World champion John Higgins has urged World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn to spare snooker players the misery of playing for paltry prize pots in empty venues.
Ronnie O’Sullivan recently said he felt “blackmailed” and “raped” – although he later apologising for the latter description – by the need to take part in Players Tour Championship (PTC) events to protect his world ranking.
Scotland’s Stephen Maguire also said playing the PTC tournaments, which were introduced last year, made him feel like a “prostitute”.
Higgins yesterday joined in, arguing that World Snooker should ditch the tournaments on the PTC calendar scheduled for Sheffield’s World Snooker Academy, which houses tables but no spectator access.
He can understand why O’Sullivan and Maguire find the experience so demoralising.
“They’ve certainly got a point,” Higgins said. “The Sheffield PTCs, playing in front of no-one, definitely need to be scrapped because nobody enjoys playing in those events.
“We’ve got a PTC at Sheffield starting on Monday at nine o’clock, in front of no man and his dog.”
Higgins claims Hearn would be better off investing in more overseas shows, pulling in crowds where the sport is taking off as a spectator event.
Crowds approaching 1,500 flocked to the PTC tournament in Antwerp earlier this month, but, once players pay their expenses, many cannot cover their travel and accommodation costs, with first-round losers collecting just e200, a factor which worries Higgins. The winner takes home e10,000 or £10,000 for the UK events, still a small prize compared to the major ranking events. “A lot of the younger kids are having problems paying their expenses,” Higgins said.
“You’re basically doubling all the players’ expenses now because of all these new PTC events and they’ve all got to play them, because, if they don’t, the young kids won’t climb the rankings.”
Higgins, 36, was speaking ahead of the UK Championship, which begins in York on Saturday, 3 December.
He will be defending the title he won by thrillingly coming from 9-5 behind to beat Mark Williams 10-9 last year, when the tournament was staged in Telford.
Although Higgins has struggled since beating Judd Trump in the Crucible final in May, he is putting the work in on the practice table now.
“Obviously it’s going to be a big turning point for me here in York,” he said.
“Then there’s the Masters and the build-up to the World Championship.”
Higgins starts against England’s Rory McLeod and is convinced he can find form, saying: “I’m not worried at all.”