Barry Hearn gives an update about the World Championship plans

Barry Hearn talked to the press about the World Championship plans 

Barry Hearn issues update on Snooker World Championship: ‘It’s a fingers-crossed job’

Phil Haigh – Tuesday 14 Apr 2020 12:23

Barry Hearn is planning to put on the 2020 Snooker World Championship in July at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, but admits there can be few guarantees amid the coronavirus pandemic and it is a ‘fingers-crossed job.’

The World Championship has been tentatively rescheduled to start on 25 July, from its original start date in April.

This decision, made by WST, is yet to be confirmed by the BBC, the event’s broadcaster, and with the ever-changing situation that coronavirus presents little can be planned with certainty.

WST chairman Hearn says that the July plan is probable, even if the event has to be played behind closed doors, but will guarantee nothing.

‘We’ve got Plans A, B, C and D and there are three or four ways of looking at things and how they’re going to develop,’ Hearn told the Weekly Dartscast.

‘The biggest problem for all sports, especially global sports like darts and snooker, is the travel restrictions don’t make it a level playing field for everybody.

‘If someone can’t get out of their country then how the hell can they compete in a ranking system that is played, the majority of it, in Europe? So we have to wait and see how other countries develop as well. ‘On the snooker side, we’ve allocated the dates previously reserved for the Olympics.

‘Really it’s a fingers-crossed job. We’re gambling that by the end of July, early August we can stage the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield or we can stage it without a crowd.

‘One of those is more than likely to be an option, but circumstances will tell us and the government will advise us what is safe and healthy to do.

‘We’re not going to take a risk with the health and safety of our officials, staff and players. But at some stage the world has got to get back to normality. We’ve just got to make sure we’re in a position to be ready.

‘We’re geared up now to create events within a three or four day platform because the infrastructure is in place, it’s just a question when that green light shines. We can’t really give a definitive answer more than that in these circumstances.’

Hearn is working on organising the World Championship just a week after suffering a heart attack, the second of his life.

The 71-year-old insists he is respecting the instructions of doctors and is taking the rest that he was recommended.

‘It’s one of those things you’ve got to get through,’ Hearn continued. ‘I had a  heart attack 18 years ago, this one wasn’t as strong so that’s a positive. I knew what to expect.

‘They did a brilliant job on me, the NHS. Sunday night I had one night in critical care, came out, transferred to another hospital on the Monday, they operated on the Tuesday and Wednesday night I went home.

‘Now I’m under instructions which I will not completely ignore of course, because they know what they’re doing. But no gym for four weeks, gives me plenty of time to sit around, plan for the future and I’m in a state of permanent excitement, that’s how I live my life.

‘I’m in reasonable shape and I’m sure I’ll get stronger and stronger as the days proceed.’

The parts in bold have been highlighted by me.

The first “bold” part marks a welcome change as compared to the “opportunity for those who remained in the UK” previously stated. The UK bias on tour is already big for a number of reasons I have exposed before. To play the World Championship just for those who happen to be in the UK or able to travel to it would have been scandalous. The World Championship is crucial for so many players who try to stay on the tour. That many of them would be refused the opportunity to play in it because they aren’t UK based, or because they got back to their countries to take care of their families under the pandemics circumstances would be totally unfair and inexcusable.

The second bold part seems to be stating the obvious. However, it has consequences. The qualifiers need to be played before the main event and involve a much higher number of persons. It may well be the stumbling block. In a previous interview, Barry Hearn has said that it would be “easy” to respect the “two meters” distancing rule. I’m not quite sure about that. Just think about the fitters building the tables. Can they really do such a job whilst staying constantly 2 meters away from each other? The players and referees share one table and a set of balls. Will they all play with gloves? Not the kind of gloves used in cue sports, actual “full” gloves that would protect them to get direct contact with the balls and cloth? Is that even possible? And, at the tournament, there are constant interactions between the TD office, the officials, the players. Some most fans never imagine existing: Pat, for instance, spends considerable time sewing logos on players’ waistcoats, finding bow ties for those who forgot theirs, and generally looks after the players’ needs.

In short, unless the global situation improves faster than expected, which would be fantastic of course, I can’t see it happen as early as mid-July, which would be when the qualifiers need to be played if Barry Hearn schedule for the main event is to be respected.

5 thoughts on “Barry Hearn gives an update about the World Championship plans

  1. Maybe there is a job for captain Ali Carter to go and pick some of the top players in his aeroplane

  2. They can not play the Tournament without full structure that will just make the sport a farce.

    can you ever see any other sport doing that of course not.

    The World have to move on at some point theres no doubt about that but organizing a tournament too close could be disastrous you could easily get a situation where a tournament will be canceled mid event even mid match when you got a 2 session matches.

    the WC Should be postponed to 2021 there’s nothing wrong in that it shows leadership.

    They can always put on nothing event for players to play in like they did with PTC in 2010 if there is a way of doing that but the WC needs to have more respect than throwing it together at short notice.

  3. “It remains a problem how to fix the rankings to determine who stays on tour, and accurate rankings thereafter.”

    Yes, and for me, another big question would be whether and how a 16-player WC (for example) would count in the record books. If Judd were to win, would he be generally considered to have broken the Crucible Curse? If Ronnie were to win, would he generally considered to be only 1 WC title behind Hendry?

    In the end, I suspect that these would all be matters of opinion, and that one’s opinion would be largely shaped by whether they liked the winner or not…

    • Yes exactly. The record books are only really important for nerds like us. There are previous World Championships which have less credibility.

  4. All true of course. But we shouldn’t rule it out. Barry has tried to prepare so they are ready whenever there is a chance to play a tournament. He knows very well that the finances of the game could depend on it, and I don’t think any one of us want to see snooker go bankrupt. It’s a chance worth taking.

    I still think he would and should go ahead even if it means just the top-16 playing on one table behind closed doors. He would need to hand out money to the lower-ranked players as some form of ‘compensation’. It would be agonising and certainly unfair, but it would provide something instead of nothing. The only player who would probably miss out would be Ding Junhui (Yan Bingtao is still in Sheffield, and Shaun Murphy could probably manage the journey from Ireland). Players who are denied the chance to win a WC wouldn’t have a chance either if it was cancelled altogether. It remains a problem how to fix the rankings to determine who stays on tour, and accurate rankings thereafter.

    We must remember that we are dedicated fanatics, who follow the game all year and understand history and systems intimately. We can see all the problems that this would cause to the ‘structure of the game’. But we can’t necessarily speak for the millions of people who would watch it on TV, the broadcasters, sponsors, government. All of them are vital for the future of the game.

    I also hope that Barry Hearn himself isn’t overdoing things – he should be resting. The negotiations will be very contentious, with many people disadvantaged and upset. For Barry to be in that position wouldn’t be wise. He needs a deputy who can make sensible decisions based on Barry’s instructions.

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