Barry Hearn, the chairman of World Snooker, has given Sheffield a huge boost on the eve of the World Championships by admitting: “I’d host it at the Crucible forever if I could!”
The historic theatre celebrates 40 years of hosting the sport’s biggest event this year, and has signed a deal to keep it in the Steel City until 2027 at least.
And Hearn, a big advocate of the Crucible’s intimate atmosphere and history, admitted: “If that deal was on the table, and it was entirely up to me, of course I’d take.
“You effectively can only sign ten years at a time, of course, but to sign up for ten years was a quantum leap for us because we had opportunities to take it to other places, for zillions more dollars.
“And I think that’s the first time in my life I’ve turned down money like that!
“But I did it because you can’t buy history, and that’s exactly what the Crucible has in spades.”
China, with a growing snooker fanbase, remains the Crucible’s biggest threat for the World Championship and a scale-replica of the Sheffield theatre has been built just outside Beijing, with the same capacity - of just 980 seats.
“It’s wonderfully British and weird in today’s world,” Hearn added, “that in a time when everything’s about money - and I’m the biggest exponent of that - and everything gets bigger and bigger, we come to Sheffield, at a venue with less than a thousand people and semi-finals that last three days.
“It’s totally individual to the Crucible; we have one-frame shoot outs and other tournaments are debating being best of five or seven, and our final is best of 35.
“Traditionalists will say it’s proper snooker, which I don’t agree with - you have two players, cues, balls and holes in the table, so that’s proper snooker - but because of the nature of the event, the surroundings and that key word, history.
“This is the pinnacle of our sport and these players’ careers, and the atmosphere is unique and can’t be replicated anywhere in the world.
“It evolves like a great book, with twists and turns until you get to the final page and you don’t know who’s won.
“But my tombstone will not say ‘This is the man who took the World Championships away from the Crucible’.
“It’s staying, no matter how much. And I’ve certainly never said that before!”
n Snooker draw: P38