China sparks snooker's global surge

China sparks snooker's global surge
John Higgins of Scotland eyes a shot during the final of the World Championship Snooker tournament.

England has always been the exclusive home of the world snooker championships but that could soon change, according to Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.

"Only four years ago we had a limited number of competitions, but now we have over 30 world-class tournaments every year, supported by more than 90 billiard and snooker organisations," Ferguson said at the Gujinggongjiu Haikou World Open last week.

Responding to a question from Gan Lianfang, vice-chairman of the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association and president of Beijing-based Xingpai Group, a pioneer in domestic snooker development, Ferguson said he envisioned the championships one day coming to China.

After Britain, China offers the world's biggest stage for snooker players, boasting five ranking tournaments and four tournament series.

"Five years ago, snooker was basically only played in Western countries, but today I am happy to see it is becoming a truly global sport," said Ferguson.

"China is now hosting one third of all international competitions, thanks to the Xingpai Group.

"Snooker has a very solid base here, but for some reason the oldest and most traditional event the world championships still hasn't come to China. But that is something worth expecting," he said.

John Higgins, one of the game's most successful players, said the Xingpai Group has become something of a haven for world champions, including Stephen Hendry, Mark Williams, Ding Junhui, John Higgins and Judd Trump.

"Xingpai only signs up world champions and I am happy to be one of them," said Higgins, a four-time world titleholder and three-time UK national champ.

"All these players love to come to China to compete or to do other promotions. We feel proud about coming here, and also going to other Asian tournaments. Xingpai has given us opportunities to develop snooker in China and in the world."

Gan echoed that sentiment, saying: "They all want to sign with my company because we have been actively promoting the sport around the world for the past 20 years and I have been a friend to them all."

Ferguson pointed to the company's donation of tables and cues to schools in England as one example of international cooperation.

"Good development comes from having good partners, such as Xingpai. Without it, we wouldn't he hosting world-class tournaments in China," said Ferguson.

"We share the same vision, which is to promote snooker through our joint efforts."

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