Snooker’s biggest stars will play for a £1 million bonus bounty in the Irish Open in Belfast next year, the chairman of World Snooker has announced.
Barry Hearn said that the Irish Open would form part of a new Home Series, along with the Scottish, English and the already existent Welsh Open, from the 2016/17 campaign.
Any player who wins all four in the same season will win £1 million, Hearn said. All four events will be full ranking tournaments, and will have to be crammed into an already busy calendar, along with a new European Open event which will also come onto the schedule in the same year.
Hearn called the bonus his "little special prize" and said Glasgow, Belfast and Manchester would stage the three new events.
Prize money for the World Championship winner will shoot up from its current £300,000 to £500,000 for the 2018 tournament, Hearn said.
While China is becoming a powerhouse in snooker, Hearn said of the new events: "We won't forget our fans in the UK."
The European Open will be a roaming event, and could be staged in cities such as Krakow and Lisbon, or in Germany where snooker is a rapidly growing spectator sport.
Hearn has been in charge of the professional snooker tour for the last five years, during which time prize-money has soared and a once-bare calendar is now packed out.
"This is a quantum leap from where we are and it's only just the beginning," Hearn said. "We're miles away from peaking. If we've come from base camp we're not even halfway up the mountain."
"This is not moving, no matter what money comes in ... You don't buy history, you create history"
He also repeated a familiar pledge that under his control the World Championship will not leave the Crucible.
"Negotiations will begin very shortly with Sheffield City Council and the BBC with a view to extending the ongoing arrangements," Hearn said. The veteran sports promoter engaged in a lively exchange with a Chinese journalist about taking the World Championship to China.
When it was pointed out to Hearn that his business ethos might be money-based, he said: "There's certain things that are not, mainly my tombstone.
"What I don't want on is 'This is the b*****d who took the snooker out of the Crucible'. I've been here since 1977. You can't take it away. There are certain things you mustn't touch.
"I'm not going to get an extra, what, £10m for taking it to China. It sounds like a lot of money but the damage and everything you stand for means much more than that. You've got big events in China, massive events in China. So let's make your Chinese events really massive. Why do you want an established event on the other side of the world to move to China, when you've got your own events to build?
"This is not moving, no matter what money comes in. Make your own events bigger and we'll help. You don't buy history, you create history."