As we head towards the turn of the year and the final crucial ranking event tournaments of the 2021/22 World Snooker Tour season, today we take a look at the current standings in the race for ‘Tour Survival.’
How will tour places be decided?
At the end of this season (i.e. after the 2022 World Championship), all players not on the first year of a two-year tour card must finish inside of the world’s top 64 on the official world ranking list to remain on the circuit next term.
Additionally, the top FOUR money earners during the current 2021/22 season, who are outside of that top 64 on the two-year list, will earn a fresh tour card. All other players will be relegated, unless they are able to re-qualify through Q School.
What is the provisional end of season ranking list?
The provisional end of season ranking list includes all money earned during last season (2020/21), and from the current 2021/22 season.
This differs from the official rolling world ranking list, which still currently includes prize money from the 2019/20 season which will not count towards the race for next season’s tour places. To provide the most accurate picture of the Tour Survival battle, this money has already been removed from the table.
Who is safe?
Those who do not have to worry (for this season at least), are those players who were able to earn a two-year tour card for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons, either via Q School, international competitions or by other means.
All of these players have been highlighted in green on the latest provisional end of season ranking list.
Who is at risk?
All players who finished in the top 64 at the end of last season, or who began their two-year tour cards at the start of 2020/21.
Of course those higher up the rankings will have nothing to worry about, but the closer they are to the all-important ‘top 64’ cut-off on the provisional end of season ranking list, the more uncertain their position.
How can players stay on tour?
By finishing in the top 64 at the end of the 2021/22 season.
Traditionally the cut-off point for tour survival, the top 64 on the official world ranking list following the 2022 World Championship will retain their places on tour for at least another season.
What is the cut-off point likely to be? In recent seasons over £80,000 has been required to finish inside of the top 64, however due to the nature of the last two campaigns which have been disrupted by COVID-19, last season this dropped to £71,750 won by Nigel Bond.
At the time of writing, Andrew Higginson (who currently occupies 64th position on the provisional end of season ranking list), has £49,500 to his name, meaning that the final figure could fall somewhere between £60,000-70,000 to retain tour status – and importantly – carry ranking points into next season.
The top 64 players next May will each earn a fresh one-year card for the 2022/23 season.
By finishing in the top four of the one-year list, not already qualified
Under the ‘one-year list’ route, the top four (reduced from eight, having been temporarily extended last season due to exceptional circumstances) players taking into account prize money earned solely during the 2021/22 season, who finish outside of the top 64 on the main two-year ranking list, will earn a new tour card.
This means that players out of the running on the two-year list, for example due to a poor first season (in this case 2020/21), still have every chance of earning a fresh two-year card with strong performances during their second year.
At the time of writing, those currently in place to earn tour places via this route are:
- Fergal O’Brien (£21,500)
- Oliver Lines (£21,000)
- Gao Yang (£20,500)
- Allan Taylor (£19,000)
The four players who finish in these positions at the end of this season will earn a two-year card for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons. Unlike those who qualify through the top 64 however, their ranking points will be reset to zero at the start of next season.
Players to Follow
The race for Tour Survival promises to be more closely contested than ever before this season with approximately £20,000 separating over 20 players ranked either side of the crucial 64th position.
Among the big names currently out of position to qualify on both ranking lists are two-time Crucible runner-up Matthew Stevens and 2020 Shoot Out champion Michael Holt, who have been ever-present on the tour since 1994 and 1998 respectively.
Wales’ Stevens currently finds himself £7,500 adrift of 64th placed Higginson and with £15,000 banked so far this term following his first-round defeat to Hammad Miah at the UK Championship, he is £4,000 behind Allan Taylor on the one-year list. Similarly for Holt, he is £500 closer on the two-year list, but has a bigger deficit to make up on the one-year rankings having earned just £11,500 so far this term.
Just outside of the qualification places in 65th on the two-year list is Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who despite some show-stopping performances in recent months has so far failed to convert this into consistent match wins. Like Stevens and Holt, with £15,500 on the one-year list, his fate remains within his own hands but he will be targeting results soon to lift himself clear of the danger zone.
Also in trouble are veteran stars Nigel Bond and Ken Doherty, who over £13,500 behind 64th position, look increasingly likely to be reliant upon a good run between now and the end of the season helping them to climb the one-year list. The same can be said for seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry who has £11,000 to his name on the provisional end of season ranking list, although like Doherty, he has previously been the recipient of an Invitational Tour Card to the circuit.
What of those who are currently inside the provisional top 64, but who could face a shock relegation from the circuit with a poor end to the season? Among those most in trouble are Kurt Maflin – a World Championship quarter-finalist a little over a year ago – and four-time ranking event semi-finalist Scott Donaldson.
Having earned just £7,000 so far this season, Maflin has seen his position on the provisional end of season list fall to 61st, while Donaldson similarly has won just £13,500 since August to leave himself with work to do.
Andrew Higginson – the man currently on the bubble in 64th position – is also vulnerable having won just £11,000 so far this season, as does 62nd placed Tian Pengfei. The man between them, Elliot Slessor, does have more security with £23,000 earned so far this season, thanks largely to his semi-final run at the season-opening British Open.
Keep an eye out here at WPBSA.com for all of the latest updates throughout the season, as well as confirmation as to other routes by which players can qualify for the tour in due course.