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World Championship 'under consideration' as snooker confronts coronavirus crisis

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A packed Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Image credit: Eurosport

ByDesmond Kane
09/03/2020 at 18:15 | Updated 10/03/2020 at 18:14

The World Snooker Championship could be played behind closed doors or postponed and delayed until later in the year as snooker becomes the latest sport to confront the coronavirus crisis.

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The sport’s organisers World Snooker Tour have admitted they are ready to “consider all scenarios” with the UK government saying on Monday they expect the virus to spread in a "significant way".

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The Gibraltar Open begins at the Europa Sports Complex in Gibraltar on Wednesday with world champion Judd Trump in action. It will be reduced to a maximum of only 100 fans as snooker becomes the latest sport to consider how best to cope with a potential pandemic.

The 44th staging of the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is due to begin on April 18 with the final on May 4.

“As it stands we are expecting all UK events to go ahead, but we have to consider all scenarios including playing events behind closed doors. We will listen to government advice,” a World Snooker Tour spokesperson told Eurosport.

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Image credit: PA Sport

The World Championship could be played behind closed doors with World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn confirming the sport will put the health of players, officials and fans before any tournament.

But that will depend on official government advice relating to clusters of people gathering for social events, and the risks involved to public health in the UK. The Crucible holds just under 1,000 spectators.

“Every sport and every business is closely monitoring the effects of the spread of coronavirus, and listening to government advice,” said Hearn. “Of course the health of our players, staff and fans is paramount and we will take every sensible precaution.

“In the coming weeks we will continue to observe the situation in regard to all of our events, listen to government advice and make appropriate decisions taking all factors into account.”

Depending on how events develop over the next month, there is a possibility that the game’s key tournament could be forced to move from its traditional place in the snooker calendar which could force the sport to take a multi-million pound hit.

The China Open in Beijing is usually held before the World Championship, but has had to be dropped from the calendar this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Tour Championship in Llandudno, involving the eight leading players on the one-year ranking list, begins a week on Tuesday before finishing on March 22, and is scheduled to be the final event before the World Championship.

It could also be played behind closed doors with spectators limited to watching the action on TV.

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