Hong Kong has potential to stage regular ranking snooker event, says world body

The WPBSA is confident of the city’s ability to stage a tournament after the success of the Hong Kong Masters in July

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 11:55am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 11:00pm

Snooker’s world governing body said Hong Kong has the potential to become part of the international circuit after the one-off Masters tournament in July surpassed expectations.

Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), said the body is hoping for more talks with stakeholders about organising a regular, world-ranking event in Hong Kong.

The city staged the Hong Kong Masters in July featuring eight of the world’s top players, with eventual champion Neil Robertson describing the atmosphere as one of his best-ever playing experiences.

“The Hong Kong Masters was a fantastic success, surpassing all of our expectations,” said Ferguson. “The fact that tickets sold out so quickly shows what a strong appetite for snooker there is in Hong Kong.

“The atmosphere in the arena throughout the event was sensational, in fact Neil Robertson described it as his best ever playing experience after he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the showpiece final.

“The feedback from all of the players has been very good. We feel there is potential for a regular event in Hong Kong and we look forward to further discussions with our partners.”

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Hong Kong would regularly welcome the Matchroom stable of top players that included Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Terry Griffiths and Dennis Taylor, among others – led by now World Snooker chief Barry Hearn.

The recent success of local players on the world stage, such as fifth-ranked Marco Fu Ka-chun, is also stirring interest among Hong Kong fans.

However, lack of sponsorship proved an obstacle and the city went almost two decades without a world-class tournament until July’s Hong Kong Masters.

The city’s governing body, the Hong Kong Billiards Sports Control Council, had yet to respond to questions about the possibility of a regular event but Hong Kong coach Wayne Griffiths said there was great interest among top players.

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“For the event in Hong Kong I can only really say that, to my knowledge, all the players involved in the Masters in July thought the event was fantastic. Many of them saying it was one of the best venues and atmospheres they have ever experienced,” said Griffiths, son of veteran player Terry.

“At the Guangzhou tournament [in August], more than one top player asked us if there was going to be a regular event held in Hong Kong. The desire amongst the top players is definitely there.

Before the Hong Kong Masters, Hearn, whose World Snooker is the marketing arm of WPBSA, said a sponsor would need to commit at least £1 million (HK$10.07 million) to stage a successful event that provided attractive prize money.

Griffiths said Hong Kong must stake its claim for a tournament early because other cities are clamouring to host ranking events.

“World Snooker has a lot of interest in new locations for major events. Barry Hearn made it very clear what was needed financially to make this happen for Hong Kong, and I hope local sponsors will step forward to capitalise on this opportunity before it is too late,” said Griffiths.

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“The feeling at the moment is that China, and other countries around the world, are very keen to hold more events. This potentially means that opportunities for Hong Kong to get a foothold in the world snooker annual calendar may disappear.

“With Fortune 500 company Evergrande now sponsoring a major snooker event in China, this has the potential to take snooker to the next level. Hopefully more sponsorship will follow from high profile brands usually more associated with football, motor racing, golf and tennis. This is clearly what the sport is aspiring to.”