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Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Barry Hearn wants annual qualifying school for snooker

By Mark Ashenden

Peter Ebdon
Former world champ Peter Ebdon has slipped out of the provisional top 16

Snooker chief Barry Hearn says annual qualifying for a tour card would help prevent a "circuit for mediocrity".

With a seventh ranking tournament due in Berlin next year, the new chairman wants a pro tour of up to 20 events and has warned players not to be "lazy".

"We need a qualifying school like golf. One chance a year. You bring a cue and win your card," Hearn told BBC Sport.

"It's a bit cruel but if you can't aim to be in the top 16 then get another job. There is no room for journeymen."

The 61-year-old added: "This is a hard world. Don't expect your bottom wiped. Our current ranking system just does not work.

"We're not doing this because it's fun. Are we going to create a circuit for mediocrity? No. You have to want to be in our gang and your proudest possession will be a tour card."

Hearn, who also promotes darts, was appointed chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association in December and made it a top priority to increase player activity.

Additional events on the snooker calendar should be revealed ahead of April's World Championship with Berlin already earmarked for a ranking tournament next February.

The Essex-born Hearn is expecting players to accept the increased workload, regardless of prize money, and believes the system used in golf would ensure the highest standards on the snooker circuit.

606: DEBATE
Littlesense

The PGA Tour (in the United States) and the European Tour for golf conduct an annual qualifying tournament, usually a shoot-out over six rounds, with a set number of players gaining their "tour card" for the following season and not needing to qualify for the tour's events.

Hearn said that he currently enjoyed "unanimous support" from the players but recognised some of them would be opposed to him having to "drive them to get off their behinds and do some work".

"I like the golf module where there are a lot of amateur events where you can learn the craft of the game," he insisted.

"You have to be exceptionally good and not just hanging on by your fingernails. Otherwise, you won't make any money.

"My problem is looking after the elite. We will encourage all the players and if they're good enough I will welcome them on to the circuit."

Snooker's main tour currently includes the world's top 64 players, with the top 16 automatically selected for major tournaments with qualifying events, and some wildcards, deciding who joins them.

The 2002 world champion Peter Ebdon looks likely to drop out of the world's top 16 next season and will have to enter qualifying rounds having slipped to 18 in the provisional rankings.

China's Liang Wenbo, who will play the world's current number one Ronnie O'Sullivan next month in the opening round at the Crucible, has risen to 14 in the provisional rankings.

This year's World Championship takes place from 17 April to 3 May in Sheffield.



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see also
O'Sullivan handed tricky opener
11 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Hearn looking to conquer Europe
19 Jan 10 |  Snooker
Dott and Lee grab Crucible spots
09 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Doherty secures place at Crucible
08 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Davis victory earns Crucible spot
07 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Parrott looks set to quit snooker
04 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Snooker's bruising battleground
04 Mar 10 |  Snooker
Higgins earns third world crown
04 May 09 |  Snooker
Snooker on the BBC
08 Apr 11 |  Snooker


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