One aspect of the ranking tournaments in China to come under scrutiny in recent years has been the actual number of bums on seats in the various arenas – and the cost of tickets is often advanced as the main or even sole reason for this.
There is no doubt a) that the players enjoy playing in front of a packed house more, and b) it looks miles better on TV if it’s full.
Snooker is by no means the only sport to wrestle with this issue, there have been task forces set up in football to examine the potential damage to the televised spectacle for sale if prices are too high and there are lots of empty spaces.
To put some of this in context, there is a burgeoning average salary and standard of living among a mushrooming middle class in China, and this group rightly or wrongly appear to be the target market for snooker over here. The sport is branded as aspirational in Shanghai and the other big cities in a way that it simply isn’t in the UK, and players are treated accordingly.
The stars being filmed signing autographs for screaming fans on a red carpet very much fits in with that image. But the fact is that currently there are not the numbers of those type of fans at some of the prices to fill up the venues. Demand does not equal supply at £40 a pop upwards – though in fairness to Shanghai, there are lower-cost options this week.
With the usual three table set-ups for the fitters to cope with, there are a total of 13 price bands over the seven days in the various areas.
The cheapest is 50 RMB/Yuan (around £5) for the first three days nearer the back of the main arena, behind the exclusive VIP area as you look at the table on the TV, with an option at 180 and the best available seats on the side next to the table at 280. For the quarters those prices rise to 100, 280 and 380 – and for the semis they are 100, 380 and 480.
The cheapest ticket for the final for an event won by home hero Ding Junhui 12 months ago, is 150, with then further seats available at 580 and a whopping 1680 (£168, all other prices also in RMB).
The only other option on Days 1-3 is seats at 100 RMB table-side for Tables 3 and 4 out of the main arena, which given you could see Mark Allen, Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire and Ken Doherty isn’t such a bad alternative.
Photograph by Monique Limbos