Jason Ferguson on Hong Kong, Sponsors, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Prize Money and the Crucible

Evergrande 2017 World Snooker China Championship – Press Conference & Red Carpet

Jason Ferguson has offered updates on a number of issues in snooker (Image: Getty Images)

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson has provided the latest information on various things going on in snooker at the moment, from new tournaments to sponsorship deals and prize money changes.

Ferguson’s work rarely stops as he promotes the game around the world, and the first deal is the potential return to Hong Kong for an event this season.

A tournament in Hong Kong?

Hinting that a tournament is being planned in his home country, Marco Fu tweeted: “Many happy moments at the last major tournament in Hong Kong. Looks like there will be one this summer! Hopefully it will happen!’

Ferguson tells “We are conducting talks in Hong Kong, we have a station.

“There’s a station in Hong Kong that does it all Snooker coverage and we know their viewership is huge.

“We’re in talks about it, it’s ongoing, but we’re very optimistic.

“Much of this is due to travel restrictions. The demand for events in Asia for us is huge, but it depends on whether we can pull it off from a travel perspective.

“Of course we would like to go back there. There is a huge following for the sport, the passion is there.”

As for what kind of event it might be, he added: “At this point I can’t really say how it’s going to turn out. We may have to do a smaller field to try to comply with travel restrictions.

“The idea is to try to make a mark, push to have an event in Asia, put those protocols in place and then work towards expanding that.

“We can’t be too ambitious at this stage so I think it’s going to be quite a small field if we make it.

“Right now we’re looking at 21 days of post-travel quarantine, which means that’s impossible. Right now we’re pushing for easing those travel restrictions or getting some kind of exemption for sports travel, but it’s very tight and very difficult at the moment.’

Where else we could see new events, the chairman said: “We will see more things like Turkey. This has been a fantastic addition to the calendar: new market, great demand from fans and more likely to see this type of event popping up – around the Mediterranean snooker is growing and these venues are opening up.

“We have reserved dates for events in China in the new year, but if they don’t materialize we are working to fill those gaps. Although these flights are not long haul, we will have the opportunity to host some nice events.’

Cazoo sponsorship

As Cazoo extends its involvement in snooker through sponsorship of the World Cup, Ferguson further welcomed them on board and thanked previous sponsors Betfred for their excellent work.

“They’re proving to be a great partner,” Ferguson said. “They have come back for more sponsorship rights and more exposure and we are delighted to be working with them. They’re a new brand, it’s clean, a great view for us.

“But let’s not forget what Betfred have done for their sport and the support they have given is incredible. Fred Done is an incredible person. He loves this sport, loves watching it develop and has loved being a part of it. I thanked Fred last week, not just for the sponsorship and the high profile stuff, but for the percentage of the investment he puts in that we use at grassroots level to get kids off the streets into clubs and keep clubs open . We see that side of the investment on the ground and it’s been an incredible commitment.


It will no longer be the Betfred World Snooker Championship (Image: Getty Images)

“We have a system in place to ensure that a percentage of what goes into the sport goes into projects and development and we will continue that work with the support of Cazoo. In terms of sport, we are in good shape.”

The WPBSA chairman hinted that there was more to the move than preventing a possible ban on bookmaker sponsorship.

“I don’t think that was necessarily the angle,” he said. “All of our rights agreements have to be renewed on a regular basis and there is always more than one applicant in the running for those rights. It’s a gratifying position.

“You go back 15 years and after tobacco use you asked yourself where the next sponsorship deal will come from. We’re here today and we’re actually sold out, we have more bidders for events than events which is an amazing position. It is an ongoing position to renew agreements and some things are changing. Maybe someday they’ll be back at the table.”

Disciplinary Matters by Ronnie O’Sullivan

The Rocket faced disciplinary action after making a lewd gesture during his first round match at the World Championships, the process of which is still ongoing.

Ferguson stated: “There is no outcome yet but the matter has been referred. It’ll all be done pretty quickly, there’s a process for these things.’

However, O’Sullivan’s clash with referee Olivier Marteel in the Crucible final will not be handled by anyone else as matters are closed at this point.

“It’s been dealt with within the game and that’s the right thing to do,” Ferguson said. “The referee is responsible, the referee takes care of it and gives the warning. The referee is responsible for allocating frames and matches if required as things progress.

“It was dealt with and I know Ronnie was very decent after that, he spoke to Olivier and I think he apologized for the way he spoke to him in the arena and that matter is settled.”

The Crucible

Ambitious plans for a new ‘second melting pot’, linked to the current one by a bridge, have been unveiled and Ferguson says talks are ongoing with Sheffield City Council, although the idea is only a concept at this point.

“We met with the city council,” the chairman said. ‘[Architect] James Burland is someone I used to work with and we talked a few months ago about reviving the concept and looking at it again.

New Crucible

James Burland’s plans are striking to say the least (Image: Burland Aura Planning)

“We’ve talked about the idea, and right now it’s just a concept. It will require a lot of feasibility and longevity studies, is it viable? They don’t want a stadium for white elephants, it’s no use to anyone.

“We have met with the council and of course they are very supportive of development and of snooker because it brings millions and millions of pounds to the city every year. I think the latest independent study by Sheffield Hallam says the city has benefited £100m over the years, but looking back it’s significantly more than that.

“It’s very much on the drawing board and concept, but it’s an interesting project.

“Now is the time to talk about what the future holds. We’re very loyal to Sheffield but now is the time to think about it longer term, especially if there’s going to be a renewal project, because these things take time.

“We should never underestimate the size and scope of this sport, it’s only getting bigger. It won’t go backwards anymore.’

prize money

For the coming season there will be a restructuring of the distribution of prize money, with the aim of making the distribution a little more fair and the placings reflecting the performance more accurately.

“We’re looking at the breakdown of prize money to see how that balances the ranking system,” Ferguson said. “More details on this are now being made in terms of how it works.

“We’re just trying to balance what players win round after round to create a fairer ranking system. At the moment, players sometimes reach the final stages of an event that is worth as much as winning another event. There are bigger and smaller events, so we’ll always get some of that, but it’s being worked on a bit.

“We are reviewing every event for this upcoming season. Comparison of the winning prize with games of the first round and in connection with this, what is the round structure?

“It will be available very quickly, we are working very hard on it. I have to compliment the WPBSA Players Board, they have done a really good job over the past few months identifying key areas for improvement and getting the message across. I’m very happy with this new structure with the player’s body, it’s really starting to work.’

MORE : Ronnie O’Sullivan looks forward to his snooker adventure as he announces his trip to Singapore

MORE : Plans revealed for new World Snooker Championship venue next to Crucible

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General Sports Jason Ferguson on Hong Kong, Sponsors, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Prize Money and the Crucible

Nate Jones

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