Phil Haigh ✍️
The Hong Kong Masters could still return this season, with organisers hoping to host the tournament in October after an August date become unworkable.
Snooker bosses are keen to get the professional tour back on the road, with the circuit still UK-focussed since the pandemic hit and wiped out the numerous events in China.
Competitions have returned in central Europe and the Turkish Masters sprung up last season, while there is an encouraging sign that the Six Red World Championship will be held in Thailand in September.
It was hoped that the Hong Kong Masters would be back on the calendar for the first time since 2017 in August, but travel restrictions are still too strict for that to happen.
However, it may only be a short delay, with World Snooker Tour still leaving the dates of 6-9 October clear on the calendar and organisers in Hong Kong hopeful that arrangements can be worked out.
The South China Morning Post quoted a source close to the Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council as saying: ‘We are still in discussion with government regarding the quarantine requirements but they can’t promise anything at this stage.
‘They have asked us to prepare everything in accordance with the current situation, which means a seven-day isolation is required for all inbound travellers.
‘This will be very difficult for the players to accept, with the rest of the world having opened to all travellers.
‘The world governing body of the sport could not believe it and has questioned us about it. The proposed date in August is therefore not feasible, because we can’t confirm anything at the moment.’
The quarantine period is a big problem, but so is the threat to airlines that carrying in passengers who are infected will result in a flying ban in Hong Kong.
However, the SCMP’s source is hopeful and optimistic that the October dates can be met, even if restrictions remain in place.
‘October should be more feasible because we can have more preparation time,’ he continued.
‘Even if the quarantine requirement is still there, we can apply a safety bubble for the players, but they can only travel point-to-point from hotel to venue, without any interaction with spectators – which we do not prefer, and nor do the players. The cost will also be much higher.’
Speaking in May, WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson explained that talks were ongoing over the return of the Hong Kong Masters, with travel restrictions were the problem then, as they are still now.
He also explained that it would be a small field, invitational event, as it was last time in 2017 when just eight players were involved.
‘We are in discussions over it, it’s not finalised as yet, but we’re very optimistic about it,’ Ferguson told Metro.co.uk in May.
‘A lot of it is down to travel restrictions. Demand for us to put on events in Asia is huge, but it’s down to whether we can make it work from a travel perspective.
‘The idea is to try and put a marker down, push to get an event on in Asia, put those protocols in place and then push to expand on that.
‘We can’t be too ambitious at this stage, so I imagine it will be a fairly small field if we do it.’
The last Hong Kong Masters was held in July 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, rated by the likes of Judd Trump and Neil Robertson as one of, if not the best arena they have ever played in.
Robertson won that event, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.
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