World Championship to stay on traditional dates – insists Barry Hearn

World Snooker Tour supremo Barry Hearn has insisted the World Championship will not be pushed back this year and will stay in its traditional time slot.

Speaking during a pre-recorded interview on ITV, which was screened on Tuesday night during the network’s coverage of the Players Championship, Hearn said the sport’s most famous competition will return in April and May at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre – with or without a crowd.

Last year the World Championship was played in August but Hearn revealed the decision behind that was due to the timing of when coronavirus was at its peak last year and the fact that the Olympic Games was cancelled – meaning snooker could reap the benefits as far as TV viewing figures and public interest was concerned.

Hearn told Snooker’s Master of Ceremonies Rob Walker: “We are going with our traditional dates and our traditional venue – we are keeping everything we’ve got crossed, we are not going to jump.

The Crucible with a crowd. Picture by Monique Limbos

“We did it (in August) last year simply because we knew the Olympics was going to get cancelled and it opened up that window of 14-17 days. Whether it’s behind closed doors or not I don’t see anyway (this year) the Olympics doesn’t take place.

“And because we need to have certainty to our players, to get ready and to look at Q School after the World Championship and the qualifying rounds – we have to give them the assurance and that assurance has been made. We are sticking to our guns.

“We are going to do everything in our power to to have a crowd there as well but that’s a decision that maybe taken out of our hands. If it is then we will rub ourselves down, cry a little bit and get on with working.”

And it looks like the decision on having a crowd or no crowd has been taken from World Snooker Tour’s control.

Earlier this week it was announced that fans would not be able to attend sporting dates until Monday, May 17 at the earliest.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday when he addressed Parliament with his national lockdown exit strategy.

However it remains to be seen if the World Snooker Tour can have some leeway to make its own case and secure permission for fans to attend The Crucible.

From May 17, indoor events will be capped at 50 per cent capacity or 1,000, whichever is lower. But this is subject to change depending on scientific data.

This means that it is likely snooker will see crowds back from the start of the 2021/2022 campaign.

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