Future of the Crucible: Snooker stars speak out on the World Championship’s home

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

Debate has long raged over whether the World Snooker Championship should stay at its iconic home in Sheffield or spread its wings and move elsewhere, but never has that discussion felt so pressing.

The contract to keep the event at the Crucible runs until 2027 and it is up in the air whether the 50th year in Sheffield will be the last year in the Steel City.

Every world champion since 1977 has lifted the famous trophy at the Crucible, but with a capacity of just 980 and ageing facilities in the venue, calls to grow and advance are becoming louder.

Could the future of the World Championship be in China, Saudi Arabia, elsewhere in the UK or still be in Sheffield in an expanded and modernised venue? Or could it, seemingly against the odds, simply remain as it is?

Here are the thoughts of a string of big names in snooker on what they want to see happen with the World Championship.

Judd Trump

‘I’m a bit undecided,’ Trump told Metro. ‘I do like the venue and the atmosphere it produces, but backstage is very poor. The hospitality side is always going to be a struggle in that venue. But there is a different tension to everywhere else we play, just because it is so tight.

‘I think it does need to stay there, even if it’s every other year because it is a special venue. I just don’t know if they can change backstage to make it more modern, make a bit more space because it is lacking in that.’

2019 Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day 17

Judd Trump was Crucible champ in 2019 (Picture: Getty Images)

‘It’s a tough one because I think the tournament deserves to have more people than the Crucible holds. But at the same time it’s so iconic,’ Selby told Metro. ‘When you get to the one-table set-up I don’t think there’s a better venue. But at the same time it’s the pinnacle of our sport and if you told people who didn’t know that the biggest tournament we play holds under 1,000 people, they would be like, “really?” You go to the Masters and it holds 2,500.

‘It’s a tough one. For me I’d rather have less than 1,000 and it stay at the Crucible, just because it’s so great as a one-table. When it’s two tables I don’t think it’s the best venue we play in, but when we get down to the semi-finals I think it is.

‘If it stays at the Crucible then I would never be devastated because it’s a great venue, but if it moves it’s moving for the right reasons to get more people in.’

Luca Brecel

‘It’s a difficult one because normally I love change. I love different formats, different locations, but I think the Crucible, it has to stay,’ he told Metro. ‘I love change, new waves, but the Crucible is different, I think it has to stay. It’s special, I think it should stay.

‘It’s magic to everyone, everyone knows about the Crucible.’

Luca Brecel defends his World Championship title in Sheffield this year (Picture: Getty Images)

Steve Davis

‘Actually recently I’ve changed my view a bit and the reason for that is I’m in a different position in my world of snooker,’ Davis told Metro. ‘I’m further removed from it now. I’m not just looking at it with a view of past excitement within the game, the history of it all tied up with me and other players that I know.

‘I’ve started to view it more in case of what’s good for snooker, not what’s good for UK snooker fans, what’s good for snooker now, it’s more worldwide than ever before. I’m starting to look at the Masters and that 2,000-seater venue and such a fantastic event.

‘I’ve listened to everyone’s views on it, I’ve had my views but I’ve started to think it would be great if the Crucible was twice the size. If that’s achievable then I don’t think there’s any need to move. But I think we’re getting to the stage where snooker is exploding in the world, there’s so many countries getting on board, more than ever before, when are you going to make it 2,000-3,000-seater?

Steve Davis and Alex Higgins at the Crucible in 1981 (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I’ve started to not be so hard on the view that leaving the Crucible is getting rid of history, I’m starting to say maybe that’s an old fashioned view only held by the older brigade.

‘Maybe it does have to be a bigger venue but I would still like it to be in Sheffield, so it’s down to whether the Crucible could get bigger. I don’t know what that would mean for theatre shows throughout the year, maybe it’s too big for them. I don’t know.

‘I think you’ve got to be fair to the players, if you had a bigger venue, in a very short space of time you’d get to a £1,00,000 first prize and that raises the profile even higher, so I think we have to be forward thinking. I don’t like throwing away the history, but how long do you stick your feet in the mud? I’ve had so many great memories there, it would be a sad day if it left, but I fully understand the reasons why it might need to. It’s not now just about the UK public, it’s truly become a worldwide game.’

Steve Davis (right) won six world titles at the Crucible (Picture: Getty Images)

Shaun Murphy

‘If it’s a players’ decision, it stays at the Crucible, no question about that,’ the Magician told Metro. ‘I remember going as a nine-year-old boy in 1992 and every time you go it’s like the first time you’ve ever been, it’s magical.

‘I don’t want it to leave the Crucible. However, with a commercial hat on, you can understand it’s our biggest event in our smallest venue. Those two things don’t go together. People who say “it’s not all about money” have probably never run a company in their life. Should the World Championship leave the Crucible? I don’t think so? Will it? I think it’s more likely than it’s ever been. I think if it was up to the players, which it isn’t, I think it would stay.

‘I think when you look at golf, tennis or football, these places are extended, made bigger. Wembley is not the same place as what it was. Wimbledon doesn’t look anything like it did 50 years ago. No one cares. Why can’t the Crucible be made bigger? It’s a massive job but why can’t we knock it down and build it again? What else is as big in Sheffield as the snooker? What else brings so much finance and tourism to Sheffield as the snooker? Why can’t WST or Matchroom partner with Sheffield City Council and build the home of snooker there in the centre of Sheffield? What a legacy that would be.

‘I don’t know anyone who really wants to see the World Championship walk away from Sheffield, people accept there are commercial reasons why it might, but I don’t think people want it. Other sports have dug into their pockets and built bigger on their historic homes, why aren’t we doing the same?’

Shaun Murphy was a shock Crucible winner in 2005 (Picture: Getty Images)

Kyren Wilson

‘I’d be gutted if it left Sheffield to be honest. I don’t think it should ever leave,’ he told Metro. ‘Ok, you can go somewhere with a bigger venue for more fans, but you would lose the appeal of the World Championships. Whenever anybody talks about snooker, memories of the Crucible aren’t far away. The Steve Davis days, Alex Higgins, Hendry, Ronnie, I wouldn’t want to lose that. I think nostalgia and memories are worth a little bit more than money.

‘I feel like it’s part of the test. The two-table is such a unique atmosphere and environment in that Crucible Theatre. When it goes to one table, it’s so theatrical, you can cut the tension with the knife in there. I hope it never moves.

‘The Winter Gardens, all around there, there’s such a buzz. I love everything about it.

‘If you win the World Championships and it’s elsewhere, there would be an element of, “could I have done it at the Crucible?” It’s a different test, totally different. Neil Robertson has said before about not being able to walk into the shot properly. That’s part of the test. I hope it never moves. Good memories there and hopefully more to come.’

Kyren Wilson has made a 147 at the Crucible and made it to the final (Picture: Getty Images)

Gary Wilson

‘It’s my favourite place to play,’ Wilson told Metro. ‘My ideal scenario would be to knock the whole place down and rebuild it better. I’ve got no idea on the logistics of that, but I would want the Crucible just on steroids, bulked up a little bit. It would look exactly the same but every room is a bit bigger, every corridor is a bit bigger and the arena looks exactly the same but instead of 900 it might be 2,000.

‘It keeps it’s heritage, it’s the same location, it’s the same venue essentially, it’s the same Crucible it’s just bigger. I don’t know if that can be achieved, but that would be dream land. I don’t know what footprint the building lies on and if that can actually be done, but that would be my dream. Make the whole thing a bit bigger but it’s basically the same, you’ve just modernised it.

‘If you’re going to a different venue in Sheffield then it’s not the Crucible, that’s not got the same heritage. If you’re going to do that then you might as well start opening your mind up to China or Saudi or wherever because it’s not the same, at the end of the day.’

Ronnie O’Sullivan

‘For me, I like a venue that you can get in and out of,’ said the Rocket. ‘So for me the best venue was Wembley Arena because you could drive in under the car park, walk through the door, into your dressing room, onto the practice table, it was just nice. Sheffield is really hard because you’ve got two entrances, loads of people. You end up staying away from the venue or going in there really late when it’s quiet.

‘I know the Crucible has got a lot of history, a lot of memories, but for me I prefer a venue I can get in and out, do my business and not be driven mad. I think obviously the Crucible is great but we’ve got loads of good venues, there’s loads of places you could take the World Championship if you wanted to.

‘I think the Saudis do an unbelievable event. I think China do an unbelievable event. Any of them places. They’ve got the resources, they’ve got the finances to put on an incredible event.’

Ronnie O’Sullivan backstage at the Crucible (Picture: Getty Images)

John Virgo

‘No, no, no. it’s the Crucible,’ the legendary commentator told Metro. ‘It’s just got that ring about it, people know, it’s got that history. We need the history, we need to compare eras and years gone by. To me, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. The World Championship stands alone and I wouldn’t mess with it. People say you could get 4,000 people, but then they’d be sat, as they do in darts, watching it on the TV screen. No, I like that atmosphere. I’ve always said snooker’s theatre and the Crucible is the perfect fit for snooker as theatre.’

Ken Doherty

Speaking on commentary, Doherty said: ‘I think it’s just wonderful, it’s the home of the World Championship it’s got the great history and there’s no other place like it that can create the drama that it does. The crowds, the proximity of the spectators to the players. Everything about it, the two-table set-up with the screen and then of course when it goes down to one-table, it’s just very, very special venue.

‘No matter how much money people or countries offer around the world, I don’t think it should ever move from the Crucible. That’s just my own personal feeling.’

Joe O’Connor

The only Crucible debutant this year was asked if he would be disappointed to qualify for the first time and the World Championship had moved from the Crucible.

‘I suppose so, it would feel like I had missed it a little bit,’ he said. ‘But the game goes where the game goes.’

Joe O’Connor makes his Crucible debut against Mark Selby this year (Picture: Getty Images)

Steve Dawson

Dawson, the World Snooker Tour chairman, told the Daily Star: ‘It’s very much in the City of Sheffield’s court. We are in conversations with them and are trying to understand their plans with them.

‘The ball is very much in their court. There’s not much more I can say until they come forward with more. One thing for sure is that if we had a bigger venue, we could sell three times as many tickets as we do now, that is a fact.

‘There are demands from the players and there are pressures created from the new events that are happening.

‘The Saudi [ranking] event will have the second largest prize money after the World Championship, so there is pressure on us from the players to deliver more and more, bigger crowds, more prize money.

‘It would be a very sad day if we were to leave the Crucible, or Sheffield for that matter, because we are an intrinsic part of the city at that time of the year.’

Sheffield City Council

A council statement this week read: ‘We are working with World Snooker on a new agreement for the event to remain in Sheffield.

‘We are committed to securing the tournament’s long-term future in the city. Sheffield is proud to be the home of the World Snooker Championship and looking forward to another fantastic tournament this year.’


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