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.