Snooker heads to Saudi Arabia with Kingdom eyeing fourth Major

LEICESTER, ENGLAND – JANUARY 20: Ronnie O’Sullivan of England chalks the cue in the Semi-final match against Ding Junhui of China on day 6 of the 2024 Spreadex World Grand Prix at Morningside Arena on January 20, 2024 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Tai Chengzhe/VCG via Getty Images)

Snooker has become the latest sport to head to the Middle East with confirmation of a 10-year deal which will see Saudi Arabia host the unofficial “fourth Major” of snooker.

A prize fund of £2m will be on offer in Riyadh in August while the World Pool Championships will head to the Kingdom in June. 

The news comes as superstar snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan last year blasted the “revolting mediocrity” in snooker and threatened to play pool instead over issues surrounding playing in lucrative events in China.

Saudi Arabia in the Triple Crown?

The Kingdom hopes that the inaugural Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will sit alongside the sport’s existing Triple Crown events – the World Snooker Championship, the invitational Masters and the UK Championship – as a fourth major.

Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has forged a reputation for growth and creating new opportunities for sports to grow in a new market to new fans.

“The country has hosted some of the world’s premier sporting events in recent years, welcoming visitors from all over to experience its passion for sport and unique culture. The addition of both the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters and World Pool Championship over the next decade further enhances that as it heralds an exciting chapter for Snooker and Nineball pool.

“We have seen the incredible impact Boxing has had in this region. Now, I believe we will see Billiards cement its legacy here too, creating incredible opportunities and competition for the finest players on the planet.” 

Hearn has established a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, taking a number of showpiece boxing events to the Kingdom. 

Cue the music

HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, Saudi Minister of Sport, and President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Sports said: “Saudi Arabia is an ever-emerging home to all sports and we’re excited by the opportunity to add new world-class events in snooker and Nineball pool to our growing year-round calendar.

“Hosting global events is all part of our strategy to grow all sports and to inspire our people to participate by giving them the chance to enjoy live sporting action. We are a young country with a young population and the approach is working.

“Since 2018 we’ve hosted over 100 international sports events and during that time sports participation has more than tripled.”

It’s the latest sport to head to Saudi Arabia after the likes of Formula 1, boxing, invitational football games and golf.

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