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Barry Hearn Press Conference

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn staged a press conference at the Betfred World Championship today to announce, among other things:

The new Tour Championship will join ITV’s series of events – for more on that click here

The Shoot Out will be televised by Eurosport and Quest – for more on that click here

Here’s what Hearn said:

Prize money

“The first announcement today is confirmation of the change in prize money for our blue riband event, the World Snooker Championship. We’ve had a meteoric rise in prize money in the eight years since World Snooker was taken over. It started off at £3.5 million and just five or six tournaments, this year it will be just shy of £14 million. Next year the prize money will increase to over £15 million, and we’re on our way to an achievable £20 million prize fund within the next couple of years.

“The winner’s cheque for next year’s World Championship will be £500,000. The total prize fund will be £2.25 million. We’re going to make quite a few prize money changes next year, but the concentration of those changes, outside of the World Championship, will be predominantly at the second and third round loser stage. We are seeing the prize money going deeper into the 128 pros, and I want to accelerate that to make sure that these guys show me total dedication to their sport. I’ve got to let them feed themselves and their families, to make their lives a little bit easier.

“We’re in talks regarding a number of new ranking events for next year. I’d be happy to get one more, frankly, but I’ll get it at the price I want, not at a price that’s just to create another event because we don’t need it. “

Tour Championship

“ITV will add the Tour Championship to their schedule. We will go top 32 on the one-year ranking list for the World Grand Prix, top 16 for the Players Championship, and then top 8 for the Tour Championship. I make no apology for nicking this idea from golf’s FedEx Cup, but if it works for them it’ll work for us.

“Along the way we’ll also see changes in formats and structures. For example, in the Tour Championship, matches will be decided over the best of 17, the best of 19, and the best of 25 frames. The winner of the World Grand Prix will get £100,000, the Players Championship £125,000, and the Tour Championship £150,000. Those three events can make a decent season a great season. I’m looking forward to seeing what shocks and surprises we get. ITV have extended their contract for another two years up to 2020.”

Shoot Out

“In a major coup, the Shoot Out will transfer from ITV to Quest and Eurosport for the next seven years. While the Shoot Out is not everyone’s favourite for the traditionalists, it’s here for seven years. It creates the stories and drama that I want to see. If anyone doesn’t like the Shoot Out, go and sit in a room with Michael Georgiou and explain why it’s a bad idea! We need to give different types of entertainment to our audience.”

Average Shot Time

“I don’t want to get too dictatorial about this, but we’re in the entertainment business. It’s also quite clear that some players don’t recognise that we’re in the entertainment business. Whether or not the slower players are naturally slow, have got used to being slow, or are using it as a form of gamesmanship, I don’t know.

“What we’ve decided to do is run a system for the next 12 months where we publish, some would say name and shame, the slowest players every three months. It gives them an opportunity to get their act together and realise that we’re in the entertainment business. Of course there will be slow frames, but when we’re talking about average shot time it does balance itself out. We’re not going to tap someone on the shoulder and say ‘you’re on the clock’, but we will look at their figures, their shot times, over a three-monthly period initially. If we feel at the end of the season that we need to incorporate this in the rules of play, then we’ll take that decision then.”

Sponsorship and Television

“We’re very fortunate to be in an extremely strong position in terms of sponsorship. Unlike a lot of sports, we have firms waiting to be sponsors. This is unusual, and it is predominantly gambling companies because we’re giving them so much value for money. Nonetheless we are always looking at other opportunities elsewhere and I have been very pleased with the response.

“We are also in a very strong position in terms of our television partners around the world. We’re seeing a change in television. Linear broadcast is essential in taking free to air and paid subscribers, and taking the entertainment value of a sport to a wider audience. More and more digital applications are coming into the market, whether we’re talking about Facebook, Amazon, PlayStation or Netflix, there are innumerable customers out there. Our big push over the next few years will be via the digital marketplace, into territories where we are a niche sport, but nevertheless one that we can capitalise on. We will have 500 million people, 1 billion eyeballs, watching this World Championship. We have a huge available market in other countries which we are experimenting with. This will be our next big push in terms of generating huge additional income for this sport.”