SNOOKER’S main tour circuit should be halved into two divisions with players relegated and promoted to make it more ‘aspirational’ – that’s the view of world number six Shaun Murphy.
The former world champion has called on snooker chiefs to restructure the model, saying it’s current size of 128 players is too big and claims it makes the tour less appealing than it used to be years ago.
His proposal is to cut the professional snooker tour in half so it can be made up of 64 players. The remaining 64 players will then compete in a separate World Challenge tour – competing in a number of events in a bid to gain promotion onto the main tour.
He said there should be a system in place where the top 48 of the World Tour remain on the circuit with the bottom 16 relegated to the challenge tour and the top 16 of the challenge tour then earning promotion to the main tour.
But World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has ruled out making any changes and responded to Murphy’s proposal by insisting the current format is ‘tough but fair’ to all players.
Hearn’s introduction of a ‘flat-draw system’, which has seen all players compete in tournaments from the very first round (excluding the World Championship and the Shanghai Masters), has caused criticism from some of the world’s top players who have publicly stated their concerns as to the fairness of the changes.
But Hearn has repeatedly defended the changes saying top players should prove they are the best by competing in the lower rounds.
Murphy, who reached the World Championship final this year, said on his blog the proposal for change would eliminate tour players having to qualify for main events and ensure they are playing on the world’s biggest stage rather than playing on tables at the back of arenas.
“In a nutshell I think there are too many players out here at the moment,” he said.
“If we had a main tour of 64 then those elite professionals would be able to claim that they were truly world tour players, and benefit accordingly.
“Tour players shouldn’t have to qualify, they should be at the main venues, in arenas, thrilling crowds with their play all around the world. A tour of 64 would also bring the dream of having all players starting in the first round of EVERY tournament much nearer. In fact I think it would ensure it.
“No longer would we have mammoth World qualifiers, UK Championships with the first few rounds being played out in the back somewhere away from the lights and the action. We wouldn’t have to wait a ridiculous amount of time for draws and formats to come out.
“Being on tour would mean something, it would be aspirational. And that’s what we need more of in snooker.
“I guess that the real message of what I’m trying to say is that reaching the World Snooker Tour should be like reaching the promised land. It should be glamorous, lucrative, life changing and as I said earlier, aspirational.
“We need youngsters of the future to look at the World Snooker Tour and say, “that’s where I want to be…up there, competing for wins, trophies, money, in big arenas around the world and in front of thousands of fans.”
But Hearn ruled out making changes saying on Twitter: “Love the tour as it stands. Equal opportunity. 128 players Proof it’s working – prize money up from 3.5-10 million.
“Look at the number of players outside top 64 beating players inside top 64.That means they deserve their chance.”
Two times world championship finalist Ali Carter took to Twitter to agree with Murphy’s thoughts.
Carter, who recently won the Paul Hunter Classic title, said: “couldn’t agree more, 64 on tour, flat draw no matches held over, no qualifiers!! Fair for all!!
“Everyone in the 64 earns a good living, and that’s the goal for challenge your players aspire to…you should be on the board.”
And former world champion Mark Williams tweeted Murphy’s link to his blog article to Hearn saying ‘hope you read this Bazza’.
But snooker writer David Caulfield, author of SnookerHQ website, said the move could ‘damage’ the future of the game.
He said on Twitter: “Don’t agree at all with reducing the tour to only 64. It would be a significant step backwards and damage the sport globally.”
Murphy’s thoughts can be read by visiting http://www.shaunmurphy.net/news/time-for-a-restructure.