WST has announced that there will be no crowds at any event in 2020, but fans will be welcomed back at the 2021 Masters.
WST To Welcome Fans To The 2021 Masters
Following recent UK Government announcements on the return of fans to live sport, WST has been working hard alongside local councils and venues to bring crowds back to our major snooker events. A decision has been made to continue with the Betway UK Championship, Scottish Open and World Grand Prix behind closed doors without any crowds. We will then look to safely welcome a crowd for snooker’s biggest invitation event, The Masters at Alexandra Palace in London in January.
Alexandra Palace in Haringey, North London, has hosted the Masters since 2011 and is widely recognised as one of snooker’s greatest arenas. Only the elite top 16 players will contest the tournament, which runs from January 10th to 17th, 2021.
It is hoped that up to 1,000 fans will be able to attend each session. WST is in regular contact with the UK Government on the detail of regional restrictions, and tickets holders will be kept informed by email.
Fans who have already purchased tickets will receive an email today. They have the opportunity to assess their own personal situation and will then be able to choose from three options. Fans who still want to attend this iconic event will be able to click a button and confirm that they are happy to attend, taking account of the social distancing aspects of the event. These fans will then be allocated seats over the coming weeks.
Fans who have assessed their personal situation and decided not to attend will have the option of completing a form in order to transfer their ticket to 2022 or claim a full refund.
All spectator options have a deadline of Thursday 3 December 2020 at midnight and therefore fans should act promptly upon receipt of the email.
An announcement will be made in due course on any tickets available for general sale.
WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome our fabulous fans back to live snooker events. We are reliant on Government advice but we will do everything in our powers to make this a reality.
“In 2020 we will stage a total of 20 events on the World Snooker Tour which is an incredible achievement in the circumstances. We have maintained prize money levels for the players, and given our millions of fans around the globe an abundance of live snooker to watch on television. In August at the World Championship we were extremely proud to be the first post-lockdown UK indoor sporting event to host fans.
“Since then our events have been behind closed doors and we have missed the amazing atmosphere which only our dedicated fans can generate. It is wonderful news for the players that they will soon be able to feel the buzz around them when they walk into an arena.
“The Masters in London is such a special event and I’m sure anyone who has the opportunity to be one of the lucky few in the crowd will grasp that chance. The event is renowned for the enthusiasm of the fans and even with a reduced audience I have no doubt it will be a sensational occasion.”
Stuart Bingham will be defending the title against the rest of the world’s top 16. Top stars including world number one Judd Trump, World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy and many more are set for a place in the field. The current Betway UK Championship is the final qualifying event and WST plan to announce the draw and format on Sunday December 6th.
After Ronnie skipped the Masters last year, there were speculations about his participation this year. The good news is that he wants to be there, provided that media duties stay within reasonable limits. This is what he told Eurosport:
UK CHAMPIONSHIP SNOOKER 2020: RONNIE O’SULLIVAN SET TO MAKE MASTERS RETURN, BUT REVEALS CONCERNS
World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he wants to play in the Masters in January, but is keen to seek assurances that he will not be overwhelmed by media demands during the sport’s biggest invitational event at Alexandra Palace. 1,000 fans could be allowed into a tournament that O’Sullivan decided to opt out of last season after being unhappy with the strain put on his time in 2019.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has revealed he wants to compete at the Masters in January providing media demands at snooker’s biggest invitational event don’t affect his standard of play.
The world champion has won a record seven Masters titles, but decided to miss the tournament earlier this year due to his unhappiness with the stress placed on him during his run to the final in 2019.
O’Sullivan overcame 2011 winner Ding Junhui 6-3 in the semi-finals, but felt his preparations for the final were disrupted ahead of a 10-4 defeat to Judd Trump a day later.
The six-times Crucible winner said the situation resolved itself after his 17-16 win over Mark Selby in the semi-finals of the delayed World Championship in August, but wants similar “protocols” put in place at the Alexandra Palace, annual host of the London tournament since 2012.
“The ticket situation and requests for tickets is a big one for me,” he told Eurosport.
“Then you have the media commitments. Like I’ve said, the reason I didn’t play in the Masters last year was because I felt after I won my semi-final (in 2019) there was so much time taken we couldn’t prepare as well enough for the final as I’d have liked to have done.
“I’ve said, if I do reach the final then I’m happy to give an hour of my time, but after that I need to get home to get some rest.
“Thankfully, after the World Championship semi-finals, they agreed to that. I’ve put them protocols down for myself because I do want to play in those tournaments.
“You want to play and give it your best. You don’t want to get to the final and your time is spent trying to make some kind of commercial.
“Meanwhile, you feel like you should be resting up getting ready for the final. The job isn’t done until you’ve finished the tournament,” said O’Sullivan, whose replacement Ali Carter lost 10-8 to Stuart Bingham in last season’s final.
“Anything that distracts you up until that point has to come at a minimum or at least your priorities have to be considered.
“As long as they are considered, and you can work with the promoters and they are understanding, I shouldn’t see an issue in me playing.
“But the minute that treads the line and your needs aren’t really cared for or even considered, that will be the time when I think I’m maybe better off missing the tournament or not playing my next match because the most important thing as a sportsman is to be able to do your job properly.”
O’Sullivan remains the youngest winner of the event involving the sport’s top 16 players. He was aged 19 years and 69 days when he defeated John Higgins 9-3 in the 1995 final.
He has since claimed six more victories at the Masters in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017 to pass Stephen Hendry’s haul of six won between 1989 and 1996.
World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn hopes 1,000 fans will be admitted to sessions at the tournament set to run between 10-17 January after the UK government confirmed reduced crowds could return to sport in England.
“It’s important for the fans to get to see the best version of yourself because they pay good money and want to see you deliver on the table,” said O’Sullivan, who faces Swiss number one Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 64 of the UK Championship on Sunday afternoon.
“Part of that is you managing your time away from the table. I always think that my fans deserve the best possible standard of play.”
The rest of the snooker year is set to continue to be played behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes with the UK Championship, Scottish Open and World Grand Prix all taking up temporary residence at the venue due to the global pandemic.
O’Sullivan is keen on a change of scene with the return of fans needed to enhance the atmosphere.
“You can eat steak and chips every day, but sometimes you just want a bit of beans and toast and a couple of fried eggs with a bit of tomato ketchup splashed over it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good the steak is. Every day, you just go like, really?
“Don’t get me wrong, it is alright, but I think playing every tournament without crowds and not at different venues, it feels like you are going through the motions.
“That’s why I was so disappointed we aren’t going to York for the UK Championship. I thought it would have been a treat for the players to maybe experience an event away from Milton Keynes.”
One player who might give it a miss if fans return is Ding. After his first round win at the 2020 UK Championship the defending champion said this (source Eurosport):
SPONSORS WANT THE CROWDS IN, BUT I DON’T THINK PLAYERS WANT THE CROWD IN. I DON’T MAKE THE DECISIONS BUT I MAKE MY DECISIONS. I AM NOT SURE, WE WILL SEE WHAT HAPPENS, BUT IF IT’S NOT SAFE I WILL PULL OUT AT ANY TIME.
“I think it’s not just the players. I think the crowd have to be safe with each other. They could be sitting five or six metres away and still catch the virus, unless you don’t care. A lot of people don’t care, but I do. People think in different ways.
“I don’t trust playing with a crowd, it’s just personal, not for every player. I want to play like this, with two players and one referee, that’s enough.”