A lot of the time you may hear commentators reference ‘Q school’ during matches, particularly when watching new players compete in tournaments. But what is the nature of the Q School in the snooker environment and how does it affect newer players?
The Q School is essentially the formal qualifying procedure for the main snooker tour. It’s held before the start of a new season; in this case, Q School concluded at the beginning of June. Those who emerge successful out of Q School will gain a place on the main snooker circuit with a 2-year tour card. And a tour card is what allows players to enter tournaments.
There is no prize money for Q School, since it is effectively an application for getting on the main tour. Entrants pay a fixed fee and play through a series of playoffs and if they win their respective bracket, they qualify for a tour card. These can be rigorous considering the level of competition these days – in this season’s Q School, entrants had to go through 6 rounds of best-of-7 competition to win a tour card.
This season has the most qualifiers since Q School’s inception, with 16 players obtaining a tour card. This consists of 12 players winning their brackets and an additional 4 players qualifying through Order of Merit, where consistent, high performers in the playoffs rank highly enough to earn a place on the tour.
The Q School is a chance to showcase new talent going into the upcoming season. Winning a tour card gives these players an opportunity to perform on the stages with the players they have probably looked up to for years.