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World Snooker Tour heads to Saudi with innovative Riyadh Season event

Featured image credit: Eddie Hearn

The World Snooker Tour (WST) has become the latest sports body to strike a Saudi events deal with the World Masters of Snooker added to the expanding Riyadh Season calendar.

In a first for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the invitational event will take place between March 4-6 at Boulevard Arena in Boulevard City, Riyadh. The agreement was signed between Saudi’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA), the WST and Eddie Hearn and Barry Hearn, chairman and president, respectively, of the Matchroom Sport agency.

Matchroom holds a majority stake in World Snooker and the WST, with the agency having also been heavily involved in taking major boxing events to Saudi Arabia. Eddie Hearn said on Twitter/X that the World Masters of Snooker will feature the world’s top eight players, with two wild cards, and will offer a $1m (£788,000/$919,000) prize pool.

The WST added that Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Luca Brecel are among the players to have committed to the event, which will feature a fresh twist to snooker’s traditional rules. Each game will be played under World Snooker rules and regulations but with the introduction of a new concept, a 23rd ball known as the Riyadh Season ball.

This gold ball will be worth 20 points and can only be potted once all other balls have been successfully cleared from the table, if a player is on a maximum break to make it 167.

Steve Dawson, chairman of the World Snooker Tour, said: “This is a huge breakthrough for snooker into a new territory, and we see this as the beginning of a new adventure for our sport in the region.

“We are looking forward to being a part of Riyadh Season on this fantastic new event featuring the world’s best players. We will be honoured to bring our sport to the amazing city of Riyadh, and for the local fans this will be their first chance to see some of snooker’s all-time greats.”

Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the board of directors of the General Entertainment Authority, added: “We are thrilled to be hosting our first-ever professional snooker tournament in the Kingdom.

“Snooker is watched and played by millions around the world and we look forward to welcoming some of the greatest players and snooker fans to our country and showing them what Saudi Arabia and Riyadh Season has to offer.”

A further announcement was made yesterday (Thursday), with Alalshikh declaring that an agreement had been reached between Matchroom Boxing and Queensberry Promotions which will see the rival boxing promoters face-off in a five-versus-five fight night.

This event will also take place in Riyadh, with the date and fight card to be announced at a press conference during the Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou fight week in March. Earlier this week, it was announced that the 26,000-capacity Kingdom Arena will host ‘Knockout Chaos’ on March 8, with the boxing event to be headlined by the fight between Joshua and Ngannou.

The US-based Professional Fighters League (PFL) mixed martial arts promotion also announced that its landmark PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions event will take place at the Kingdom Arena as part of Riyadh Season on February 24.

The PFL in November completed the acquisition of fellow MMA promotion Bellator from Paramount Global to create what it claims will be a “global powerhouse” in the sport.