Crucible’s World Championship days numbered as Barry Hearn says: ‘It’s all about money’

The Crucible’s days are numbered as the home of the World Championship (Picture: Getty Images)

The World Snooker Championship now appears certain to leave the Crucible in 2027, with either a much larger venue built in Sheffield or a move abroad.

Matchroom Sport president Barry Hearn says he wants the event to remain in Sheffield but it will only do so if the city’s council agree to build a venue more than twice the size of the Crucible.

If they cannot or will not do so, then snooker’s biggest tournament will leave the city that has been its home since 1977.

‘I am absolutely doing everything to stay in Sheffield, but it takes two to tango,’ Hearn told the BBC. ‘I’ll stay here while we’re wanted. And I think we’re wanted, I know we’re wanted by the BBC, I think we’re wanted by Sheffield, but they’ve got to be realistic.

‘We’ve said for the last few years we need a new venue that seats 2,500-3000 people because I’m fed up with getting letters from people all over the world asking how I get a ticket.

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

Asked if nostalgia and history can trump money and keep the tournament at the 980-seat theatre, Hearn dismissed the idea.

‘Trust me, money has the edge every time,’ he said. ‘We live in the real world. If there are deals out there that’s going to change people’s lives and increase profitability. There’s not really a choice to make.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 - Day One

The Crucible has hosted the World Snooker Championship since 1977 (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Let’s be perfectly honest. Snooker is a professional sport played by professional sportsmen. Their first demand across any sport is prize money and they want to see it as big as possible and we as custodians of the sport have a fiduciary duty to those players.

‘You must never ever get complacent in your life and sit down and enjoy the luxury of saying “job done”. It’s never done, there’s never enough.

‘It’s all about money, get used to it, the world is changing and I’m not going to be a dinosaur and not change with the world.’

The idea that Sheffield City Council will build a new arena to meet Hearn’s demands does not seem especially likely and the 75-year-old says he has heard nothing to suggest it will happen.

‘The silence is deafening,’ he said. ‘I want to stay in Sheffield fundamentally, completely and utterly. But if they don’t want me, I’m not going to kick up a fuss. I’ll just quietly disappear to somewhere else, another country.

Hearn is putting the pressure on Sheffield to deliver a new arena (Picture: Getty Images)

‘If someone comes in with 10 times, a hundred times more money, what do you think the players would say if you had the ability to multiply the prize money by 10 or you decided to be loyal and rely on the history of the Crucible? I don’t think I’d be very popular.

‘We’ve got to live in the real world, but here’s the opportunity for Sheffield to say, show me you do want me. The silence is deafening equals: do they care?

‘I want the question mark answered. We’ve got three years, I want a new venue. I would like to stay here, but if I’m not rewarded with some message of hope, then sooner rather than later plans have got to be made.’

Hearn floated the idea of the World Championship not finding a new home anywhere, but being held around the globe in different locations every 12 months.

‘There may be a plan of saying, well we are the World Championships, we’ll take this tournament round the world, so we’ll go to Saudi Arabia for one year, then we’ll go to Beijing the next and then we’ll come back to Sheffield and then we’ll go to Vegas and you know what I mean?’ Hearn said.

Ronnie O'Sullivan wins World Masters of Snooker

Ronnie O’Sullivan won snooker’s first tournament held in Saudi Arabia earlier this season (Picture: WST)

‘There’s a whole different way of looking at it. So we are never actually going to be bogged down with a binding decision. We’re going to control our own destiny for the benefit of the sport and the players that play it.’

While confirming that nothing had been agreed with any potential new host, he did admit that the money Saudi Arabia has to offer is of such vast sums that he has never seen before.

Asked if he had any offers on the table yet, he joked: ‘Yeah, I got offers coming out my backside, mate. I’m on fire at the moment! Don’t worry about that.

‘No, obviously Saudi suddenly in love with snooker. The money they pay is something I’ve never seen in my lifetime. But there’s no commitment on either party yet. We wouldn’t make a commitment. We’re under contract. But clearly when you deal with these people, they are just…and it’s quite electrifying. Their budgets don’t have any rationale.’

Kate Josephs, Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council, said: ‘Sheffield is the home of snooker. The World Snooker Championships and Sheffield go hand in hand.

‘We know what the tournament means to the people of Sheffield, the players that come to compete and all the fans that watch the tournament across the globe. We have created a sporting legacy here in the city and we want that to continue for generations to come.

‘We are in regular contact with World Snooker Tour and meet with them before, during and after each tournament and we will continue doing so.’


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