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.