Following today’s announcement from the UK Government that the easing of certain restrictions in England has been postponed, there will be no access for fans to the Betfred World Championship from Saturday August 1.
Fans at the Crucible for the rest of today (Friday) will be able to watch the action live, but from tomorrow the event will be played behind closed doors. WST remains hopeful that a small crowd will be allowed for the final on August 15 and 16, and will follow Government advice on this.
The Betfred World Championship had been selected by the Government as one of the small number of pilot events for safe the return of spectators to live sport, and it was the only indoor event.
However today’s announcement included restriction on crowd access at all of these pilot sporting events.
Fans who had tickets for the Crucible will be offered the chance to transfer them to the 2021 event, or will be offered a full refund.
WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We realise this will be a huge disappointment for fans who were excited to witness the magic of the Crucible over the next fortnight, and we feel the same ourselves.
“At every stage of this process we have been following Government guidelines and working with them on the correct procedures. We have had very positive feedback from the Government, they have been impressed by the measures we have implemented. Safety has always been our number one priority and we have met every aspect of the Government guidelines in this regard.
“Above all it’s a great shame for people who had those golden tickets, but in the circumstances we are now living in we have to accept the decision and move on.
“Snooker has led the way in terms of the return of live sport, in recent weeks we have been the first to stage live televised events and now live events with a small crowd. In the months to come we will continue to find innovative ways to bring sport back safely and entertain our many millions of fans around the globe.”
Fans who have tickets will be contacted soon by the tickets providers to explain how to transfer to next year or receive a refund.
There you have it.
Having their tickets transferred or refunded will not console the fans, especially those who took days off work, traveled and booked hotels for this.
The UK proved to be one of the worst countries in the way they handled this crisis, with England boasting the highest death rate in Europe. The northern part of England was particularly hard hit. Yet, a gamble was taken to bring back fans “live” at sporting events, including indoors at the Crucible in Yorkshire, a small intimate venue with poor ventilation. This was irresponsible, this was putting money and business ahead of people’s lives, whilst shielding behind “government guidance”. Eventually, the risk was too high even for Boris Johnson’s government.
This morning, I was watching the snooker on television. Barry Hearn, all smiles, and again very rude to Anthony Hamilton. In stark contrast, WPBSA chairman, Jason Ferguson was class.
Most fans were watching without a mask in a venue relying on air conditioning for ventilation. I won’t lie, it made me both angry and apprehensive. Thankfully, it’s over. Hopefully nobody will be infected by the end of today.
Don’t get me wrong. The efforts made by WST and WPBSA to make the previous events, played behind closed doors, safe were outstanding. They only deserve praise for the way the CLS, the Tour Championship and the World Qualifiers were run in recent months. But as soon as you introduce a crowd, and rely on everyone attending to act responsibly, it’s out of your control. It only takes one idiot to compromise everyone’s safety, and there is always (at least) one idiot. This was a very serious risk, one that in my opinion should never have been taken.
I was branded “negative”. Those who know me, know I’m nothing like that. But I’m not reckless either, and I value my and others’ lives and health.
The 2020 World Championship continues. A number of people owe Anthony Hamilton an apology, including Barry Hearn. He was branded “selfish” for being sensible. He should have been playing this afternoon. He was looking forward to it until he realised that this was too risky given his health condition. He was publicly criticised and slated. He’s 49, he may never get another Crucible opportunity. He took a very difficult decision and now he must be devastated.
This is what Barry Hearn had to say about it: