World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn was at the Betfred World Championship today to brief media on plans for next season.
The trophy for The Masters will be renamed the Paul Hunter trophy in perpetuity, in memory of the three-time Masters champion who died in 2006.
There will be 18 ranking events in 2016/17, with a target of 20 ranking events in 2017/18.
Next season, total prize money for the World Snooker Tour will hit £10 million for the first time ever.
There will be further major announcements made next Thursday, April 28th.
Hearn said: “This year we acknowledge and remember ten years since the passing of Paul Hunter. A sad loss for the game, a talent that was mercurial. When people talk about personality in sport, Paul Hunter had it in spades. The Masters trophy will be renamed the Paul Hunter Trophy in memory of Paul and I think snooker fans around the world will appreciate that gesture to a great, great player.”
On next season’s plans he added: “We will have 18 ranking events and that is scheduled to grow to a minimum of 20. And for the first time in the history of snooker we will hit our prize money target of £10 million, which again over the next few years is set to grow dramatically.
“The opportunities for sports people at the top end are growing. We are obviously a sport that has led from the front. The winners’ rewards are growing dramatically because that is how sport is working. We are aware of our responsibilities to all professional snooker players to give them the opportunity to show their talent. It is not and never will be a sponsored boy’s club. It’s tough and we have seen in this tournament already how tough the competition is so far as five of the top 16 have already fallen in the first round. Players coming from the qualifying rounds have emerged through a brutal test and I find it fascinating to listen to the arguments of both sides as to the fairness of that. It is a brutally open system where the best shall survive.”
Hearn also spoke about Steve Davis, his friend for the past four decades, who announced his retirement from competitive snooker last Sunday.
He said: “I have been honoured to manage the career of Steve Davis for 40 years. I don’t think there is anyone that has ever had such a period of time representing one individual sportsman, except perhaps Mark McCormack with Arnold Palmer. I was in America on Sunday but what I saw on TV was the most amazing, emotional response of love from snooker fans and snooker players towards an all-time great. The pictures I saw gave me a lump in my throat, it was a fantastic reception.”