Snooker has strengthened its position as the pacesetter for the return of global sport by announcing plans for its qualifying school and the structure of the WST circuit for next season.
This month has seen snooker become the first sport other than horse racing to return to live action, by staging the Matchroom.Live Championship League. World-leading standards on Covid-19 testing, sanitisation and social distancing have ensured that the event has run successfully.
So far at the event in Milton Keynes, all 86 players, staff and officials have tested negatively for Covid-19, and the strict health and safety regulations have been followed meticulously. This has set the precedent for further events, with the Coral Tour Championship to follow from June 20th to 26th.
Detailed plans for further events are being put into place, and WST has now announced the structure of the tour for the 2020/21 season, to include 12 players from the qualifying school.
Q School will run during the Betfred World Championship, which will take place from July 31 to August 16. The precise dates, venue and further details for Q School will be announced soon and it will be run according to the government guidelines at the time. Staging Q School during this period will allow the 12 winners to join the tour in time for the start of the 2020/21 season.
The 2020/21 WST players will be:
The top 64 from the official two-year rankings at the end of the 2019/20 season
The top four players on the one-year rankings (outside the official top 64)
35 players in the second year of a two-year tour card
Two players from the Challenge Tour: Lukas Kleckers and the winner of the Play-Off event.
World Snooker Federation Open Champion: Ashley Hugill
World Snooker Federation Open runner-up: Iulian Boiko
World Snooker Federation Junior Open Champion: Gao Yang
World Snooker Federation Junior Open runner-up: Sean Maddocks
EBSA European Champion: Andrew Pagett
EBSA European Under-21 Champion: Aaron Hill
Two players from the CBSA China Tour: Pang Jun Xu and Zhao Jianbo
12 players from Q School
Total: 125 players
In addition, if any player comes through the qualifying rounds to reach the final stages of the Betfred World Championship at the Crucible but finishes the season outside the official top 64, he or she will earn a two-year tour card.
WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “This is a fantastic announcement for all of those amateur players around the world who were unsure whether Q School would go ahead in the current circumstances.
“Snooker is open for business! We already have a very successful event in progress at the Matchroom.Live Championship League, setting an example in terms of testing, sanitisation and social distancing which other sports will have to try to follow. Our remaining WST events this season will be played over the coming weeks, keeping our players busy on the table and plenty of live snooker on television and online.
“Q School was originally planned to start on May 18th but will now be played at the same venue as the World Championship qualifiers, with the venue to be announced shortly.
“As usual there will be three tournaments, with the four semi-finalists from each of them earning a tour card. This is the chance for players around the globe to chase their dream and earn a coveted place on the World Snooker Tour for the next two years.
“We realise there will be challenges for players overseas to travel to the UK for Q School but it is vital that we make this opportunity available for all players. We cannot sit back and allow circumstances to set our sport back when we have made so much progress in recent years. We are liaising with the UK government with the intention to help players coming from overseas.
“As we move forward we will examine every route towards staging events, providing prize money for our players and coverage for our fans, while working with government to keep the safety of all concerned as the highest priority.”