The best players in the world will descend on Gloucester next week as World Snooker begins a brave new era.
World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, current world number one Mark Selby and rising star Judd Trump will be among the 128 stars playing at the South West Snooker Academy from Monday (10am).
The stars will be competing in the first round of the Wuxi Classic – the first tournament of the new season and the first to follow new qualifying rules set out by World Snooker.
Traditionally the top 16 players in the world have qualified by right to be in the last 32 of all the 11 ranking events, but World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has made the change.
The World Snooker tour has now swelled from 96 to 128 professionals with each and every player, regardless of world ranking or tournament wins starting tournaments in the first round.
Three tournaments – including the World Championships – have been exempted from the new rule, but the remaining eight will see all 128 players going head to head.
The controversial changes have received a mixed welcome from the world’s top players, some of whom are worried that it will affect their earning potential.
But with a greater prize pot available for players who reach the last 32 of the tournaments, Hearn is confident that the changes will benefit the game.
The action doesn’t stop there with all of the players then turning their attentions to the Australian Goldfields Open, with a further 96 qualifying matches taking place for that between Thursday, May 30 and Monday, June 3.