Barry Hearn plans to play the World Championship end July …

This was reported in the press (metro) today:

Barry Hearn reveals plan for rescheduled Snooker World Championships

The Snooker World Championships has provisionally been moved to July but could still be played behind closed doors at the iconic Crucible Theatre. The sporting calendar has been decimated by the global coronavirus pandemic which has seen the Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020 pushed back until next year, while in England the Premier League remains suspended indefinitely and an entire summer of international cricket looks set to be wiped out, which would cost the ECB around £300million.

With the UK set to enter its third week of lockdown, World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn told The Sun of his intention to move his three-week flagship tournament to the end of July, starting on the 25th, even if it means staging the event with no fans present.

He said: ‘We have secured the Crucible for the same dates as the Olympics were going to be. ‘And we have applied to the BBC to make that move so it will be played out at the end of July and start of August. ‘We are waiting to hear back from the BBC if that is acceptable to them. ‘Fortunately the Crucible have made those dates available. So we are in the position to stage a truly huge world snooker championship. Provided we fit alongside government rules.

‘When sport is back, we will all be very busy because we’ll play catch-up on a huge scale. ‘When it does come back, it will be wall-to-wall – and that cannot happen soon enough for a lot of our members. ‘Clearly by then we will have all been starved of world-class sport. ‘I think it will be a phased approach. The Crucible is less than 1,000 people. ‘It may well be part of that phased exit. But notwithstanding that, we’re prepared if necessary to stage a Crucible behind closed doors.’

And here is the article in “The Sun” the above is citing:

JACKPOT

World Snooker Championship secures postponed Olympics slot this summer on BBC

THE Snooker World Championship is set to replace the Tokyo Olympics in the TV schedules this summer.

SunSport can reveal the Crucible event has been moved from this month to July 25 – the same slot vacated by the rescheduled Olympics on the BBC.

The Sheffield tournament could also take place behind closed doors for the first time if government restrictions are still in place during the coronavirus crisis.

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn said: “We have secured the Crucible for the same dates as the Olympics were going to be.

“And we have applied to the BBC to make that move so it will be played out at the end of July and start of August.

“We are waiting to hear back from the BBC if that is acceptable to them.

“When sport is back, we will all be very busy because we’ll play catch-up on a huge scale.

“When it does come back, it will be wall-to-wall – and that cannot happen soon enough for a lot of our members.

“Clearly by then we will have all been starved of world-class sport.”

Instead of watching Katarina Johnson-Thompson go for heptathlon glory in Japan, TV viewers this summer can see Ronnie O’Sullivan attempt to win a sixth snooker world crown.

More than 18 million people watched the epic 1985 snooker world final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis which went down to the final black ball.

And TV figures could go through the roof in the absence of any live sport in this country, especially now Wimbledon, the Olympics and Euro 2020 have gone from the calendar.

Top sports promoter Hearn said: “I don’t think we will come out on one day and the next day they will say go back to normal.

“I think it will be a phased approach. The Crucible is less than 1,000 people.

“It may well be part of that phased exit. But notwithstanding that, we’re prepared if necessary to stage a Crucible behind closed doors.

“This is a business, people’s livelihoods are at stake, and obviously we want to entertain people globally.”

Matchroom Sport look after several sports, including snooker, darts and fishing, and there is an appetite for action – even if it is without fans.

Hearn, 71, said: “When the situation eases slightly enough, we can stage events behind closed doors. The moment it becomes acceptable.

“I don’t know if that is a week or a month. But we can start that in two or three days of getting clearance from various authorities.

That will give an opportunity to players who have remained in the UK.

“Snooker and darts players are self-employed people. I am certainly looking to do several events pre to the worlds, including the qualifiers.

“They can all be played quite comfortably within the two-metre rule.”

Two puzzling thoughts …

  1. Barry Hearn doesn’t say anything about the qualifiers dates. These need to happen BEFORE the main event, starting at the latest mid-July and involve a lot more persons than the main event itself. I’m not sure that it’s realistic to hold such an event, involving 128 players as soon as mid-July or earlier. Has he a plan for that?
  2. That will give an opportunity to players who have remained in the UK.” … and sod the others? Don’t ever tell me again that there isn’t a huge bias in favour of UK players within a sport that claims its ambition to be “global”. We might have the World Championship played without any of the Asian players. And mainland European players might find it difficult, maybe even impossible to attend. How is that right? That’s probably 1 in 4 players, maybe even more who might be unable to play in the main event of the season, by no fault of them, and a good number may face relegation as a consequence.

Right … maybe if that happens WST should rebrand itself  UKST and the event be renamed “Summer UK Championship”.

And one more … IF it happens, then maybe, BBC could stay put and cover the WSS ROKiT Phones.com World Championship? It’s scheduled to start on August 12. If the BBC plans are to fill the Crucible slot in April with classic matches it means that there is an appetite for a bit of nostalgia and history. Why not show the heroes of yesteryear back playing snooker at the Crucible on the BBC as well? The equipement and crew would altready be there…

5 thoughts on “Barry Hearn plans to play the World Championship end July …

  1. We have no way of knowing whether it will be safe to stage an event in July (even behind closed doors), but I think that limiting the field to 16 players is the only reasonable option. The choice needs to be thought of as “Significantly modified WC vs. No WC at all”, rather than “Normal WC vs. Significantly modified WC”.

    Hearn would probably never do such a thing, but whatever prize money would have been won by the players prior to reaching the last 16 could be evenly distributed among the (e.g.) top 128 players outside the 16 that played in the event.

    • Yes, obviously the question of prizemoney is still undecided – it will be whatever they can afford, given the losses they have probably already incurred. They will almost certainly have to give something to the lower-ranked players, or they could face a challenge.

      It may be unfair to players who don’t get the chance to qualify, but it’s a question of practicalities (as you say, the alternative is “No WC at all”). It’s only nerds like me who might be bothered by the implications to the likes of Chen Feilong (who has stayed in the UK, but will now receive a letter terminating his professional career).

  2. Possibly the prospect of playing without spectators would be allowable by the UK regulations at that time, but we can’t possibly know.

    In terms of the qualifiers, they could be scrapped, and the top-32 players are simply invited to the Crucible, there might be a few players missing, although only 5 players in the top-32 have left the UK. Some of them could return, but would face at least a 14-day quarantine, disrupting their preparations. Unless there are guarantees, they probably wouldn’t risk it.

    Another option would be to have just the top-16 (minus Ding perhaps, but Joe Perry would be a popular replacement). The benefit of that is they could do it using only 1 table, which will help with the ‘distancing’ principle and allow for fewer people onsite if the regulations have a limit.

    Whilst I do agree with trying to hold a World Championship as soon as possible, this may be the wrong plan. I can see the logic of trying to occupy a space vacated by the Olympics. But it looks like a huge gamble: if they are forced to postpone a second time, the impression given out is one of incompetent management.

    • If he goes for just the top 32 or the top 16, then it’s again the top earners who will get the money whilst the lower ranked players need it most. And of course Matchroom will be a winner…

      • The objective is just to keep the game solvent financially. In such a circumstance the lower-ranked players do not come into the reckoning.

        They could even go for fewer than 16 players: so long as Trump, O’Sullivan, Higgins, Williams, Selby, Robertson and Murphy are there, the BBC and viewers will be delighted and the event will be considered a great success. It would be a massive boost to a frustrated public who will have had nothing live to watch on TV for months. It could bring the game to a whole new audience worldwide.

        The lack of consideration of the lesser-known players will of course go unnoticed by the wider media. The ‘legitimacy’ of the event will come from the big-name players, and the ‘Crucible’ venue. It will be a ‘World’ Championship because Neil Robertson is an Australian.

        Like it or not, the plan could work. The real uncertainty is about Government regulations, for which there can be no guarantees. It’s therefore a risk. If it fails, the blow could be severe…

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