Does snooker deserve a better season opener than the ‘boring’ Championship League?

The new snooker season has begun but you could say it’s been a damp squib of a start.

The Championship League – the curtain raiser for the 2021/2022 snooker campaign has now been going on for 18 days with TV coverage on a number of Sky Sports channels as well as the Matchroom website.

But let’s be honest – it has not got the pulses racing among snooker fans.

You could say the tournament, which sees players compete in group matches throughout the day, is not designed to create huge excitement for a TV audience.

Instead, it could be argued, that it is a way to get players some much-needed table time – just like the old PTC competitions did a decade or so ago.

The fact there is no live audience echoes that side of the argument. It certainly doesn’t help its image but that has been the case from the very start, so nothing new there.

However, there is a sense in the snooker community that the tournament is perhaps in need of a major rethink. Or does snooker deserve a more exciting opening tournament?

Today was the 19th day of the competition. Yes…. the 19th day.

It’s considerably longer than the sport’s showcase tournament the World Championship – and many in the game say 17 days of Crucible joy is too long despite the drama it creates!

Accomplished snooker writer David Caulfield – who provides daily reports in the world of snooker on his website Snooker HQ – suggested it was time for a change.

He recently tweeted: “I can obviously understand its purpose, but the ongoing Championship League is the most utterly boring tournament one could possibly think of constructing.”

Brave words from a well-respected writer of the game who loves snooker.

Matchroom managing director Emily Frazer replied to the tweet, saying the viewing figures for matches shown so far did not echo with Mr Caulfield’s viewpoint.

But good viewing figures doesn’t necessarily mean they are watching an exciting tournament.

Players don’t seem too excited about the concept as well.

Mark Williams – three-times world champion – called the tournament a “league thing” in a recent tweet.

He tweeted: “I only listened to a couple of frames in this league thing going on and Stephen Hallworth on the comms (sic) box is very good what I heard.”

“League thing” – hardly the mostly glowing reference for what is a ranking event.

Mark Williams. Picture by Monique Limbos

Make no mistake the Championship League last year and it’s long format came at a good time for snooker and for sports fans in general who had not seen live sport in what felt a long time due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The fact ITV showed it gave it some gravatas. But that’s not been the case this time around.

It’s arrival in June last year meant snooker was one of the first sports back on the TV with the nation’s top sports such as football and cricket – at the time – still weeks away from return.

It also allowed snooker players to get some table time in ahead of the World Championship which took place in July and August.

But this Championship League is simply not exciting enough for what is a season opener. The format is too long and in my opinion provides little interest. What are the consequences for a player losing all his/her matches?

Surely there is a more exciting way for players to get some competitive match practice in to start the new season.

Maybe get in the Snooker Shoot Out as the season opener? Or maybe start the season with a week-long ranking event.

The return of the British Open awaits us in a few days time and we can all feel excited about its return with ITV Sport covering it all week.

I’m sure many will say that the season actually starts next week!

Snooker Chat Editor – Nigel Slater

What do you think of the Championship League?

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