What is the point in wildcards for the Masters? They can only be to boost ticket sales and media interest.
Two are available and, with almost perfect symmetry, there are two obvious candidates: Ding Jun Hui and Jimmy White. Yet World Snooker plan to run a qualifying tournament for the second place, meaning that unless Ding or White wins it one of them will miss out.
This has been done to ‘give all the members a chance’ of playing in the tournament. Actually, they already have this chance. All they need to do is get in the top 16. Obviously, this is tough but the Masters is supposed to be for the elite. That’s the whole point of the tournament.
Ding ludicrously missed out last year even though he’d won two of the previous four ranking titles. The decision to ‘give all the members a chance’ actually resulted in only 48 entries from a main tour of 96.
Snooker has long had global aspirations and, through Ding and the Chinese market, they are being realised. World Snooker did a fine job of establishing the China Open in Beijing two seasons ago and ran another excellent event earlier this year. Ding is key to this and, put simply, he must be given as much exposure as is possible.
White is very much on the back nine of his career having dropped to 35th in the world rankings but he remains a hugely popular figure and the game’s leading draw.
The Masters is likely to be played at the Wembley Arena, round the corner from the Conference Centre, which has been demolished is part of the stadium redevelopment. White’s continuing Wembley presence would guarantee plenty of press coverage and, despite his alarming decline in form, his fortunes in this tournament in recent years have been fairly good. He certainly wouldn’t just be making up the numbers.
No disrespect to whoever wins the qualifying event, but having, for example, the world no.40 – whoever he is (I’ve just checked, it’s Dominic Dale) – wouldn’t do as much for the event as having both Ding and White there.
As it transpires, one of them will now have to win the qualifying tournament to ensure this.
This attitude - making decisions not on commercial grounds but to keep the rank and file happy - is what has held snooker back for far too long.