A number of reactions to yesterday’s post indicate that a lot of fans don’t understand the implications of holding the World Championship behind closed doors. This is understandable as most of them have never been there backstage. So here goes…
The first thing to be stated is that the option of running the World Championship behind closed doors is considered, it’s because social distancing measures would still be in place, maybe not as strict as they are today, but still deemed necessary. With this in mind, let’s consider a number of logistic aspects.
The main event
1. Players have to get there, and stay somewhere
Barry hearn himself has raised the point that travel restrictions might prevent players to travel to Sheffield, and should that be the case, the tournament may need to be canceled. This was also reported by Eurosport yesterday. (excerpts)
Hearn: World Championship plans could be scrapped due to lack of players
Barry Hearn has revealed his plans to stage the World Championship in July could be scrapped due to the travel chaos caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
The World Championship was due to start on April 18 and finish on May 4, but has been postponed because of the health crisis engulfing the world.
That would see the 44th staging of the Crucible Theatre tournament in Sheffield start on Saturday July 25 and end on Monday August 10, but Hearn admits he is in the dark if those plans will ever see the light of day.
“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? “
Supposing that players are able to travel to Sheffield, they will need to find accommodations. This, in turn, means that at least some hotels must be allowed to open and offer basic services in a safe way. Even if they were to open only for WST staff, officials and the players, they still would need their own staff for housekeeping, security and basic catering. Regarding the latter, offering breakfast would probably be a minimum.
2. BBC and Eurosport.
BBC is the main broadcaster. This means that they have a big crew on-site for an event like this one: the technical crew taking care of the lighting and technical maintenance, the cameramen – each table has three cameramen (women) on the floor and there is one above as well up the scaffolding that towers over the arena – and all the crew needed for the production and post-production. That’s a lot of people.
BBC uses to have their studio in the Winter Garden, next to the cue zone, for as long as there are two tables. If social distancing is still in place, that’s not an option, unless they can have the Winter Garden closed and to themselves. The cue zone obviously would be scrapped.
Once we are at the one table set up, in recent years, they move the studio inside the arena, in a kind of big transparent “bubble”. Believe me, this space isn’t big, and they need at least one, usually two cameramen in there too. How’s that gonna work with social distancing, I’m not sure. Of course, the studio could possibly stay in the closed Winter Garden for the duration as was the case in the past.
In recent years, Eurosport also had people on site. Maybe they can still do the coverage from their studio in London.
Also, usually, a big screen is installed on Tudor square. I doubt that this would be allowed if social distancing measures are still in place: the big screen there means a crowd gathering on the square whenever the weather permits.
3. The written press and photographers
They use to share the green room with the WST press office. It’s pretty crowded in there usually. I would expect that only a handful of members of the media would get a pass this time, if any, for obvious reasons. The photographers have to operate from two little “boxes” that are located right behind the markers. They are tiny. I doubt that more than one person would be allowed in there at any time. Policing this would be a nightmare, so, the obvious solution would be to have only Tai Chengzhe – provided that he can be there – to take the pictures. Similarly the space were the post-match interviews are conducted is quite small. The WST press officer is there of course, as are the members of the media sent by the BBC (radio and written coverage). Again expect only a couple of additional journalists to be allowed to attend, if any.
All this means that the coverage and exposure of the event are likely to be significantly reduced as compared to previous years, which in turn will impact the sponsoring, particularly for the players.
4. The venue
Even with no crowd, the venue will need some staff on attendance: cleaners, paramedics and security are indispensable. They will need fewer people than usual, but they will need to make sure that health and security are covered.
Usually meals are provided to the WST staff, the BBC crew and the media. If the venue can’t offer the service, then external catering needs to be provided. These are long and non-stop days, especially during the first two rounds.
The stage door is where the players, their entourage, the WST staff and the media enter the venue. There is usually a good gathering of fans waiting for the players in front of it. Policing may be needed. Also, usually, just pushing a button gives anyone access to the lobby where the venue security, and a WST representative, check on people’s credential to access the venue. Again this is a very small room, usually cramped and another “entry” procedure will be needed.
The dressing rooms … are tiny! Really they are. Players’ entourage, if any is allowed, would probably be restricted to just one person.
5. Players will need and want to practice
Usually there are two or three tables at the crucible itself. It’s totally insufficient and it’s mainly there to allow the players who are actually playing in the “current” session to have a bit of practice ahead of their match or during the MSI. This means that players will need to have access to clubs or academies, with all precautions and social distancing measures in place. The said clubs and academies may need special permission to be able to open even to a “restricted” number of well-identified “customers”.
All the “points” developed above apply to qualifiers as well, with even more people involved, although points 2 and 3 are definitely less of an issue at the qualifiers. Of course the venue is different. As it stands it’s EIS, that is outside the city center, which means that the players will need some means of transport to get there. It’s a real possibility that busses would have a reduced schedule and go missing completely in the late evening. Packed busses, taxis or shuttles (should WST offer the service) should be avoided… In that respect Ponds Forge could be a better choice, as it is close to the city center and at a walking distance of many hotels. But I guess that changing the qualifiers venue would cause contractual issues…
There is A LOT to consider when it comes to logistics alone… In his interview, Barry hearn was talking about setting up an event in three or for days. In normal circumstances maybe, but not this one under the current circumstances!