Opinion: Sheffield is fondly known as the 'home of snooker', and it could be so much more

You can’t deny that Sheffield is synonymous with snooker. Going all the way back to the late 70s – or 46 years – the Crucible in Sheffield has long been a highlight of the game’s year and for good reason.

Thursday, 21st April 2022, 2:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st April 2022, 4:55 pm

It’s a pinnacle reached by only a select few, and one that embraces the mere mortals and crowns the legends - well, words to that effect anyway. As a young Sheffield lad growing up, I remember spending time at my grandparents at the weekends, both TVs were occupied by live coverage of snooker and my grandad watched intermittently while going in and out of the kitchen, oh he was also listening to it on the radio too. I believe it’s where I was introduced to a plethora of swear words also.

How swiftly those days pass by, but if there’s one thing that’s remained a much appreciated constant in a world of considerable change is that every year the sport returns to the city with great fanfare. Every year, fans descend in their droves upon the city, hoping to catch a glimpse with Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan perfectly nailing a 147 record or even eating out across the city.

You ask any snooker fan and they will instantly mention Sheffield’s The Crucible as one of the (if not ‘the) best venues. It’s that ingrained.

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Yan Bingtao reacts during his match against Chris Wakelin during day four of the Betfred World Snooker Championships at The Crucible, Sheffield. Picture date: Tuesday April 19, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SNOOKER World. Photo credit should read: Tim Goode/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

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World Snooker Championship: Let’s build a bigger Crucible in Sheffield says Barr...

It is also a rising in popularity sport that could now force the City’s Council to press on with a bigger and improved venue for not just snooker but everything else at the city’s iconic Crucible Theatre.

Barry Hearn, World Snooker Tour President, is a long-term advocate of keeping the tournament – which is halfway through a 10-year hosting agreement in Sheffield – in the city.

He was recently quoted as saying, “I have always said in my lifetime we will never be moving. But I would challenge Sheffield Council, as I am doing, why don’t we evaluate the idea of building a new Crucible in Sheffield, which is bigger, and then we get the best of both worlds.”

Why don’t we evaluate the idea of building a new Crucible in Sheffield,

And do you know what, good on him. We desperately want to see positive investment and growth in our city. It’s something that is hugely needed if we are to hold onto our crown as the home of snooker. But it’s more than that, we need to be capitalising on the things we are good at… why not consistently invest to continually impress in a way that takes the city forward? This could be a good start for long-term prospects.

There’s also a dearth of talent contained within the city itself, Victoria’s Snooker Academy on Scotland Street, located on the outskirts of the city centre, is known for producing 2021 Masters champion Yan Bingtao as well as Zhao Xintong, who won the UK Championship in December. And following hot on their heels is the young man, Fan Zhengyi.

We clearly have a city that’s ripe with talent and former snooker pro, Stephen Harrison MBE had this to say.

“We need to get something happening in our city. We have got all these professionals but let's get young people playing.”

Now all we need to do is create the necessary centrepiece in the city which will keep the snooker coming back for years to come. Perhaps there may well be many more young kids like myself, steadily being indoctrinated with a love of the sport from an early age.