By Shamoon Hafez
BBC Sport at the York Barbican
Saudi Arabia will host a ranking event for the first time next season after a 10-year deal was agreed with World Snooker.
The Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will take place in Riyadh from 4-10 October 2020 with total prize money of £2.5m.
The champion will receive £500,000, the same amount as the winner of the World Championship.
“This is a giant leap forward for our sport,” said World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.
“Snooker has grown to such an extent that we are now creating exceptional tournaments at this level.”
Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight victory over Andy Ruiz Jr took place in the Middle Eastern country this weekend.
However, human rights organisation Amnesty International has highlighted the country’s “abysmal” human rights record. Heavy restrictions on freedom of expression and women’s rights have been raised, as has the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law.
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The Kingdom has sought to stage sporting and entertainment events in a bid to attract visitors and move away from its oil-dependent economy.
Hearn said: “We have enjoyed tremendous global expansion over the past decade, particularly in Asia and Europe and are thrilled to stage a new and momentous tournament in the Middle East.”
The 128-player tournament will feature four local players competing against four tour players that are seeded from 65 to 128 in the first round.
The second round will see players ranked 33 to 64, while the top 32 players will enter at the third-round stage.
There are currently 20 ranking events on the World Snooker calendar with a total prize money of £14.4m.
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