The Shanghai Masters will become the richest invitation event in snooker history next year.
The tournament has been a ranking event since 2007 but from 2018 it will become a 24-man invitation event with a total prize fund of £725,000.
A new five-year agreement between World Snooker, promoter Juss Sports and the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association will see prize money increase to £750,000 in 2019, £775,000 in 2020, £800,000 in 2021 and £825,000 in 2022.
The 24 invited players will be the top 16 on the two-year ranking list, the next four players of Chinese origin, two players from the CBSA China Tour and two from China’s Amateur Masters series.
Round one of the new event will see players ranked 9-16 take on the eight Chinese amateurs and professionals with the winners taking on the top 8 professional players in Round two.
World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to come to this agreement to secure the long-term future of the Shanghai Masters. With four major ranking events being held in China each year, the market is ready for a new concept event which rewards the top players. Creating a unique 24-man invitation event will give the tournament an exclusive identity. A true “Shanghai Masters”.
“I am looking forward to the ‘Race to Shanghai’ when it reaches its home straight next year. Who will be in the top 16 to qualify? Will we find a new superstar from the Amateur Masters series? I can’t wait to see the young Chinese professionals battling with each other for one of the four extra invitations.
“Snooker continues to grow at a rapid rate in China and our portfolio of major events provides great opportunity for the players, fantastic viewing for the fans and keeps our sport’s momentum going at grassroots level.”
Jason Ferguson and Miles Pearce making today’s announcement in Shanghai
Jason Ferguson, Chairman of the WPBSA, said: “I cannot express in words the tremendous relationship the WPBSA and World Snooker has with the China Billiards and Snooker Association. We share a global vision for our sport which has allowed for the unprecedented growth of snooker here in China and around the World. Through this co-operation we are excited about the future of all billiard sports globally. WPBSA shall continue the close relationship with CBSA and work on other projects outside of China. WPBSA will be a strong partner for CBSA during the structure revolution.
“This new agreement demonstrates the next step in the evolution of snooker here in China and with our new partners, Juss Sports, we believe we will take snooker to the next level.”
Mr. Fan Jianlin, General Manager of Shanghai Juss Sports Development (Group) Co. Ltd., said: “Next year, a brand-new Shanghai Masters will be presented to you all. It is the initiative of active consultation and innovation by Juss Sports, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, and the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association. It reflects our ambition to support snooker’s progression in China. It will promote the sport of snooker and fulfil the wishes of our fellow snooker lovers by inviting some of the top players in the world, providing more in-game opportunities for the Chinese professionals, and our elite amateur players to have a place to compete with other professional players. Juss Sports’ philosophy to operate international tournaments is always to build top-level games and cultivate the market. In the future, we will continue to specialise in operation management and services, to further enlarge the tournament’s platform, and to enhance our audience’s experience. We will continue to promote snooker’s development in China, and help Shanghai to become the world’s most famous sporting city.”