Shaun Murphy understands why players not involved in the Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker will be ‘irked’ by the new event, pointing to a delay in payments from tournaments causing unrest on the World Snooker Tour.
It is not the same as the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters, a ranking event for the whole tour which was announced in 2019 with an enormous £500,000 top prize, but is yet to come to fruition.
WST say the ranking tournament is still in the pipeline and hope to add it to the calendar next season, but there has been disquiet from lower-ranked players who are seeing those at the top of the sport get more opportunities than most.
Murphy is number six in the world so is set to go to Saudi, but admits that he wondered where the larger event was when he saw the announcement of the invitational tournament.
‘Pre-Covid we were promised a full field ranking event out there,’ Murphy said on his onefourseven podcast. ‘My overriding feeling was relief that a version of that has landed. Quickly followed by, where’s the full-field ranking tournament that we were promised? Where is it? Where’s the tournament for everybody?’
The former world champion did explain that it is normal practice for a small-field event with top players to take place in a new country for the sport, testing the waters before a bigger tournament follows.
However, he also explained why lower-ranked players who are not flushed with cash are frustrated and this new event only adds to their frustration.
The Magician says players are still waiting to be paid their prize money by Chinese promoters from the International Championship in November. While he is not suggesting anything underhand is going on, he says it is hardly improving the mood of some players.
‘Taking a select field of players to promote the game in that area, in that culture, in that territory. Getting it off the ground and then a full-field event for everybody a year or two later, that’s very normal,’ he said. ‘That’s been a key marketing strategy for World Snooker since day one. It was in China, Hong Kong, India, pretty much everywhere we’ve been, that’s been the model.
‘Just with my player’s hat on, I think what motivates some of the players to be…not negative about it but a little bit crestfallen about it is, for instance, most of the public won’t be aware but we are at nearly 11 weeks post the International Championship and nobody has been paid.
‘I don’t know the ins and outs of it. But for the overseas events the players aren’t paid by WST, they’re paid directly by promoters and we are told that getting money, in quite large amounts, out of China is quite a complicated matter.
‘There’s obviously tax to be paid, which is very normal, but the process is ridiculous. How long it takes is a joke. There are players who earned quite well when we were out in Tianjin. But in terms of cash flow, we’re all self-employed, having money that you know you’ve won but haven’t seen is a difficult world to live in.
‘Meanwhile there’s a tournament for the top eight, who are in most cases fairly financially stable, it would be seen as a bitter pill to swallow.
‘Now, that prize money from China is coming. But having to wait that long for payment is a contributing factor to this mess. I can understand when this new, very big, very exciting event is announced for a special few, it irks. I do get it.’
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