Thursday, 18 October 2007

Snooker: Grand Prix - Sould We Have A Group Stage?

There has been some furore throughout the snooker world about the group stages at the Grand Prix in Aberdeen this week. There was furore last year too! I feel it's all a bit unjustified, and I'll explain my reasoning behind this.

First of all, not all the players have been critical of the format. Some have said that it's good for the game, some have said it's bad for the game. Some people have complained that it's too complicated, difficult to follow, that there are too many matches, not enough crowds coming to watch, too many dead games, and most controversially, too many insinuations about the integrity of some of the matches, etc etc (the list probably goes on).

Let's take one of the points that I disagree with the most. Some players, and some of the big names in the sport that commentate on the matches (I will not name names), have suggested that when a player is on the verge of qualification to the knockout rounds and relying on the outcome of another match in the group, that the players playing in that match aren't taking the game seriously enough because the outcome of their match has no bearing on whether they will qualify or not!!! (I hope you got all that.)

I would say that looking at this situation from a negative point of view, you can understand why the players are complaining about the format. BUT, the way I see it, if a player wins all his matches, they would never be put in this position in the first place. If a player doesn't win all his matches, he is putting the destiny of his qualification chances into someone else's hands. Stephen Hendry is a great example of a player who thinks like this. You would never hear Hendry criticise someone else for not trying hard enough as the reason for him not qualifying for the knockout stage of a tournament, be it this one, or the Premier League. And for me, this is the way it should be, Hendry hasn't qualified, and he is to blame, nobody else, it's a simple as that!

I don't really think the format is too complicated either. The general public will have their favorite players, they may only follow specific groups, they may try to follow all the groups, they might only follow specific matches or specific players. If the general public follow only specific players then the format is great because they get to see 5 matches before the tournament even reaches the last 16. OK, all 5 matches might not be televised but they can follow all 5 matches if they go watch the games live at the venue. I'd say this is a big plus. I certainly don't believe it's too complicated for the players to follow their individual groups. So who is it too complicated for? I've no idea. As for too many matches, most professionals that I've met love to have the opportunity to play under tournament conditions as often as possible, and against top class opposition. The players are getting that in the group stages and they should take full advantage of it.

I'm not too sure about the argument that there are too many "dead games" either. What I mean is, a game where the outcome of a match has no bearing on the final standings of the group. Players put on exhibitions and people come to watch. Players don't receive additional raking points for exhibitions or trophies, but they still play them. I don't see why the public can't enjoy a "dead game" as much as they enjoy any other game. Most professionals are very professional in their approach to the game, and try their hardest in every match. I would have no problem buying a ticket to go watch a "dead game".

Generally, I think different formats of snooker is good for snooker. Be it group matches (Grand Prix and the Premier League), time restricted snooker (Premier League), and straight knockout snooker (most other events). And the winner of the knockout format so far this week has to be Liu Song who's through to the knockout stages with Peter Ebdon, Matthew Stevens, Mark Selby, Dave Harold and Joe Delaney in his group. He's proven himself in a major tournament, over multiple matches, under TV conditions, and against top quality opposition.

So for now I think I've said enough, ...feel free to leave your thoughts, I will reply (constructively). :-)


Gwynston said...

My thoughts:

- One definite negative is that it doesn't lend itself well to TV coverage. There are just way too many games to keep track of which doesn't allow a coherent picture to be put over in the limited broadcasts. And let's face it, this is the preliminary stages of a tourney, which don't usually get good crowds or TV audiences anyway, so round-robins are a retrograde step in that respect.

- I don't agree about dead games still being worth seeing. Maybe to a die-hard anorak, but not to anyone else. With nothing to play for, there is no tension, drama, or excitement. For the players or the spectators. This completely removes the sporting spectacle - exhibitions are something else entirely.

- I maintain that the main reason a lot of the top players don't like the format is because it's like having to pre-qualify for the tournament proper. They're not used to it - especially the top 16, and a few of them are perhaps being shown up for lacking the ability to play consistently enough at the standard becoming of a top seed. So at least the format gives some of the lesser players a chance to show what they're made of on the big stage, and illustrate the strength in depth that there is in the game (which is usually masked by the archaic ranking system).

andy said...

The format not lending itself well to TV coverage is, in my view, the fault of the BBC and/or the WSA. Take other sports with this format, most noticeably the Champions League (football), all of the tables are always up-to-date on the BBC website and free to view on the Champions League website. The BBC are not publishing the tables on their site and I think the only way you can see the tables on the WSA site is to subscribe. That's if they're there, I'm not too sure because I refuse to pay a subscription to the website.

"Dead games", well, I have a couple of anoraks at home. :-) My point was that fans want to see their snooker heroes in action all the time.

As for your last point, the top players shouldn't be complaining, they're already top players and should win. It's their fault if they don't and I don't really hold too much sympathy for them.