WORLD Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has revealed legends including Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry will be invited to play in major rankings events should places be available for them.
Hearn announced on Wednesday the pair, as well as other legends of the game, will receive ‘World Snooker Invitations’ to play in events over the next two seasons but only on the circumstance that the full rota of 128 professional players do not enter to play.
It means Davis could still play in snooker’s top events despite dropping off the tour earlier this month and paves the way for seven-times world champion Hendry to make a sensational comeback should he still wish to do so after retiring two years ago.
The players to receive World Snooker Invitations will be formally announced following the World Championship. The decision on who is selected will be based on life-time earnings and who have won multiple ranking titles.
Hearn said: “It doesn’t take a genius to say two of the names: Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis will receive invitations, and we have the opportunity should we feel it necessary to invite other players up to a maximum of four.”
Hearn also announced significant changes to the World Championship Qualifying format which from next season will see players outside the top 16 of the world rankings, following the China Open, have to win three matches to qualify for the Crucible. Matches will remain best out of 19 frames.
The changes have been made as part of Hearn’s continued plans to create fairness and a level playing field for all within the game. As normal procedure, the top 16 will play in the opening round of the World Championship.
“Further steps to strengthen our tour by moving closer to a completely level playing field with a 128-player flat draw are always on my mind,” Hearn added.
“I want a system in snooker that’s totally open, totally transparent and totally available to every player that picks up a cue, based on fairness and quality of play.”
Hearn also revealed the World Championship will be extended to 144 players including the invitation of all previous world champions. The qualifiers will see the top 64 seeded and a random draw for remaining players.
It was also announced more prize money would be rewarded for the big event with an extra £135,000 in the pot. But the extra money will spread out during the lower rounds with the winner still receiving £300,000.
Other announcements included negotiations were underway for the flat format structure to be adopted in the Shanghai Masters and the Australian Open in the future