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  • Barry Hearn Believes The World Championship'S Future At Crucible Is Under Threat.

Barry Hearn believes the World Championship's future at Crucible is under threat.

Barry Hearn issues a warning to Sheffield City Council that it could lose the right to stage the World Snooker Championship if the Crucible is not torn down and replaced with a bigger capacity venue.

Hearn, the former World Snooker chairman and president of Matchroom, says there is no room for sentiment when the venue’s current deal expires in 2027 – its 50th anniversary of staging the Championships – adding: “It’s all about the money.”

Speculation over the future of the venue was sparked in the build-up to this year’s tournament by seven-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan, who suggested it should be moved to either Saudi Arabia or China in order to maximise profit potential.

Meanwhile, Hossein Vafaei blasted conditions at the Crucible – calling it “smelly” and comparing practice room facilities to playing in a garage – after losing in the first round to Judd Trump.

Hearn told the BBC: “I am doing absolutely everything I can to stay in Sheffield and it takes two to tango – I’ll stay here while we’re wanted, and I think we’re wanted.

“But they’ve got to be realistic. We’ve said for the last few years we need a new venue that seats 2,500 to 3,000 people.

“I’m looking for Sheffield to come to the party and if they do, we’re staying. If they don’t, they’re really saying that we don’t want to, so it’s not really my call.”

Saudi Arabia’s growing interest in the sport has dramatically changed the landscape for discussions, with the first ranking tournament due to be staged in the kingdom next season, and the second World Masters of Snooker doubling its prize for potting the controversial golden ball to USD1million.

Hearn maintained he would have no qualms about taking the tournament away from the venue where it has staged every World Championship since John Spencer pocketed £6,000 for beating Cliff Thorburn in the 1977 showpiece.

“The Crucible has got a fantastic history and it’s been a massive part of my life, but we’ve got to live in the real world,” Hearn added. “There’s a price for everything, whether we like it or not.

“I’d love to tell you we live in a fairy story, but it’s not that simple. In any professional sport played by professional sportsmen, the first demand is prize money and they want to see it as big as possible, and we have a duty to those players.

“I believe next year we go through the £20million prize money, but you must never get complacent in your life and sit down and enjoy the luxury of saying ‘job done’. There’s never enough. It’s all about the money – get used to it.”

A number of top players have hit back at criticism of the Crucible, with former winner Shaun Murphy calling Vafaei’s comments “sacrilege”, and six-time runner-up Jimmy White describing them as “absolute nonsense”.

Other leading players, including Trump and Mark Allen, have acknowledged the quandary facing the sport’s governors but stopped short of joining O’Sullivan and Vafaei in calling for it for to be moved away.


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