Thursday should really have been a quiet day with a break in the Champion of Champions event due to ITV 4's Europa league commitments,but this was not to be,as a heated discussion among players,bloggers & Barry Hearn,brought to a head again the problems with the new flat 128 draw.
This latest flare up was sparked by an article in this months Snooker Scene magazine where it was pointed out, in a major change in policy, that in future the defending champion,the world champion and the next two highest ranked players from the host country will have their first round matches held over to the main venue.Added to this the loser in these held old over matches will get an extra £2000,but this wont count towards their rankings.
This of course was sparked by the failure of Ding to qualify for both the Wuxi Classic & the International Championship,a situation which no doubt had a bearing on the attendance at both these events,but it flies in the face of the level playing field for all,that the flat system was supposed to bring to our game.
This is the latest in a number of teething problems that this new system has encountered.To begin with both the Shanghai Masters & Australian Open both initially refused to play ball although the Australian Open will revert to it next year.
We then we had the situation with the UK Championship last years where the BBC insisted on some matches been kept back until they commenced broadcasting,which resulted in a long and confusing week of action which was hard to keep on top of for those of us trying our best too,never mind the casual snooker fan.
From here we went to the German Masters where,with a first round played before christmas in the UK we still had 64 players squeezed into a five day tournament,resulting in what was previously one of the most enjoyable tournaments on the circuit becoming.for the first few days at least,a complete mess.
This was no the way it supposed to be. This flattening of the draw along with the new ranking system based on prizemoney earned,would make the sport the meritocracy that Barry Hearn had dreamt of.Unfortunately when you start meddling with the draw for commercial reasons that immediately goes out the window.
So what can be done?
Well one of the suggestions was to go back to the old system.I certainly don't think any player that was good enough was prevented from progressing in the game because of it,but just how it would tie in with the rankings based on prize money is debatable.
Another suggestion is that all 128 players should be at the main tournament venue.This of course in principle sounds the perfect solution,but from a logistical point of view it would be almost impossible to bring about..Firstly you would need venues big enough to house all the matches before you even start to talk about the travelling costs involved for the players.Besides this is what we have now at York and last year made a dogs dinners of the UK Championship.
Another solution would be to reduce the number of professionals on tour to say 64,but I'm not sure many of the lower ranked players would agree with that.
These suggestions are of course only pie in the sky for the moment as I don't see things changing anytime soon. When this flat system was first mooted it did seem a solid idea on paper,but for me its now like one of those non state run schools where the children learn things like basket weaving alongside their normal school work and don't sit any state exams-Wonderful in principle but you still wouldn't take the chance on sending your child to one.