A selection of quotes worthy of highlighting:
The one thing we were doing back then is we were playing 3 or 4 times a week. We used to play a pro-am on a Saturday, a pro-am on a Sunday, and then we’d play a small invitation event in a club somewhere during the week where we’d all put £100 in and play for it. We were full time; we were playing full time and although we were amateurs we were all playing every single day, somewhere. And that’s one thing you see on the tour now.
Amen to that, the more events the better. Some are complaining of saturation. Remember 6 ranking events per season? I am all for increasing the calendar and getting all the players playing as much as possible. No one is forced to play every event but it's a good thing having the calendar stacked out. Look at golf and tennis and the number of events going on worldwide in those sports.
I was one of the instigators in setting up World Snooker Limited as a separate commercial company, some time ago. The idea of that company was to do exactly what is in place now, to broker deals with promoters, investor partners, and actually try and grow the commercial rights away from the governing body.
Barry Hearn is Chairman of World Snooker Ltd, in charge of growing the commercial rights. Jason Ferguson is Chairman of the WPBSA, in charge of growing the game of snooker and looking after the players interests. Barry couldn't do Jason's job to the same standard and I dare say vice versa, so for me splitting the game into two parts has been proven right and as long as the two Chairmen in these positions work together the game will thrive.
...let’s say we have a new event in India. The likelihood is that we will want to hold over two of those matches for the Indian players. And I’m sure that that will eventually happen in China as well where they will want to hold over some of their best matches for the final stages. So we’ll certainly have to accommodate for a few extra matches at the venue.
Some of the players to be fair are raising concerns over that and asking whether it’s fair or not because it’s possible you could get the seeds in round 2 always playing at the venue. That is certainly a concern of mine as well, I think there are some issues there which we’ll need to iron out.
People will complain but you can see the situation from the point of view of keeping sponsors happy and being fair to the players. I would think they will end up trying to limit the number of games held over to the venue to a fixed number and base this on home players or particularly tasty matches between well known players. Over the course of a season I think they will find a balance to make sure your Ronnie's of the world don't always play at the venue from round 1 or 2, and that players who do end up with more matches being held over than others will have earned it through performances. This has been a talking point of late and it will be interesting to see how they deal with it.
If a player from say Jordan or the Middle East or anywhere else wants to be a professional snooker player, there has to be a career path for that person to qualify. And over the years there just hasn’t been the opportunity. Without having somebody to pay for that person to go and live in the UK for 3 or 4 years to see if they can make it, there just hasn’t been that opportunity, and I’m pleased to say that that is changing, fast.
It is so refreshing to hear a WPBSA Chairman bring this up because for years it was a major concern and as he says, things are changing for the better on this front and will continue to improve.
The encouragement that it gave people to climb a ranking system was incredible. You could get to the top and actually qualify for the tour. Out of that have come some of the ideas that we’ve got out there now..... the EBSA ranking list has been running alongside the PTC ranking list through some amateur events that we’ve been running, and the top 3 qualifiers from that system will qualify for tour spots.
Now we get to see what the idea is behind these other events for amateurs being held during the EPTC events. It's not perfect because amateurs having a good run have ended up having to choose which event to carry on playing in, but the idea of creating an amateur ranking list running alongside the professional one will inspire the amateurs and is a great move. Hopefully this list will become more and more significant when it comes to amateurs filling up spots made vacant from non-entries in 128 flat draw professional events. And if the names are picked from the amateur list then it is a lot fairer than the existing wildcard system because the players receiving invites will have earned them. The player in top spot will also not always be guaranteed a slot in the next event because the amateur list will keep moving and changing over time as well as the professional one.
As part of this new structure, we believe that we will get to a stage where we don’t have the wildcards coming in as seeds in a later round. That’s certainly my target.
This is the news everyone has been waiting to hear and I'm sure many players and commenters will be relieved to hear the top man talking along these lines.
I believe that we have outgrown the facilities that we’ve got there now, which is why we’ve been staging the qualifiers in the badminton hall..... There’s an argument to say that we may need up to 16 tables. Now if we do, then what I don’t want to see is 16 cubicles if you’ve got top players playing in there. It has to be 16 arenas. It has to look proper and it has to be accessible to people.
A new facility in Sheffield and with proper ambitions for it to be used as a venue in its own right where the public can go and watch the opening rounds of tournaments, and which can be used in conjunction with the Crucible to house the World Championships in a 128 flat draw format. I don't know about anyone else, but this concept has certainly got my juices flowing and I hope to god it happens.
For me the Wimbledon format is the one that works. You know, let’s cut to the centre table, let’s see what’s going on on an outside court where, you know, John Higgins is 4-1 down to a newcomer. We’re looking for stories, we’re looking for new blood to come through, we’re looking for those exciting moments which create news for us.
You can't argue with this vision. This is the one which brings snooker well and truly into the decies and beyond.
At heart I am still a snooker player and I’m still quite traditional in the way the game is played and whilst we can be quite radical with structures, what we mustn’t do is change the fundamental principles of the game. Snooker is a great product!
Jason understands that the championship format of snooker is the only one that counts and the only one which is a sport. You can do all your shot clock nonsense and power snooker and whatever else, but there's only one version of snooker that is a real sport and that matters in the general scheme of things.
For me, it’s all about the customer experience. You’ve got to give people a good night out. That’s the thing with live snooker, it’s not about going and sitting still and not speaking a word all night, it’s about customer experience and if we want to keep our customers then we’ve got to give them what they want.
Allowing the paying public to roam the venue and choose their matches will definitely help to bring the crowds in because once you've been an event like this, you will not want to stay at home and watch on tv any longer when you can reasonably get to a venue. It looks like this will be more the way the game is heading and thank god for that.
...if you can say you’ve got this multi-table format then you can update the ranking list after every tournament because the qualifying for the next tournament won’t have already taken place. And that’s where we’re moving to. We’d like to get to a position where you’re almost running a live system all year. That would be fabulous for everybody.
Ok it may be a money list, but at least it will be properly rolling in the true sense, and combined with the top 64 being seeded and the rest being drawn from a hat, it guarantees a different draw for each event.
Anyway, that's enough quoting, some things were worth repeating. There's plenty of other encouraging stuff from the interview as well. If you're not excited by any of it then you're not a snooker fan as far as I'm concerned.