Joe Perry wore a broad smile as he left Crondon Park golf club in Essex last night as the winner of the inaugural Championship League.
What an end to the season it’s been for Perry. He picked up £52,000 for reaching the semi-finals of the 888.com World Championship and now has another £29,100 and a place in the lucrative Premier League next season.
Perry has also risen to 12th in the world rankings, the highest position of his 17-year professional career.
And he was the first to admit that the new Championship League has provided the springboard to this new run of form.
This has been a welcome snooker success story. There were 25 players in the event and not one expressed even mild criticism of it. And why would they? It’s brought the perfect mix of high quality match practice and financial reward to players forced to spend long periods twiddling their thumbs, if not their cues, due to the fragmented nature of the pro circuit.
Look at Ali Carter. He played in all seven qualifying groups of the League and ended up in the world final.
Like Perry, Carter has thus rediscovered his enthusiasm for playing snooker. A day after losing in Group 7 he got on a plane and flew to China as a late call up for an invitation tournament following the withdrawal of Ronnie O’Sullivan.
I suspect that 12 months ago he wouldn’t have fancied it but, right now, it seems he can’t get enough of snooker.
The Championship League was unique as it was targeted at the betting community and shown live on the web on betting sites.
All three sites – betfair.com, bet365.com and williamhill.com – have said that they regard the new tournament as a welcome development.
It was superbly run by Matchroom, a professional but refreshingly laidback company who tweaked what needed to be tweaked in the format and ensured it all ran smoothly.
Perform provided excellent coverage on the web. They did not have the resources of the major television broadcasters but their enthusiasm and commitment to the event enhanced it considerably.
Behind the scenes, the players all enjoyed some banter and there was a pleasant, relaxed feel about proceedings, although this naturally changed in the match arena.
The staff at Crondon Park also went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome.
The event will return in 2009.
I suspect those players who turned it down this year will be clambering to get in it next time around.