World Snooker Championships Sheffield: Ex-world champion Mark Williams issues warning over Crucible's future

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A move from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is ‘inevitable’ for the World Snooker Championship, claims three time former world champion Mark Williams.

Williams, who lifted the trophy at the iconic Sheffield venue in 2000, 2003 and 2018, says he personally thinks the tournament should stay in Tudor Square, but says he fears it will ultimately come down to money.

He has cited Saudi Arabia and China as two likely destinations should the competition leave Sheffield.

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Speaking on William Hill’s YouTube show, Club 501, he said: “A few years ago I was one of the people saying that snooker probably needed to move away from The Crucible, but I’ve changed my mind now and I think it should stay there.

PA

“You can take the game to Saudi Arabia and have millions of pounds going to every winner in a 3,000-seater stadium, but you’re only going to get two or three hundred people in to watch it. You can’t generate the same atmosphere that The Crucible has with 900 people in.

“However, with the way sport is going now, money talks. As soon as the contract runs out, I think it’s inevitable that it’ll move to Saudi Arabia or China. Money seems to be the ruler of sport these days.”

He said he believed that his fellow professionals would vote in favour of a move to Saudi Arabia or China due to the financial benefits.

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He added: “I thought China would’ve been frontrunners if the World Snooker Championship ever moved from The Crucible.

“But now it seems like Saudi Arabia have almost got every sport from boxing to football. If the players had a vote, then most of them would vote for it to go to Saudi Arabia or China. If you have the winners getting millions then that money filters down. Instead of getting £20,000 to turn up in Sheffield, you could be on £70,000 to turn up in Saudi Arabia.”

Sheffield has hosted the tournament since 1977 but there are fears it could leave the city once the current deal expires in 2027.

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World Snooker Tour bosses have said they want to stay in the city but feel a larger arena than the 980-capacity Crucible Theatre is needed to stage the event.

Sheffield Council said in a statement recently: “Sheffield City Council and World Snooker Tour are longstanding partners. We are in regular dialogue about the World Snooker Championship, beyond 2027.

“As this is a commercial arrangement, neither party are able to comment further on ongoing working discussions.”

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