Sheffield aims to cue up new snooker deal

Mark Selby celebrates after winning the final of the Dafabet World Snooker Championships Pic: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
Mark Selby celebrates after winning the final of the Dafabet World Snooker Championships Pic: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

The World Snooker Championship is over for another year and tickets are already on sale for next year. Now civic leaders are aiming to ensure it stays in the city for a lot longer.

Negotiations have started with a view to securing a contract for the tournament to remain at the Crucible from 2016, despite competition from China that reportedly extends to the construction of a replica of the Sheffield theatre near Beijing.

The Crucible has staged snooker’s most prestigious tournament since 1977, and World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has repeatedly insisted it will stay there for as long as he runs the sport.

But snooker’s soaring popularity in China, which already hosts a growing number of high-profile events, is fuelling speculation the flagship tournament will eventually be relocated there.

Sheffield is determined to try to hold on to the event, not least for the sake of the extra spending power it brings to the city - estimated at £2.5m - and the profile of the city it generates around the world.

The council pays in the region of £500,000 to secure the championship for the Crucible.

But, as both the prize money for players and ambitions for the sport go up, Sheffield can expect the siren calls from China, which is by far the sport’s biggest marketplace, to grow louder.

Playing heavily in the city’s favour is the heritage of the competition and its longstanding connection with the Crucible.

The BBC has a contract until 2017 and it is also hoped that this also will count in Sheffield’s favour.

But nothing is being taken for granted in the light of China’s enthusiasm for the sport and its financial muscle.

The director of Marketing Sheffield, Brendan Moffett said: “Negotiations are ongoing for the contract from 2016. Everyone’s view is that Sheffield and the Crucible are the undoubted home of the World Snooker Championship.”

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “The two most fundamental parties, as far as World Championship snooker goes, are the BBC and the Sheffield City Council. While we have their support, we stay at the Crucible, and I honestly believe we will always have their support.

“We are part of the blue-riband events for the BBC and Sheffield has changed its name from the City of Steel to the City of Snooker. If we moved we would we would lose the history and integrity of the event.

“It is not a franchise that moves around the world — Wimbledon doesn’t suddenly pop up in Buenos Aires.”