Ronnie O’Sullivan and others has been voicing their controversial opinion all last week at the UK Championship about the current 128 player setup
O’Sullivan talking about the current 128 man tour said; “Nobody knows them, their [bottom 64] never gonna get anywhere.”
The current system allows for 128 players to play on the professional snooker tour, but according to O’Sullivan and a few other top players, they lack the talent required to make it to the very top of the game. In a sense, these players will often become nothing more than journey men; confined to the hidden snooker tables at events.
Some lower ranked players have complained about the earnings they receive, saying they can’t afford to pay for the expenses and support their lives back home.
In an attempt to help these lower ranked professionals, players such as Mark Allen have suggested giving the players £1000 even if they lose in the first round of an event. That way the players can afford the expensive entry fees and the travel associated with the sport.
Barry Hearn the chairman of World snooker said;
I don’t subsidize mediocrity .If players don’t win their first round matches, they don’t get paid.”
He went on to say; To those players not winning enough matches, either improve or look for another job.”
Even Mark Selby has gotten involved, suggesting that the current format should be split into a 2 tier system.
Similarly O’Sullivan said;
“Actually this [tour] is an amateur and pro, all in one” system “and it doesn’t work.”
” There’s a lot of players out there and they cant play. It’s as simple as that and no disrespect. They just can’t play, their never gonna be good enough.
O’Sullivan went on to suggest a 64 man tour, with 32 players being relegated every year;
“32 come in, 32 go out.”
It’s long been known that China is the way forward for snooker. More and more prize money being offered in the far east every year along with bigger audiences and bigger sponsorships. With that in mind, O’Sullivan said;
“China is where it’s at now. They money is there. They just don’t want 128 players, they want the top 16, top 32. They want the cream of the cream and that’s the top 32.”
Some argue that the game’s money is top-heavy and not evenly spread out.
For some players, the 128 format has been a godsend. Anthony Hamilton gave a touching interview at the Northern Ireland Trophy about how ‘broke’ he was. If it wasn’t for the 128 player format, he’d be out working in a real job and not playing snooker. Northern Ireland Trophy winner, Mark King said “I had to borrow money to play this week”.
One thing is for sure, the debate around the pay and quality of snooker events will continue for a long time to come.