As Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed a record-equalling seventh World Snooker Championship title at the Crucible on Monday, debates over whether the venue should continue to host the tournament raged amongst fans and players.
“I hope it never moves from here,” said former World Champion and BBC presenter Ken Doherty. “It’s the home of the world championships and it should never ever be moved. There’s no place like it in the world.
“If it is moved it will be a catastrophe. There are some things in life that money can’t buy. You can’t buy history and you can’t buy nostalgia and you can’t buy the Crucible.”
Sheffield City Council has a contract to host the tournament until 2027 but concerns over the venue’s spectator capacity have caused both the council and Word Snooker Tour to consider other options.
Plans were revealed this week to build a 3000 seat ‘Billiardrome’ in Sheffield, featuring practice rooms and a snooker museum alongside a 300 room hotel to appease the growing discontent among some players about facilities at The Crucible.
Judd Trump, who lost out to O’Sullivan on Monday has joined Niel Robertson and Scottish player Stephen Maguire in criticising holding the Championships at the venue, but in his interview after the final on BBC television, Trump said: “I think I was wrong when I said I wanted to move from here, think it should definitely stay.”
Trump had previously said that he would like to see the tournament move away from Sheffield altogether and relocate to Alexandra Palace which hosts the Master’s tournament and can accommodate over 2000 fans.
Sheffield based player Ashley Hugill, however, has voiced his opposition to snooker moving away from the city.
“To me, the world snooker championship and The Crucible theatre are one and the same thing, they go hand in hand, and for me, that should never change,” said Hugill. “It may not be a perfect venue as it is quite tight with the crowd in so close and also the TV cameras on both tables, but no venue is perfect.
“What the small size of the venue takes away in space it more than makes up for in atmosphere.
“When players and fans are at matches it’s not just about what’s happening in that session, it’s all the historic moments of snooker that have taken place there over the years. If the world championship is moved from the crucible all that history feels like it is gone.”
Joe Perry, who is considered a mentor to Niel Robertson as well as a professional himself, said: “Personally I’d hate to see it moved, the crucible in my opinion is the perfect venue to hold the World Championships. It creates a different atmosphere to any other that we play in.”
“I feel a bigger venue would obviously create more revenue but would lose the intimacy and atmosphere of the crucible. Also, the history of the crucible is special and why every young aspiring snooker player dreams of playing there one day. Add to that the city of Sheffield that has become the home of snooker and is buzzing with excitement for the entire 17 days, to try to recreate this would be a near impossible task in my opinion.”
Fans who attended the final in Sheffield this weekend are also largely unanimous in wanting the Championships to stay in the city.
Outside the building on Sunday, Peter said: “The Crucible is the home of snooker. I know everyone’s been talking about the atmosphere at Ally Pally and I’m all for that but at the same time, I’m all for Sheffield. I am all for this city and snooker should stay here. The atmosphere inside the Crucible is electric. It needs to stay here. This is the home of snooker and this is the place it should stay. Sheffield is the home of snooker.”
Tom and Scott Leonard, who were at the final for the first time said: “You cannot move it from Sheffield, we don’t mind the drive. But it’s ridiculous, knock it down and build a better one.”
An Australian fan who has been travelling to the event every year since 1996 voiced a contradicting view, however: “It will probably happen eventually. It did suit the old crowd but now there are getting too many people unfortunately who want to be here. If it moves to a new venue it will create a new tradition. There are only 980 seats so it’s hard to get in.”
Nevertheless, the future of the iconic venue appears to be safe after the Chairman of World Snooker affirmed his commitment to stay at the venue beyond its current contract. Sheffield’s status as the spiritual home of snooker appears secure.