Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Paul Collier EXCLUSIVE column: It doesn’t hurt to change

The Premier League has been running since 1987, and has experienced plenty of change down the years.

With the event starting a little earlier on 18 August this season, there’s another new format for fan’s to digest.

This year, ten players will compete and each night will have four players competing in a mini-tournament, with a winner emerging.

Each player will play on four nights and earn points for their performances, which will count towards qualification for the eventual semi-finals.

Instead of six-frame matches, the games will be a best-of-five format. The shot clock has been reduced from 25 seconds to just 20, and if a decider is needed, they’ll be like the ten-minute Shootout matches from Blackpool.

The prize money for the eventual winner has been doubled to £60,000 at the expense of the £1,000 previously earned per frame victory.

Qualification for this year’s event was given to the defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, winners of last year’s ranking events, plus Jimmy White, who won the World Seniors Championship and Matthew Stevens for for his victory the Championship League.

Here’s the full line-up: Ronnie O’Sullivan (defending champion), John Higgins (World champion), Ding Junhui (Masters champion), Mark Williams (German Masters champion), Ali Carter (Shanghai Masters champion), Judd Trump (China Open champion), Neil Robertson (World Open champion), Shaun Murphy (PTC Finals champion), Matthew Stevens (Championship League winner) and Jimmy White (World Seniors champion)

OnCue columnist Paul Collier has been refereeing on the Premier League since 2000. He shares his thoughts on the shake-up…

Another year of the Premier League, and I’ll be refereeing all the matches again.

I’ve got a more hectic schedule this season with more World Snooker work, but I wouldn’t change my work with the Premier League for the world.

I often think findly about how I got into working with the Premier League. I used to do the scoring off the back of other events I refereed. At the time, Jan Verhaas was in charge but he didn’t make two matches in a row. I think he had transport problems. It was bad news for him, but when I was offered it, I saw it as a great opportunity.

Being involved in the Premier League means a lot of miles in the car, but I love it. I think it’s a great event.

That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be changing. I don’t think change can hurt. 

The Premier League has had plenty down the years. It used to be over a weekend, now it’s a massive competition over a few months.
I think the most recent changes will give it a good refresh though.

We always tend to change the venues, and although they’ve not been announced yet for this year, I can tell you that only four from last year will be staying. Grimsby is almost certainly one of them, because we always get a great reception there.

I think the changes to the format mean the loyal fans will always enjoy coming back. We’re in the entertainment business and we’re giving them something new. Having a winner every night means there’s that bit more value for money too.

In the past, you could buy tickets and then come away from two 3-3 draws. I think it’s better to have a night winner. Otherwise it just feels like you’ve gone to watch the first day of test match in cricket.

Having more players is also better. But personally, I’d like to see more than just four of them playing per night.

Looking at the field, there’s some great names in it again. The only real top player to be missing is Mark Selby. But he’s paid the price for not winning a ranking event. I know the players like playing in it, but you have to earn your place.

Jimmy will add an extra buzz, and Trump will help to bring the crowds in but O’Sullivan is still the man to beat.

He’s the master of the shot-clock. The key in this format is to play on instinct. There’s no-one better than that than Ronnie. His cue action isn’t quicker, but he’s such a quick snooker thinker. That makes the difference

It’s going to be a great tournament.

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