The venture lasted only a few hours. The Snooker World Championship opened in Sheffield on Friday, under strict hygiene regulations, but in front of spectators. The World Cup of the best ball punchers was supposed to be the first major sporting event on the island where part of the public was admitted; a plan that especially angered the players. However, the experiment has already ended: because the corona numbers in the UK, which is already plagued by the virus, have skyrocketed again, the British government issued a new rule: Sports events in front of spectators are now again prohibited, until at least August 15.
The snooker players are looking for their world champion behind closed doors. At the start defending champion Judd Trump met Tom Ford, he won a bit shaky 10: 8. In the Crucible, the time-honored and narrow hall in Sheffield, not as usual in front of around 1000 spectators, but at least in front of 200. In the days before there had been intense discussions about the meaning and purpose of the spectator experiment.
At the center of the debate was Anthony Hamilton, who had qualified for the World Cup again for the first time in twelve years – and is an asthma patient. He is now part of the risk group, now he should come to the table at the World Cup, between a considerable number of spectators who have to wear mouth and nose protection on the way to their seats, but are then allowed to remove it. Who breathe in his direction, probably sometimes cough and sniff.
This is “ridiculous,” Hamilton said: “If only one person in the Crucible gets sick and then dies – it’s a person who died for no reason, just for entertainment.” He canceled his participation shortly before the start.
The man from Nottingham received a lot of support for his move, and as always, when it comes to criticizing the world snooker association about the powerful promoter Barry Hearn, Ronnie O’Sullivan is there. He sarcastically describes himself and his colleagues as “laboratory rats” because they should be the first athletes to carry out their sport in front of spectators again. The World Cup has been cleverly chosen as the event: It is the most important tournament of the year, not to compete here, is even harder for the players than for other dates. “Apparently you have to start somewhere to bring the audience back,” O’Sullivan said, “then you just start with the snooker players.”
Now Hearn has buckled accordingly
The five-time world champion had already spoken out against the viewer’s plans in the days before, but his requests were ignored by Hearn. Europe has by no means defeated the corona virus, since it is enough to show the sport on television, O’Sullivan told the BBC: “I do not think it is worth the risk.” He suspects financial reasons behind the original plans. The World Cup is the tournament with the highest prize money, because the organizers wanted to see at least part of it refinanced by the audience revenue. “Maybe with 5000 fans I could have seen that otherwise too much revenue would be lost,” said O’Sullivan, “but with 200 fans, is it really worth it?”
In contrast, the World Snooker Tour (WTS) celebrated its World Cup start in front of spectators as a “fantastic triumph” – now Hearn has buckled accordingly. “The show must go on, we move on to plan B,” said Hearn on Friday, and was thinking with his team, who worked so hard to make the World Cup possible for spectators: “You must be terrible now feel empty “.
Hearn doesn’t listen to his players. The new government regulation applies until August 15, and the final is scheduled for August 16. Hearn would, he leaves no doubt, let viewers back into the final, even if his two finalists were against it. “I’m always an optimist,” said Hearn. Hearn has proven why he is considered a tough businessman.