Why the delay in Hong Kong hosting a major snooker tournament? A packed schedule, says governing body
World governing body says it is working with the local association to bring big names to the city but are struggling to find suitable dates
Hong Kong could become a major stop on snooker’s international circuit within the next two years as the world governing body looks to expand its brand around the world with China fuelling the sport’s growth.
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, told the SCMP that the main obstacle for Hong Kong is finding time on the global calendar for a top ranking or women’s tournament.
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“The calendar is absolutely packed now, we have more than 30 events a year and it’s a case of how best to fit Hong Kong in,” said Ferguson. “It might work as a part of a first or second stop on an Asian swing. I wouldn’t put a date on it, we are working on it now and in touch with the Hong Kong snooker association.
“Hopefully within the next year or two Hong Kong could be a major stop on the world tour,” he added.
“There is no other reason other than that and we need to find a right spot on the calendar and see how we can pull it together from an operation point of view.
“Hong Kong put on a great event last year, it was supported by everyone, including the government and we’d love to come back.”
Hong Kong would regularly host the world’s top players during the ’80s and early ’90s when Matchroom boss Barry Hearn would bring his stable of stars. Last year, the city hosted a one-off event featuring big names such as Ronnie O’Sullivan and eventual winner Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and John Higgins, among others, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.
Hearn last year said that Hong Kong would need raise £1 million (HK$10.5 million) through sponsorship to stage a world-ranking event in the city.
Ferguson said Hong Kong has emerged as a key market in world snooker thanks to the success of women’s world champion Ng, top-20-ranked men’s player Fu and more recently, Andy Lee – who qualified for next season’s pro circuit.
And Ferguson said Hong Kong has a key role to play in growing the game in the region – with China already a major snooker stronghold.
“What we are doing is bringing more countries into play,” he said. “Hong Kong is a member and so are the Chinese and we are driving together in trying to create a bigger project on multiple platforms.
“In Hong Kong, the appetite for snooker is amazing and there are great people involved in the snooker association there and there is a great academy (at the Hong Kong Sports Institute).
“You have [national coach] Wayne Griffiths, who is one of the best coaches in the world in Hong Kong.
Ferguson was also full of praise for Ng and Fu as global snooker ambassadors for Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong should be very proud of Ng On-yee,” he said. “She has performed brilliantly and her attitude and spirit on and off the table is immaculate. The same can be said of Marco.”
Fu is a three-time winner on the pro tour and is ranked 18th in the world, having dropped out of the top 10 because he took a break to treat an eye problem.
Ng is a two-time world champion and recently took over from England’s Reanne Evans as the world’s number one women’s player.