World Snooker Championship must go on despite pandemic forcing stars to miss qualifiers
Several overseas players, including Hong Kong’s Marco Fu and Chinese trio Zhou Yuelong, Xiao Guodong and Zhao Xintong, have refused to travel to Sheffield for the qualifying rounds – featuring 128 players from around the world – from July 21-28 at the English Institute of Sport.
The prize on offer is 16 spots for the Crucible finals, which are due to be staged behind closed doors from July 31.
The deadline for the qualifiers is Monday, and Jason Ferguson, chairman of WPBSA, claims the governing body and World Snooker Tour have made “all conceivable efforts” to help overseas players travel to Sheffield.
Ferguson said: “Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic we have worked tirelessly to ensure that every player has the chance to play in the Betfred World Championship.
“We knew this would be a huge task in the climate, but not an impossible one – and we have now reached a point where players can make their own choice. We have done everything we can to support our playing membership.
“We appreciate that a small number have indicated their decision not to come to the UK, but the vast majority will compete and, without question, the show must go on.
“We are a global sport and the tournament will have a field of players from around the planet.
“We have provided assistance to many of them with visa and travel documentation, some are already in the UK and are ready to play.
“From the start we offered extensive financial support to all tour players to help them with cash flow. This is ongoing and remains in place right up to the qualifying rounds which is the beginning of snooker’s largest earning opportunity for tour players.
“We have also offered bespoke travel services to players and the chance to book flights on our WPBSA account.
“We see snooker as a family and we need to help each other in these tough times. We have had personal contact with most of the players and worked with them to resolve any challenges they have faced. And alongside WST we have had constant dialogue with government to find solutions in terms of staging professional events and providing the opportunity for players to practise under strict guidelines.”
Judd Trump will be looking to defend his trophy, after beating John Higgins 18-9 in last year’s Crucible final. This year’s finals were postponed until July 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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