SHEFFIELD’S World Snooker Championships are set to break the all-time record for ticket sales this year as the game pulls in a younger crowd and fans from as far afield as Australia.
All seats have been sold out for the remaining sessions from tomorrow, when the quarter finals begin, organisers said.
And the action has not only taken place on the green baise over the weekend - with other highlights including a marriage proposal in the auditorium and John Virgo wowing onlookers in the Cue Zone at the Winter Garden with a display of trick shots.
Ivan Hirschowitz, spokesman for World Snooker, said: “We are on course for record ticket sales this year, with 32,000 of 45,000 available tickets sold several weeks before the tournament. It’s a sell-out from the quarter-finals onwards.
“Over the last five or six years, more and more people have been coming from further afield - although we have a couple who have been coming all the way from Australia every year for the last 20 years.
“The event puts Sheffield on the map to a global audience, with around 400 million people watching on television worldwide, and raises millions for the local economy.”
He added: “The increase in popularity is partly down to the demographic of fans changing. Barry Hearn, the Chairman of World Snooker, is trying to make snooker appeal to a younger audience.”
During the action on Saturday, play was held up while HR manager Lisa Buff, aged 38, from Chesterfield, received a surprise proposal from partner Brian Wright, 42.
She thought football referee Brian was getting an award for his 20th visit to the tournament when he got out of his seat.
But he got down on his knees and produced a ring before telling a stunned Lisa: “You’re my soul-mate. I love you with all my heart.”
The crowd cheered when she said ‘yes’, after he asked her to marry him.
Brian, from Coventry, said: “I always wanted to propose here. It’s gone just as I wanted.”
Lisa said: “It was a real shock, I had no idea.”
Elsewhere, in the Cue Zone, fans crowded around the table to watch John Virgo show off his skills before he signed copies of his trick shots book.
Among those watching were teacher Harry Gordon, of Millhouses, who had brought along son, Arthur, aged three.
Harry said: “It’s very nice to have free side events like this. The way the World Snooker Championships are organised gets the whole city involved.”
Sheffield University PhD student, Robert Woodward, aged 25, added: “It’s really good for people of all ages. It’s great to come and see John Virgo demonstrate his trick shots like on the television.”
Emma Cartwright, from Jordanthorpe, brought sons Rhys, 11, and Daniel, seven.
She said: “I think it is really good for Sheffield that we still have the tournament - and long may it continue here. My older son has followed all the games.”