By Annette Lord
Coronavirus, postponed tournaments, no Bank Holiday finale… the last few weeks of the snooker season promise to be the strangest since, well, possibly forever…
It seems like a lot has happened since January 31, the day it was announced that the China Open was to be postponed due to a virus that has since gone global.
Some countries are in lockdown, Premier League football is in limbo and Brits are stockpiling toilet rolls and food supplies like there’s no tomorrow as UK deaths rise.
The virus has literally shook the entire world of sport. Many other sports are in strange times.
But, for now, World Snooker Tour and its chairman Barry Hearn have said the Tour Championship and World Championship ‘will go ahead as planned’ unless events force their hand, with Mr Hearn pretty much saying: “We’ll carry on as normal unless the government says we can’t.”
Of course the World Championship is at the forefront of many minds, with a lot of speculation what might happen and mixed emotions about what should.
With social media comments ranging from ‘It’s totally irresponsible to carry on’ all the way to ‘It’ll take more than an over-hyped virus to stop snooker fans turning up’, it’s impossible to please everyone – but can we seriously hope for 17 days of normality in Sheffield? I’ve already resigned myself to the World Championship being played behind closed doors on the basis that if it isn’t, it will be a joyous surprise. Could it be postponed altogether? Anything is possible but only if there is no other choice.
Even if things remain unchanged, it will be the first Crucible final to end on a Monday that isn’t a bank holiday, thanks to the holiday being moved to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Having no China Open or Indian Open this year means less points-gathering opportunities for those trying to stay on the tour and saw the Gibraltar Open take on the unexpected mantle of last-chance-to-gather-ranking-points-before-Sheffield for players trying to gain automatic Crucible qualification.
A popular and established event, the Beijing tournament will be missed in the build-up to Sheffield, leaving a two-week gap between the Tour Championship and the World Championship qualifiers.
And the qualifiers return to a tiered structure this year, with a player’s ranking dictating how many matches they need to win to reach the Crucible. Only time will tell how this is received by fans and players alike.
Strange times indeed.