Tobacco sponsors shelved in plans for new tour

Revolutionary plans for a new world tour announced yesterday threaten to plunge the sport into a new crisis. The proposals, described as a "fresh vision for snooker", were announced by The Sportsmasters Network (TSN). While TSN denied that the plans constitute a breakaway circuit, they seem certain to cause a major fall-out within the sport.

Revolutionary plans for a new world tour announced yesterday threaten to plunge the sport into a new crisis. The proposals, described as a "fresh vision for snooker", were announced by The Sportsmasters Network (TSN). While TSN denied that the plans constitute a breakaway circuit, they seem certain to cause a major fall-out within the sport.

The new World Snooker Tour is scheduled to start next year, with provision for a minimum of 10 events, including tournaments in Dubai, Thailand, Malta and China. Prizemoney, says TSN, will increase by 40 per cent. The jewel in the crown will be the reintroduction of a World Cup, last contested four years ago in Bangkok.

In addition, it is hoped to stage feeder tournaments for each major tour event to offer increased opportunities for new talent. In a further break with tradition, none of the TSN World Tour events will be sponsored by tobacco companies. "Snooker's almost total reliance on support from tobacco companies is a key factor in its recent decline," a TSN statement reported.

The World Snooker Association chief executive Jim McKenzie insisted he knew of the plans, but said: "We have yet to receive any detailed proposals about a new world snooker tour. Our tour is already global and we are increasing the opportunities for overseas players to join it."

TSN is backed by the venture capitalist group Warburg Pincus, which has already committed £10m to the project. The news will cause shock waves through a sport fighting for survival. Of this season's eight ranking tournaments, four had no sponsors.

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