World Snooker Championship crowd short-lived as fans axed from test events

The Crucible will have to go without a crowd after the first day of the 2020 World Championship (Picture: Getty Images)

The World Snooker Championship began on Friday with a crowd in place, but that looks to be very short-lived after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pilot events to test the return of fans have been scrapped.

Along with Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two County Championship cricket matches, the World Championship was chosen as a test event to reintroduce crowds to live sport.

However, after a rise in coronavirus cases in England, the Government have reversed their decision and fans will no longer be allowed to attend.

This is especially awkward at the Crucible as crowds are involved today, and will be allowed to attend for the afternoon and evening sessions, but will not be able to attend from tomorrow onwards.

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‘We can’t just ignore this evidence,’ said Johnson on Friday.

‘We have to act rapidly in order to protect those we love, and we know measures such as these work.

‘We’re postponing those changes for at least a fortnight.

‘Pilots of larger crowds in sports venues and conference centres will not take place.”

‘I said from May we would not hesitate to put on the brakes at the slightest sign that the numbers were going in the wrong direction.’

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: ‘We realise this will be a huge disappointment for fans who were excited to witness the magic of the Crucible over the next fortnight, and we feel the same ourselves.

‘At every stage of this process we have been following Government guidelines and working with them on the correct procedures. We have had very positive feedback from the Government, they have been impressed by the measures we have implemented. Safety has always been our number one priority and we have met every aspect of the Government guidelines in this regard.

‘Above all it’s a great shame for people who had those golden tickets, but in the circumstances we are now living in we have to accept the decision and move on.

‘Snooker has led the way in terms of the return of live sport, in recent weeks we have been the first to stage live televised events and now live events with a small crowd. In the months to come we will continue to find innovative ways to bring sport back safely and entertain our many millions of fans around the globe.”

Ahead of the horse racing due to welcome crowds on Saturday, a statement from Goodwood racecourse read: ‘We are very disappointed for those who were hoping to attend tomorrow’s event and for all those who have worked so hard to make it possible for spectators to be present.

‘We will engage with public health authorities and DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) over a rescheduled pilot at the earliest opportunity.’

Ticket holders at the World Snooker Championship can apply for a refund or defer their tickets to the 2021 event.

Anthony Hamilton pulled out of the event after qualifying for the Crucible due to the presence of a crowd, as the 49-year-old is vulnerable to COVID-19 due to asthma.

His game was due to be played this afternoon but first round opponent Kyren Wilson will still receive a bye.

MORE: Beaten qualifier Sam Craigie backs Anthony Hamilton over World Snooker Championship withdrawal

MORE: Judd Trump: Ronnie O’Sullivan should pull out over World Snooker Championship concerns

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