Snooker Hall: Why the World Championships at the Crucible gives businessman Barry Hearn a headache

Barry Hearn during day twelve of the Betfred World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Pic: Simon Cooper/PA Wire
Barry Hearn during day twelve of the Betfred World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Pic: Simon Cooper/PA Wire
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As a businessman and a snooker lover, the World Championship continuing at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre gives Barry Hearn a headache.

The World Snooker chief knows that the tournament could sell thousands of tickets, especially in the latter stages; while the Crucible’s capacity sits in the hundreds.

But the theatre is widely acknowledged as the home of the sport since setting up camp in Sheffield in 1977, and Hearn admits: “The one thing you can’t mess with is history.

“And the history of this event belongs to the people of Sheffield, and the Crucible Theatre. From a businessman’s perspective, that’s difficult for me to say that. Because clearly I have an event which could sell many more thousands of tickets.

“But sometimes there are things that you can’t mess with, and this in my lifetime - with the support of the people of Sheffield, the BBC, Eurosport - is not something that is going to change.”

Hearn will earn few plaudits in South Yorkshire by quoting an unpopular former Prime Minister, but Hearn admits that the power of snooker is rapidly shifting towards the Far East - especially now Ding Junhui has finally made it to a Crucible final.

“I learned my strategy from Margaret Thatcher, when she said: ‘This lady is not for turning’,” Hearn added. “And I am not known for changing my strategy too often.

“That’s not to say that we won’t create massive snooker events within the Chinese market for Chinese broadcasters. The performance of the Asian players in this tournament has been tremendous.

“We need local heroes in every sport to really achieve the levels we want to, and the Chinese players are going to be a real force to be reckoned with over the next five to 10 years.

“Ding has been the flagbearer for snooker in China for many years.

“But imagine the FA Cup final not being played at Wembley, or Wimbledon moving away from Wimbledon? It’d never happen, and snooker in Sheffield is in the same category.”

In this year gripping final, Ding Junhiu had fought back from 6-0 down to trail by just one against Mark Selby who led 8-7 with two frames of the second session remaining late last night.