It is five weeks since Mark Selby won the World Championship and now Q School and the early season qualifiers are out of the way the time is fast approaching for the return of TV snooker.
This season features 12 world ranking tournaments, the Masters, Champion of Champions, the new World Grand Prix, the Championship League, Shootout, World Seniors, Six Reds World Championship, six European Tour events and four on the Asian Tour. We make that 29 events of one type or another, with a variety of formats.
We’ve already had the preliminary rounds for the Wuxi Classic and Australian Goldfields Open and the first Asian Tour event kicks off in Yixing next week.
Televised action returns two weeks from now with the Wuxi Classic followed immediately by the Australian Open, both of which are broadcast by Eurosport. This is a very busy time for sport and these events take place during the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Tour de France but for snooker fans will be the first chance to watch the top players in action since the Crucible, or at least some of the top players.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is sitting both tournaments out, Mark Selby is giving Australia a miss and Ding Junhui didn’t enter the Aussie event and failed to qualify for Wuxi.
Perhaps most surprising is that Marco Fu has chosen not to defend his Australian Open title, for reasons currently unknown.
What else has been happening? Peter Lines, whose son Oliver has just joined the tour, won the annual Pink Ribbon pro-am at Gloucester at the weekend, which raised more money for breast cancer charities.
Stephen Lee is in more trouble having pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in relation to the sale of a snooker cue. Lee has been fined £1,800 by Swindon magistrates.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, whose son Eddie promoted the recent Carl Froch-George Groves rematch at Wembley Stadium, has been inducted into the international boxing hall of fame.
Hearn’s Matchroom organisation moved into boxing in the late 1980s, promoting the Chris Eubank-Nigel Benn fights and plenty more besides. Last year, Hearn was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America hall of fame for his work promoting pool.
The most shocking news post-Crucible was Ali Carter’s lung cancer diagnosis but, typically, Carter has tackled the condition head-on and has been tweeting updates about his treatment. He continues to have our full support and best wishes.
What will be the themes of the new season? Here at Inside Snooker we are interested to see who, of anyone, can break into the winners’ circle or whether the usual suspects will once again carve up the spoils.
We are also interested to see whether snooker can begin to attract more sponsorship outside of the gaming sector because the day will surely come, as it did with tobacco, where politicians will decide this industry should not have such an influence over sport.
Otherwise, the professional game is in really good shape. Of course there are still problems and complaints and bust-ups and gripes but the World Championship reached over 330 million TV viewers worldwide, proving how popular snooker is internationally.
The snooker circuit remains a bit of a soap opera, its characters at the mercy of form and fate. They, and we, are set for another busy year of balls potted, balls missed, glory, despair and every emotion in between.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.