Traditionally snooker has been seen as a sport which is mainly played and based in Britain. Five of the eight annual main snooker tournaments are played in the region while all but a few ranked players hail from the United Kingdom and Ireland. However, Barry Hearn who is the chairman of World Snooker is already trying to change that as he attempts to make snooker go global.
Last week’s German Masters was the first ranking event to be held in the country for 14 years and proved to be a huge success. 15,000 tickets were sold prior to the event and throughout the tournament, empty seats were a rare sight. There have been suggestions that the success of the tournament could lead to other ranking events being staged in mainland Europe. The introduction of the Euro Player’s Tour Championship last year as well as Eurosport’s coverage of the main tour has seen the interest in snooker surge in a number of European countries including Belgium, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
The expansion into Europe comes after the decision to target Asia; one that has massively paid off. The popularity of snooker in Asia is ever increasing with eleven players on the professional tour coming from the Continent. However, it is in China where the popularity in snooker has particularly soared. The country holds two ranking events and the success of players such as Ding Junhui and Marco Fu have inspired the Chinese people to take up the game. The encounter between Ding and Fu at this year’s Master’s final was the first time a final in a major tournament had been contested by two Asians and it was reported that 100 million Chinese TV viewers tuned into watch the historic event.
2011 will see more history being made as South America will hold its first snooker tournament. It was announced last October by World Snooker that the sport will be heading to Sao Paulo for the inaugural Brazilian Masters in September. The tournament will be contested by the top 12 players along with four wild cards with the winner earning $200,000. It is believed that if the event is successful enough then it will become a new world ranking tournament in 2012. Following the announcement chairman Barry Hearn said, ‘Brazil is a country with a great love of sport and an incredible sporting heritage. Snooker is very popular there and we want to tap into that support. Breaking into South America is a huge step towards our ambition of making snooker a truly global sport.’
Next season will be the first time that events overseas will outnumber those in the UK. Just reading that statistic shows that snooker is well on its way to becoming a true global sport.