Bamboozled by China? Organizer of the Masters tournament devises plans to expand in Asia.

The owner of Matchroom, which owns World Snooker and PDC World Darts, is evaluating opportunities in India and South-East Asia due to concerns about overreliance on China, according to its chairman.

Steve Dawson, CEO of World Snooker Ltd, stated that the company is exploring the possibility of hosting tournaments in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Thailand after being hindered by three years of Covid lockdowns imposed by Beijing.

Dawson also expressed the hope that young players, inspired by 16-year-old Luke Littler’s remarkable performance in the PDC World Darts Championship final, would contribute to the growth of the sport. Matchroom, the sports promotion firm behind these events, was founded by Barry Hearn and is now run by his son, Eddie, covering various sports including boxing, darts, snooker, basketball, and gymnastics.

Reflecting on the impact of Chinese lockdowns on their snooker world tour events, Dawson said, “it was a real eye opener for us that we need to look at spreading our risk a bit” and “have a broader spread of international events across Asia and Europe, with less reliance on any single territory”.

World Snooker plans a “cautious expansion” into new markets, in addition to existing tournaments held in Turkey and Germany. They are the hosts of the UK Championship, World Snooker Championship, and the Masters, which will begin at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday.

Dawson believes that young talents, such as British teenager Stan Moody, need opportunities in order to excel, acknowledging that snooker can be more challenging due to limited access to tables and the time required to become proficient. The viewing figures for the finals of the darts and snooker championships demonstrate the potential audience base.

Regarding the need to attract a younger audience, Dawson expressed the desire to modernize the sport’s image while acknowledging the value of the existing mature audience. World Snooker achieved record revenues of £26.6m in its latest published accounts for the year ending 30 June 2022, despite the impact of Chinese lockdowns. The company aims to distribute £20m in prize money for the 2025-26 financial year.

Matchroom is still exploring its options after unsuccessful talks with private equity firm CVC to acquire a minority stake in the company last year.

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