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Snooker bosses unveil plans for world circuit

Ronnie O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan has criticised the state of professional snooker

World Snooker has announced plans for an international circuit aimed at reviving interest in the sport.

The game's governing body says the World Snooker Tour will more than double the number of global ranking tournaments to 15.

The aim is to create a world circuit "similar to that of tennis and golf".

World Snooker chairman Sir Rodney Walker said: "We hope the players and promoters will recognise the opportunities of this ambitious plan."

The tour would be run in conjunction with IMG, the events management company which looks after World Snooker's international broadcasting rights.

The plan is to hold at least 15 ranking events, with additional invitational tournaments, during the first year and increase the number in the following season, bucking a recent trend of a reduction in the number of events.

The 2009/10 season has seen a reduction from eight to six ranking events, with the Northern Ireland Trophy and Bahrain Championship dropped from the calendar.

BBC Radio 5 live's snooker reporter Philip Studd said the announcement of an expanded tour would surprise many in the game, given that sponsors are currently thin on the ground.

The proposal lacks concrete details in terms of how and when it could be implemented, while the timing of the announcement could also be relevant.

Walker is up for re-election as World Snooker's chairman on 2 December, with Barry Hearn waiting in the wings should he be ousted.

However, six-time world snooker champion Steve Davis believes the proposal could herald a new era for the sport.

"Should the proposal be realised, it could kick-start snooker again," he told BBC Sport.

"Every player would love to have more tournaments. Those outside the top 16 have only six a year, so they are frustrated.

"There will be a buzz in the season if they can go to new territories. The players won't be twiddling their thumbs."

The 52-year-old added: "World Snooker are obviously very happy because they were under pressure.

"The players have no choice but to accept it. It is a no-brainer because it is the best idea by a mile. It could be the start of a new era."

There has been no indication about which countries would host the new tournaments.

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However, Germany, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Portugal could all be in the running having hosted events as part of the World Series of Snooker during the past two years.

Walker said World Snooker had brought forward its announcement about the World Tour as a response to "misleading, inaccurate and downright untruthful comments about the sport" over the past few months.

Snooker has come under attack this year, with the likes of Ronnie O'Sullivan claiming it is on a downward spiral.

In January, the three-times world champion said snooker needed "someone with entrepreneurial skills, like Simon Cowell, who is in the modern world and more dynamic" to take charge of promoting the game.

O'Sullivan, who also said Premier League snooker chief Hearn could boost the sport, added: "I remember the good days when it was fun going to tournaments and now it doesn't feel like fun. The people who are running snooker seem to be going backwards."

Walker said, however, that the sport's "history of turmoil" had ended and it was now in a "financially stable" position.



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World Snooker to stay at Crucible
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Snooker boosted by sponsor deal
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Snooker droopy?
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Huge financial blow hits snooker
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Snooker on the BBC
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