Crucible or nothing says Barry Hearn

This was published by Eurosport today …

Hearn: World Championship will be cancelled if Crucible is ruled out for second time

Hearn Trump Crucible

By Desmond Kane

Barry Hearn has revealed the World Championship is likely to be cancelled for a year if the tournament has to be called off for a second time at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’d rather get it on at the Crucible this year or have nothing,” World Snooker Tour chairman Hearn told Eurosport.

I don’t want to lose the World Championship. It’s an important thing for the sport and the TV audience of millions around the world.

The World Championship was due to start on April 18 and finish on May 4, but was postponed because of the health crisis engulfing the globe.

A provisional date for the 44th staging of the sport’s biggest tournament in Sheffield has been rearranged that would see the tournament begin on Friday 31 July and end on Sunday 16 August with dates yet to be set for the qualifying rounds.

Crucible - Hearn Sponsors

Depending on health advice from the UK government, the sport’s organisers World Snooker Tour have stated they will consider the following scenarios:

  • Playing the event with a reduced crowd
  • Playing the event behind closed doors
  • Postponing the event to a later date again

But Hearn is adamant that he would rather cancel the tournament – with sponsors Betfred awarding £500,000 to the champion in an overall record prize fund of £2.395m – for a year than attempt to reschedule it for a third time later or elsewhere in 2020.

“To be honest, if you went past it you would have to say that you would cancel the event for a year,” said Hearn. “That would be a sad loss because players need to earn money.

“Snooker players are self-employed people, they don’t know when they are going to work again. We are working hard behind the scenes. If we can’t do it with a crowd, we’ll do it without a crowd for the 500 million watching worldwide on TV.

“These are difficult times for sport in general. No-one really knows what we’re doing, and hopefully the government will shed some light on what we’re allowed to do in the next few days.

“The prize money is £2.5m. We won’t be changing that whether there is a crowd there or not.

I can’t think of any reason why I would want to cancel, to be honest. In these difficult times, it is a time for character, for people to stand up around the world. Look, if it loses money fair enough, but when it makes money that is good for us as well.

“We take a bigger picture for the players and the fans. The fans want entertainment because they are bored. The players want money and they want to participate in the biggest event in the world. We don’t want to stand in the way of that so it goes ahead.”

Judd Trump, who has won a record six ranking titles in 2019-20, is due to defend his title as he bids to become the first winner to successfully defend the trophy at the first attempt. World number one Trump hit a record seven centuries in an astonishing 18-9 win over four-times winner John Higgins in last year’s final.

Hearn feels holding the event behind closed doors could be the solution despite Wimbledon, Euro 2020 and the Olympics being wiped from the summer sporting calendar due to the outbreak.

“I’d rather play the World Championship in the Crucible empty than any other venue, if that makes sense,” said Hearn. “I could put a snooker table in your living room if it’s big enough or back garden if it’s not…that’s not an issue.

I don’t think there is much chance of not being able to stage the World Championship at the end of July into August behind closed doors depending on the current numbers and government rules.

“But I think it is the Crucible. And if the Crucible has to be empty then so be it, but let’s play. We’re all greedy, we’re trying to get the best of both worlds.

We’ve delayed it as far as we can delay it. We’ve managed to secure the Crucible because we think that is important. We are big fans of Sheffield and the area around it because they’ve supported us so well over the years. We don’t want to take it anywhere else.

“It is only 900 people in there so we hope that as we ease our way out of lockdown the government can say you can have small crowds.

“Well, 900 people might count as a small crowd so there is always that hope, but we have to wait and see what the rules are. We will live by them. If the government says you can have 900 people, the Crucible will look the same as always.

“If they say we can have 100 people, one way or another we will ballot or something that would allow 100 in. If they say you can have no-one, we will still be playing it at the Crucible behind closed doors with full safety procedures in place.

“I don’t want to lose the World Championship. It’s an important thing for the sport and the TV audience of millions around the world.”

The elite eight-man Tour Championship in Llandudno has already been rescheduled in the calendar, moved from March 17-22 to July 21-26, but much will depend on how the health crisis develops over the next few months.

Venue Cymru in the Welsh town has already been transformed into a field hospital to cope with the pandemic, forcing a change of venue for the sport’s penultimate event of the season.

“We are desperately trying not cancel anything, we are trying to postpone it. Of course when you catch up to that postponed date, that relies it on being allowable to happen,” said Hearn.

“The Tour Championship is one that has been delayed. I don’t think we are going to be allowed to go back to the original venue. It’s not so much of a problem, but we don’t know when we can stage it at all at the moment.

“But we’d love to get it done in June before the World Championship. We have to just see what the rules are.”

Desmond Kane

Right … exit strategy coming?

A few things come to mind reading this

The two guys can play under social distance rules no problem

Not so sure. Even if they don’t come close to each other, they will constantly use the same table, and to a lesser extend same balls for hours in a row, with bare hands. Is that safe? Will they need to use hand sanitizer before and after each passage at the table, and the rails and cue ball being cleaned as well? Might disrupt the flow of the match quite seriously …

Well, 900 people might count as a small crowd …

Possibly, but the number is not the only thing to consider. The Crucible is a very intimate venue. Spectators are sat very close to each other, and very close to the players.

Also, if it’s going ahead with no crowd, it still needs to be on TV otherwise there is no point doing it, and I can’t see how the BBC crew could operate at the Crucible under social distancing rules. It’s not so much about the camera(wo)men you see on the floor, there are a lot more persons involved, notably working in those big trucks that you might have noticed outside the venue. It’s cramped in there.

Also, there is no way two commentators could sit together in the tiny commentary boxes under social distancing rules either. The “Bubble” studio inside the Crucible is another issue for the same reason. They would need to have the studio in a remote place. Possibly stay in the Winter Garden, if allowed and closed to the public.

They will also need to strictly limit the media on-site, potentially further reducing the coverage by the written press.  Post-match and radio interviews may also be difficult to conduct safely. I can’t see Rob Walker and the players shouting at each other from two meters away…

Venue Cymru in the Welsh town has already been transformed into a field hospital to cope with the pandemic, forcing a change of venue for the sport’s penultimate event of the season.

“We are desperately trying not cancel anything, we are trying to postpone it. Of course when you catch up to that postponed date, that relies it on being allowable to happen,” said Hearn.

“The Tour Championship is one that has been delayed. I don’t think we are going to be allowed to go back to the original venue. It’s not so much of a problem, but we don’t know when we can stage it at all at the moment.

“But we’d love to get it done in June before the World Championship. We have to just see what the rules are.”

I might be a pessimist, but the way I read this, the Tour Championship is very unlikely to happen. And ITV would have the same social distancing issues with their crew than the BBC at the Crucible. Hendry recently said that such an event involves 80 persons from ITV on site. That’s a part fans never see, and very few know

In short… I can’t see it happening.

2 thoughts on “Crucible or nothing says Barry Hearn

  1. Nothing new.

    Yes, the Tour Championship is a problem. I don’t know how much the cancellation fee would be, but there would obviously be a problem holding a top-8 tournament immediately before the World Championship. I think they just have to put their eggs in one basket and just go for the WC.

    • The Tour Championship is much easier to put on than the World Championship but it wont be at Venue Cymru thats a coronavirus Hospital and proberbly will remain that way until some time next year

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