Barbican proves to be hot ticket as Fagan recalls first UK triumph

Ticket sales for the Betway UK Championship have already exceeded last year's total '“ before a ball has been potted in York.

World No 1 Mark Selby will defend his UK crown next week at the York Barbican (Picture: PA).

The tournament cues off at the York Barbican next Tuesday as 128 players from around the globe descend on Yorkshire for an event second only to the World Championship in terms of prestige.

The final and semi-finals sold out months ago, such has been the demand for tickets, and World Snooker chiefs have revealed demand for tickets has been at a record high.

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“The York Barbican has very much become the home of this tournament and I’m delighted to see crowds growing year after year,” said World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.

Patsy Fegan, first winner of the UK Championship back in 1977.

The Barbican has been the UK Championship’s home since 2001 apart from a four-year staging in Telford.

The current deal to keep the tournament in York runs out next year, but with the high demand for tickets – plus positive feedback from players and fans alike – snooker chiefs are hoping to extend the contract beyond 2018.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the UK Championship, first staged in 1977.

Dublin-born Patsy Fagan was the inaugural winner, beating Doug Mountjoy 12-9 in the final.

Patsy Fegan, first winner of the UK Championship back in 1977.

The 66-year-old still competes in senior matches, and coaches youngsters, and has fond memories of the final, held in Blackpool. He went into the Mountjoy match on a high after knocking out John Virgo in the semi-finals.

“Beating Virgo gave me all the confidence in the world,” said Fagan. “Coming back from 8-5 down to win 9-8, I entered the final feeling I could beat anybody.

“Facing Doug, I commanded the match all the way. While I respected him as a formidable player in the game, I’d played him once before turning professional and beat him.

“It was an amazing moment for me, but it wasn’t really a huge surprise. I’d been playing with Virgo, Alex Higgins and Willie Thorne at the time, holding my own. I was only an outsider for those who didn’t know me.

“It’s not that you’re better than everybody, but you believe you are.”

Fagan is a big fan of Mark Selby – who will defend his UK title in York next week – and admits he would have relished the chance to play in the modern-day game.

“I’d love to be playing on the circuit now,” Fagan said.

“There’s loads of tournaments. Play in one tournament this week, another the next week. It would have been great to compete on the tour Barry [Hearn] has created.

“I love watching the players excelling in beautiful conditions, raising the standard to a new level.

“For me, Mark Selby is the hardest player to beat in a match of length. He’s got this great will to win. Let’s see what happens this year. When I see the honours board, it’s quite nice to know I’ll always be the first name.”

For details on Betway UK Championship tickets, go to www.worldsnooker.com/tickets