World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, as so often before, got everyone talking yesterday by announcing during a chat with Rob Walker on the governing body’s YouTube channel that he would, this coming Wednesday, be announcing proposed changes to the World Championship format from next year.
This was akin to lobbing a grenade into the Crucible before retreating to a safe distance. Inevitably, it was all greeted as if civilisation itself was about to end, with theories swirling and tweets flying back and forth.
What was missed by most was that Hearn stated the World Championship format would change, not the Crucible format.
Our prediction is a radical restructuring of the qualifying process, to include more players, including potential invites for former champions.
The way it could work – and this is just one of those wild theories I referred to earlier – is to keep the top 16 at the Crucible but have everyone else play a 128-player qualifying event consisting of three rounds. This would not be popular with players ranked 17 to 32, who currently play just one round to qualify, but would give scope to boost the field with wildcards, essentially making it a 144-player tournament.
Hearn knows the Crucible format, for all its eccentricities, basically works and has stood the test of time. If he is in fact to start meddling with this then he should be prepared for widespread opposition.
We shall find out the facts at the press conference on Wednesday, when Hearn is expected to announce other new developments, including a new ranking event on ITV.