ground running in Preston. So who were the biggest winners and losers of the week?

It’s not so much the dosh that those who won all three matches carried off with them, but more the potential this gives them to add to their money pot and in turn move up the rankings when others around them are sat at home. Some who didn’t progress in either the Indian Open, World Open and Riga Masters, will now have all summer to reflect on this, with nothing to play in professionally until the end of August at The Paul Hunter Classic in Germany.

I spoke to a few of the players when I went over to Preston last Sunday and there was mixed views on whether they liked the intensity of playing in three ranking events in the same week, it’s fair to say that most I spoke to didn’t like the format. Personally, I do, but I’m not a player so I’m allowed to. It brings a nice focus to the sport early on in the season and is followed by a break before the tournaments themselves, but you have to feel for those who have gone home potless. I am still not a fan of snooker so early in the season though.

Add to this that World Snooker didn’t release the tour qualification criteria until two of the tournament qualifiers had finished and you have some disgruntled potters on your hands, though no doubt the response from the powers that be, or to be more precise, Barry, would be to shut up and win, then your place looks after itself. He’d then use his line about the sport being brutal no doubt.

Anyway here is a look at the main beneficiaries and the not so fortunate following their week in Lancashire.

WINNERS

It’s been a great week for my mate Allan Taylor who tops the one season ranking list if you sort it by first name (a minor detail) having qualified for all three overseas events, racking up a minimum of £6525 in prize money. It’s great that The Assassin has started the season so positively and I really hope this is the beginning of a great run for him as a nicer fella you could not wish to meet. Other notable names amongst the 17 players to have started the season in style are Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel, Zhou Yuelong (Ghou Yolonge) and Anthony McGill, who will all be looking to the future with hopes of really making their mark this season, Kyren in particular is only a ranking update or so away from a place in the very elite of the sport. Some established names are there too such as Graeme Dott, Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Ryan Day, Mark King and Dark Mavis (Mark Davis). All these players will have left Preston with a smile on their faces after a top weeks work.       

LOSERS

At the other end of the spectrum are those who leave Preston with not a lot to look forward to for the next three months. There are a few in there that you might have predicted would face a stiff challenge but there are others who will leave wondering if they have missed the early season boat, amongst them are Craig Steadman, Scott Donaldson, Paul Davison and Syd Wilson.

Mustard

Mustard

THE IN-BETWEENERS

There will be players who are in neither camp who will still consider the week in Preston to have been largely positive and it is at this point we showcase the Snookerbacker Classic Champion Sam Craigie, who despite missing out on India, managed to take his first big scalp in Ken Doherty to qualify for the World Open, he also qualified for Riga so has already earned at least £4525 which puts him on a par with the likes of Ali Carter, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Judd Trump, Michael Holt and Neil Robertson. Players like Mike Dunn, Peter Ebdon, Stephen Maguire and Marco Fu won’t lose much sleep having qualified for India and China but not Riga, while Shaun Murphy having qualified for India managed to wangle his World Open match against Sanderson Lam being held over to the main venue by virtue of the fact he was getting married. Those probably less satisfied with their week’s work having only qualified for Riga include Chris Wakelin, Tian Pengfei, Ken Doherty, Sean O’Sullivan and Chen Zhe.

THE NO-SHOWS

Ronnie O’Sullivan. Igor Figueiredo. Kritsanut Lertsattayatthorn (That’s easy for you to say…). Rouzi Maimati, Mei Xiwen (both only confirmed as Chinese nominations for the tour this week). Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Aditya Mehta had qualifying matches held over to their respective country events but did not enter either of the other two. Mark Allen also opted out of all three events, despite entering Riga, obviously not realising that the qualifiers would be in Preston, he like me is probably not a big fan of this holiday season snooker.

THE EXCLUDED

Leo Fernandez was suspended and awaits a hearing over an alleged breach of betting regulations relating to a match in the World Championship Qualifiers. World Snooker believe Leo has a ‘case to answer’ in relation to suspicious betting patterns. The incident does not, I believe, relate to the outcome of the match and rather centres around an incident during it.

You can take a look at all early season rankings here.

June 3, 2016

All Change

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:57 am

penWorld Snooker finally revealed their plans for tour qualification yesterday after much hounding by players and fans on social media, after all the season did start last weekend so it would have been a good idea to tell players in advance. It revealed a change to the way players can stay or be promoted on to the main professional circuit next season.

Where once there was the EPTC Order of Merit to pluck 8 players from to remain on the tour, there is now a one season ranking list where the top 8 who aren’t in the top 64 will remain on tour with a fresh 2 year card. Clear? OK we’ll move on to the next one.

Where once there was the EPTC/EBSA Amateur ranking list from the 6 European Tour events, we now have a similar system from the 2 that remain, namely the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany and the Gibraltar Open, in errmm, Gibraltar. The top eight amateurs from this list being forwarded to a play off to play for two tour cards. These are of course open to all nationalities. 

Well, you can probably guess which one of these I am fine with and which one I am not.

You read it correctly. Amateur players in the UK now have to travel to Germany and Gibraltar to stand any chance, outside of Q-School, of turning professional. The last two seasons have been a feast for the amateurs though very costly, this season we are entering the famine, which also doesn’t come cheap.

You may remember that last week myself and Shaun Murphy announced our proposal for the future of the amateur game, it was read by over 30,000 people and even picked up coverage on the BBC. It was met with overwhelming positivity by a sometimes sceptical snooker community and discussions between the WPBSA, World Snooker, Shaun and I have been going on in the background.

I’m not stupid enough quite yet to spit the dummy out, there is nothing to suggest that we still might not be able to do something for the amateurs this season, outside of a scaled down Snookerbacker Classic. But with news yesterday of another 2 main tour nominations being given to China, in addition to the IBSF nominations and the tour cards for the Asian Champion and Asian Under-21 Champion, I do have to ask why the same cannot be extended to the UK, where the sport is as popular as ever amongst amateur players and let’s face it, the standard is higher than all other areas outside Asia, for now at least.

Like I say, discussions are ongoing, some more positive than others. But at least now the alternative for amateurs is out in the open and up for discussion. If you are a promising young player or even one of the many that have been steadily improving over the last few years thanks to the EPTC circuit and feel ready to take that next step up into the professional game, as things stand your options this season are limited to three competitions. That’s a pretty grim prospect for the new breed of budding professionals and a serious worry for the future of the sport in the UK, you can’t build a house on shaky foundations.  

With this in mind and the World Snooker masterplan now revealed, I wonder, can they really afford to close the door on our proposal?

May 26, 2016

Qualifying Week in Preston

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:13 am

PrestonThe Guild Hall in Preston was once synonymous with top level snooker. It was the home of the Coral UK Championship in the golden years and has hosted some of snooker’s most epic matches. Unfortunately since those days it’s been mothballed by the snooker world and the ghosts of those great matches left to hang in the air. But this week, after a brief revisit over the last couple of seasons, snooker is back at its old stomping ground for a cluster of three qualifying events.

We won’t be seeing quite the level of excitement of those bygone days, indeed it is unfortunate for me to report that unless you sign up for a bookies account, you won’t be able to see anything at all given that Livesport is no more and we’re yet to be given a replacement, which is what I thought all the champagne flowing at The Crucible was all about when Barry reeled out Eurosport? Maybe I missed the point on that one.

Anyway, the three events that are playing their first round matches from Saturday onwards are the Indian Open (Best of 7’s – boooo) which has a large number of Q-School top-ups making up the first round, The World Open (Best of 9’s – yay) and The Riga Masters (Best of 7’s – boooboooboooo).

It’s a novel approach to the qualifiers lumping them together like this but I think it makes perfect sense and really makes it quite an exciting start to the season. Those who win all their three qualifying matches will feel a lot better about the weeks ahead than those who lose all three. Just bear this in mind, if anyone does lose all three, which I am sure some will, they will not be playing competitively again until the end of August – 3 months from their last match, that’s some gap in their season and perhaps the dawn of a new era without the EPTC’s which used to provide such an effective filler – are we missing them already? I know the amateurs are. 

Preston is also a chance for the new professionals to test themselves for the first time, among them the SB Classic Champion Sam Craigie, who I think will ruffle a few feathers this season, he starts out against David Grace in the Indian qualifier.

It’s just a shame that a lot of people won’t be able to watch these.

If you are in the area you can always pop over with your fiver and go in and watch it live of course. There are plenty of reasons to, as almost every session will have a top player in action somewhere or other. I’m popping over there on Sunday for a watch so will report back with my view of how it is all set up. It will be a far cry from when I used to go to the UK Finals as Nipperbacker I would think, the place was electrifying then and clouded in smoke, I think Sunday will be a little more sedate than that, but not too much more I hope.

The draw for the Indian Open is here.

The draw for the World Open is here.

The draw for the Riga Masters is here.

The format of the matches including the ones that you can watch on the bookie sites is here.

There are so many matches I don’t really know where to start with a bet but might post up a few as the week goes on.   

May 23, 2016

A Decent Proposal

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:51 am
The proposal has some serious backing.

The proposal has some serious backing.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will probably not have failed to notice that it’s that time of the year again where I come up with some idea or other for the year ahead, or in this case, a few years ahead. Just last week myself and none other than former World Champion Shaun Murphy submitted a proposal to the WPBSA designed to revolutionise amateur snooker in the UK and Europe for many years to come.

Amateur players that I speak to are concerned at the lack of events that they have to play in next season. The removal of the EPTC tour will hit them hardest and with no sign as yet of any tour cards being offered for an alternative amateur circuit it seems that as things stand the only option available will be Q-School, which is quite a long way off.

That is why I decided to write down a plan together with Shaun for consideration. Shaun is looking to put together a Junior Series, as part of the main proposal. His plan is to stage a series of Junior events with the winner receiving a year’s worth of coaching and mentoring from him, as well as free entry for the following season onto the main amateur tour.

Shaun says ‘The aim of the Junior Series will be to encourage participation amongst juniors of all abilities and to find the next stars of the future. When I competed as a junior and thanks to Malcolm Thorne, we had junior events week-in week-out and the standard of play rose because of that. I want to see that return and go further by offering The Shaun Murphy Scholarship which will take the winner of the series and give them a year of tuition with myself and entry onto the amateur tour, worth £1000, similar to the Faldo Series in golf’.

The main tour itself will be not dissimilar to the current professional tour. There will be 10 monthly events, each charging an entry fee of £100 and each with a prize money pot of at least £6000, with the winner of each event receiving £2000 and each stage below half of that, down to the losers in the last 16 who will each get £125. So in all we’d have an amateur tour with a total prize fund of at least £60,000 and the potential for lots of players to earn a decent slice of that.

The 10 events would be staged across the UK and Mainland Europe at suitable venues. Venues with space, but perhaps lacking the quality of tables would be encouraged to bid for funding to upgrade their facilities.

All events would count towards a season-long money list, from which the top two players would gain a main tour card. With those ranked 3-18 playing off in a 16 player tournament for a further main tour card. The tour would be open to all players, regardless of nationality.

Both Shaun and myself see this as a workable model for the future of amateur snooker and we are both keen to get going. It will take some time to come into action and if accepted we could see it starting in time for season 2017/18. Interim arrangements for this new season would have to be discussed if this proposal is accepted.

We welcome any comments about this from players and public alike. We’ve had messages of support from a lot of people in the snooker world and we really appreciate that. Our aim is to professionalise the amateur game and have a structure that gets amateurs playing highly competitive snooker regularly, this of course would be supplemented by existing competition like the national amateur championships and the pro-ams and amateur tournaments that are run regularly by David Grace in Leeds and Andrew Norman in Gloucester.

The Snookerbacker Classic

Obviously if this proposal is accepted, the SB Classic will have served its purpose and will either cease to be or be run in a very small window. This season, I have decided to scale it back a little and will be releasing dates for 4 qualifying events, all to be held in Gloucester soon. These will be 32 player events with 4 qualifiers to the Grand Finals from each, making up the 16, the entry fee will rise to £100 per event. Prize money will be dependent on sponsorship but I will be looking to award the winner at least the equivalent £3000 that Sam Craigie won last season, hopefully more than that. More news on that will follow soon. I have also asked the WPBSA if this year’s winner can have an extra incentive and I am waiting to hear back from them on that. 

May 10, 2016

Join The Q – Q School Commences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:14 am
It's back to school for the potters.

It’s back to school for the potters.

All eyes from tomorrow focus on the Meadowside Centre in Burton as a total of 182 amateur players line up to try and nab one of the twelve remaining tour cards on offer via the annual Q-School.

Apparently the decision to offer four further cards on top of the usual eight was taken ‘because of the demand and high number of entries’ this year. This does strike me as a little odd as surely there was an agreed criteria and structure in place for qualification onto the main tour before entries were opened up? It just makes me wonder where these magical four extra places came from and where/who will lose out as a result? That’s not really been made very clear, as hasn’t the offerings for amateurs next season other than the odd vague response to a tweet.

Anyway, there are plenty of familiar names competing including some of the former professionals that fell off the tour this season, among them are the likes of Tony Drago, Gerard Greene, Cao Yupeng, Barry Pinches, Joel Walker, Craig Steadman (who incredibly qualified to play Ronnie at The Crucible only 12 months ago and now finds himself here) and Peter Lines.

They will be competing against the top amateur players in the sport, many of whom will be familiar both from the EPTC circuit and the Snookerbacker Classic. This season’s SBC runner-up and subsequent English Amateur Champion Jamie Bodle, as well as semi-finalists Jamie Clarke and Gary Thomson and former champion Ant Parsons are all in the mix along with a host of other SBC regulars.

It’s a tough school out there and as ever the four semi-finalists from the two events get their two year card, in addition this year the four highest on the ongoing Order of Merit list over the two events will join them on the main tour, a point is scored on this list for every frame won.

It’s a shame none of the bookies have priced any qualification market up as it would have made it more interesting for us neutral observers, but the best of luck to all involved, especially the ones I have got to know well over the last few years.

The draw for Event 1 is here and Event 2 here.

May 3, 2016

Until next season….

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:00 pm

The season is now officially over and seeing as the running order for next season, which begins next week with Q-School), isn’t yet available on the official website, here’s a photograph of the banner from the Winter Gardens for anyone who plans their life around snooker, like anyone is that sad….

See you all on the other side and thanks for continuing to tune in, the site has had nearly 65,000 visitors over the last 17 days, you really ought to find something better to do.

Calendar

World Champion and Runner Up Interviews

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:22 am

It’s the end of another long season and time for a short break before it all kicks off again. Congratulations to Mark Selby who thoroughly deserved the win over Ding last night. Here is what they both had to say after the match.

Mark Selby, 2016 World Champion

Ding Junhui, Runner Up

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