Ryan Day on narrowly avoiding Macau controversy and searching for a spark
'I don't know how many players have read the contract, maybe it needs changing.'
The Macau Five very nearly had another member as Ryan Day was set to play in the exhibition that has caused a stir in snooker, but he pulled out and will be at the Northern Ireland Open, unlike the other five players.
Day was on the poster advertising the Macau Snooker Masters, alongside Mark Selby, John Higgins, Luca Brecel, Ali Carter and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, but unlike the other five, the Welshman was not named in the statement from World Snooker Tour threatening sanctions if they appear in the exhibition.
The problem that WST had with the event was that it was running at the same time as the Northern Ireland Open, feeling that a string of top stars choosing an exhibition over a ranking tournament would damage the reputation of the Belfast competition.
The Macau event has now been moved to December, so the five players who pulled out of Northern Ireland will be twiddling their thumbs next week, with neither tournament to play in.
Day made a late decision to head to Belfast over Macau, though, explaining that his position at number 17 in the world rankings, along with the possibility of punishment from World Snooker Tour, saw him change his plans.
‘I was planning to play in Macau,’ Day told Metro.co.uk. ‘I emailed World Snooker to withdraw from Northern Ireland, then emails came through to the players reminding us of contracts and whatnot.
‘We thought as a group that we might not have been in breach of contract clauses. They thought that we were.
‘I looked at it a bit more closely, and I’m right on the bubble of the top 16. Maybe not qualifying for the UK [Championship], the Masters and along with the potential of sanctions from World Snooker if I did go and play, I phoned the promoter and pulled out, then re-entered Northern Ireland.’
It is understandable why players would be confused over whether they were in breach of the players’ contract or not with the Macau event.
The contract between professional players and WST lays out situations in which they cannot play exhibitions and the circumstances of the Macau event next week are not specifically covered.
However, there is a clause which covers a range of possibilities as it bars players from doing anything that could undermine or damage the reputation of World Snooker events.
WST’s statement on ‘The Macau Five’ included: ‘The WST does not support any clash with a WST event and would consider a player’s decision to prioritise a non-sanctioned event clashing with a WST event to be a breach of their player contract, as this would undoubtedly result in sizeable financial implications to the WST including loss of broadcast income, and sponsorship and ticket sales revenue let alone losses due to any reputational damage.’
Day feels that this part of the contract should be changed and made more clear in future to prevent any future disagreements.
‘It’s so vague. It’s just a blanket term. I think potentially going forward the players might need to try and put in place a better, more understandable clause,’ said the Welshman.
‘Maybe it’s a bit of an eye-opener, because I don’t know how many players have read the contract, maybe it needs changing.
‘I’m not disappointed really, because Belfast is one of my favourite cities and it’s one of my favourite tournaments. I’d much prefer to miss the English at Brentwood rather than Belfast.
‘I was going to take my wife out and have a bit of a holiday in Macau so that’s not happening now, but I need some wins for the Grand Prix, UK, Masters, so it’s the right thing to do.’
On the table Day is looking to find some inspiration, admitting that he has been struggling to light any fire in his belly for some time now, despite a good season in 2022/23 which saw him win the British Open.
During World Championship qualifying in April, the 43-year-old suggested he could even be coming to the end of his career, saying: ‘I’ve been saying it for a long time, I don’t know how much more I’ve got left. I’m fed up of playing like that.’
The former world number six says that was a particular tough time for him, but not something he has got over yet.
‘The World Championship was probably my lowest ebb,’ he said. ‘But it’s an ongoing thing, to be honest, I’m finding myself turning up and not really enjoying it.
‘I was looking forward to going to China for the first time since Covid. I got on the flight, arrived in Wuhan, which was a lovely city, the hotel was magnificent, but an hour-and-a-half later I was just thinking, what am I doing? It’s a mindset thing but it’s; affecting my performances as well.
‘I’m not playing with freedom and with enough fire in my belly as well. Just turning up and going through the motions. I’ll play until I can’t, but I need to try and find a way of enjoying it as I once did. The fire in the belly is what I need to get back. If you’ve got the fight and determination about you..it’s gone missing for whatever reason, I’m just trying to find ways of getting it back.
‘I’m finding it very difficult to concentrate properly, that’s in and out all the time. Not wanting to be there as much as I should, it’s a work in progress trying to find the key to unlock the box.’
Still ranked at 17 in the world, things are not going too badly for Day, but he even feels that his position in the rankings is a little false.
‘You feel a little bit like a fraud,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying I’m a terrible player, but I’ve won the British Open last year and that keeps me up the rankings for a couple of years.
‘But the mad thing about it is I’m enjoying trying to find a way through practice. I play a lot with Jackson Page and Liam Davies. Young, hungry players and I see myself in them 15-20 years back. I really enjoy practicing with them, it’s invigorating. But then I go and play in a match and I’m 30-40 points worse than in practice, which is frustrating to say the least.’
Day plays Ma Hailong in the opening round in Belfast on Sunday morning.
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