"Some professional players are LOSING up to £20k a year" - Neil Robertson
Neil Robertson has warned that snooker's new generation are chalking up heavy debts as they bid to reach the top.
The expansion of the World Snooker tour from 96 to 128 players in 2013 was designed to increase opportunities to players from overseas, and chairman Barry Hearn said the most talented players would quickly rise through the rankings.
Hearn took control of the sport in 2010, and the veteran promoter is approaching a fifth anniversary as its elected head.
But while Robertson is no stranger to six-figure cheques, he claims many in the sport are being driven into the red, with flights and accommodation costs presenting new players with eye-opening bills as they take their first steps in the professional ranks.
Prize money has soared under the Hearn regime, but Robertson reasons the newcomers are seeing little of it and suffering accordingly.
"There's a lot of players losing a lot of money through travel expenses and stuff like that," Robertson said. "It's not fair to qualify yourself as professional if you're losing up to £20,000 in a year. The game could definitely improve from that aspect.
"It's very tough to sustain 128 players on the tour financially.
"There's no point having people winning £30,000 or £40,000 a season and paying out half of that in expenses. And those are some of the players who are thought of as doing quite well."
Robertson, the 2010 world champion, begins his latest Betfred World Championship campaign when he tackles Welshman Jamie Jones on Sunday.
The swashbuckling 33-year-old Australian is a serious title contender, rated the bookmakers' second favourite, but he almost gave up snooker when he was just 20, after finding himself penniless.
"I was losing money when I started," Robertson told Press Association Sport.
"Until about 2002 I was (thinking about quitting). I lost pretty much all my savings.
"Now you've got top players making more money out of the game, but the prize money is very top heavy."