Snooker - Snooker's top 16 to play from first round at most tournaments

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has announced that the world's top 16 players will no longer begin every ranking tournament in the last 32.

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Beginning in 2013, eight of the 11 ranking events will require the top players to play from the first round, meaning they must negotiate seven matches - the first two of them away from the main venue - to lift the majority of trophies.

The World Championship, Australian Open and Shanghai Masters are exceptions.

“It is our intention to move to a flat 128-man draw for the majority of tournaments next season," said Hearn. "We want a level playing field and that is now scheduled.

"We have had to get consent from our promoters and broadcasters, and the BBC want to see how the UK goes on this basis before they agree to the World Championship.

“This comes with another big increase in prize money. It will be up to £8 million next season, but you will get nothing for going out in round one. Most of the top players I have spoken to are in favour."

However two-times world champion Mark Williams, who is ranked seventh, is one of those worried that the rewards for reaching the pinnacle of the game are being dumbed down, while there is a danger that tournaments could see top players going out in the first round.

"The top 16 are there on merit, having played for the last however many years," he said. "They deserve to be there and if you do this, then what do the rankings mean?

"You will have sponsors and TV broadcasters demanding the best players and biggest names. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the current system, though Barry has at least got all these extra events on for us to play in.

"Players should want to get into the 16, they can do that now, then they get to the venues."

Mark Allen agrees that events could find themselves shorn of their main draws by the TV rounds.

"It will be hard to agree deals when they can’t guarantee top players for TV. There is no way they will start TV in the last 128, as for tennis, so they can’t guarantee top players for TV," said the world number nine.

However no.45 Matthew Selt echoed the feeling among those looking for more opportunities to climb the ladder when he tweeted: "Everyone in round one next year for eight tournaments. It’s about time."

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