Crucible debate: Sheffield Council issue update on future of World Championships in the city

Sheffield council chiefs have reiterated their desire to keep snooker’s World Championship in the city, but stopped short of guaranteeing that it would remain at its spiritual home of the Crucible.

The future of the championships beyond the end of the current staging agreement in 2027 – which marks the 50th anniversary of the Crucible hosting the event – has been a hot topic on and off the baize over the duration of the tournament this past fortnight.

Snooker supremo Barry Hearn stoked doubts in the first week of this year’s tournament by saying the limited capacity of 980 was restrictive compared to more lucrative offers on the table from countries like Saudi Arabia and China that would be more financially beneficial for the sport and its players. Hearn said the ball was in Sheffield Council’s court.

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The council declined to comment on specifics such as how much the staging fee is they pay to the World Snooker Tour, but there have been discussions in recent years about a purpose-built 3,000-seater venue called ‘Billiardrome’ being built in time for the end of the current agreement.

A general view inside the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield ahead of the semi-finals on Friday (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)A general view inside the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield ahead of the semi-finals on Friday (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
A general view inside the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield ahead of the semi-finals on Friday (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

Whether it remains at the Crucible or a new venue is built, Sheffield council’s chief executive Kate Josephs was adamant that they want to keep the World Championships in the city.

“Sheffield is the home of snooker, much like Wimbledon is to tennis and Aintree is to the Grand National,” Josephs told The Yorkshire Post. “The World Snooker Championships and Sheffield go hand in hand.

“We know what the tournament means to the people of Sheffield, the players that come to compete and all the fans that watch the tournament across the globe. We have created a sporting legacy here in the city and we want that to continue for generations to come.

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“The atmosphere the Crucible Theatre offers is unrivalled. It is an experience you cannot get anywhere else. In recent weeks we have heard players such as Tom Ford, Shaun Murphy and Barry Hawkins describe the magical mood when competing at the venue. Shaun said the theatre was ‘one of the best in the world’ and to the sport it was ‘home’, and we couldn’t agree more.

“We have a proud sporting history and we’re home to amazing facilities including the English Institute of Sport and the Olympic Legacy Park.

"We have just built the 3,000-seater Canon Medical Arena, home of the Sheffield Sharks and the Sheffield Hatters.

"We have two snooker academies too, and many of the upcoming stars of the game have made the city their home.

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“As snooker grows, Sheffield is growing too – the city centre is undergoing a massive £470million transformation, with a new world-class hotel, more restaurants, cafes and entertainment spaces.

"Snooker fans have seen for decades that Sheffield knows how to put on a show, and there’s much more to come.

“In terms of the snooker, we have a contract until 2027 that we are delivering, and our priority is to ensure that everyone has the best possible experience here in Sheffield, whether that be the players, the visitors or our local residents.

"We are in regular contact with World Snooker Tour and meet with them before, during and after each tournament – we will continue to have conversations with them about a way forward that works for us all.”