World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has hit back at claims from a senior member of Sheffield City Council that snooker portrays the wrong image of ‘one big man’s club with little or no aspiration’ of the city.
Hearn is currently playing a cat-and-mouse game with the council to see whether they want to keep the Dafabet World Championship in the city.
The iconic tournament has been held at the Crucible Theatre since 1997, but the current agreement to stage the event in Sheffield expires after
next year’s event.And the snooker-mad Chinese have already expressed a genuine interest to stage the tournament in the Far East in the future.
The popularity of the green baize game has risen Phoenix-like in China with their leading player Ding Junhui having dominated rankings this season.
And in an audacious bid to force Hearn’s hand to move, the Chinese have even started building a replica of the Crucible on the outskirts of Beijing to replicate the famous venue.But Hearn rapped: “This is the city of snooker, it’s no longer the city of steel. If people think snooker makes Sheffield look like a workingmen’s club then they really don’t know what they’re talking about.In a rational world you would evaluate the commercial benefit alone to Sheffield running into the tens of millions of pounds.In comparison to other products like the Tour De France, which has cost the council about £10million to bring to Sheffield, I would say snooker has a great case for being good value for money. I would imagine anyone who made a comment expressing the view that snooker portrays Sheffield as ‘one big man’s club with little or no aspiration’ lacks any type of commercial foundation.
“I wouldn’t take them seriously because it’s only a blind person who can’t see the benefits of 300 milllion from around the world watching
the event from your city.The snooker brings in so many people to the city of Sheffield. And I’ve had nothing but positivity from the whole council. Everybody wants to do a deal. But of course it’s got to be the right deal for Sheffield and for us [World Snooker].
Discussions are continuing in a very friendly environment and I’m quite sure a new deal will be agreed amicably over the next few months.
There’s only a handful of blue-ribbon events in the sporting calendar. Snooker is in the mix with events like Epson, Ascot, Wimbledon and the
FA Cup final. “It’s nationally televised on the BBC. I’d like to see the World Championship stay in Sheffield, but I’ll only stay if I’m wanted. If
I’m not wanted I won’t be staying.”
But Hearn stressed that no matter of money would see him take snooker’s premier event to China.