Sheffield’s legendary Crucible theatre has been given a boost by the news that It will be able to welcome fans in ‘significant numbers’ for next months World Snooker Championships.
The venue has hosted the year’s biggest snooker tournament since 1977 but last years postponed championships were played in August with a small number of fans attending the first and last days of the tournament as part of an aborted series of pilots.
With the event returning to its traditional Spring slot , Secretary of State for Culture , Media and Sport Oliver Dowden has given the green light for the 2021 edition to permit spectators for all 16 days of play.
The number of fans allowed to attend is believed to be much higher than the 300 who saw Ronnie O’Sullivan defeat Kyren Wilson in last year’s final. Plans are being drawn up for the sessions to have minimal social distancing and possibly optional mask wearing as part of a scientific study into reopening the events industry. A negative COVID-19 test will be required to attend and there’s talk of waivers being signed in the event of an audience member contracting the virus.
A Crucible spokesperson told me: “we’re looking forward to welcoming audiences back to the theatre as part of the Event Research Programme. The benefits of being part of this pilot are more than financial, this work will help us understand more about the full reopening of all theatres in the coming months. It’s this full, long term reopening that will enable theatres to regain their financial health.”
Mr Dowden said: “We’re working with many, many people to see how we can get people back safely in large numbers, because if we don’t manage to do it this summer… I’m really worried about the future of those industries (theatres)”.
The news will be welcomed by players , fans and the Crucible’s staff after a wretched 12 months of cancelled performances and snooker events behind closed doors in a bio-secure bubble in Milton Keynes. O’Sullivan has been among those vocal about his dissatisfaction playing behind closed doors.
World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are thrilled to once again be selected as a crucial participant in the UK Government’s progress towards leading us out of the coronavirus pandemic and back on the road to normal life. This is fabulous news for the players, who have really missed the buzz of playing in front of a crowd. The atmosphere on the first morning at the Crucible will be better than ever. And for those lucky few who have a golden ticket it will an amazing experience.”
More details are expected to follow in the coming weeks ahead of the tournament, which takes place from 17 April to 3 May.