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Barry Hearn has been on a career-defining journey over the past 43 years when it comes to the ongoing subject of the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield being a suitable host venue for the World Snooker Championship, the sport’s landmark and most lucrative tournament.

When the former World Snooker Tour chairman was manager of Steve Davis in the 1980s and 1990s, he famously bounded down the stairs of the venue to greet Davis after the first of the Romford player’s six world title wins against Doug Mountjoy in 1981.

While it could be argued the Crucible was the scene of Hearn’s greatest moments in snooker overseeing the growth, development and dominance of Davis during the halcyon days of saturated TV coverage, sentiment will not get in the way of forward thinking when it comes to finalising the future direction of travel for the green baize’s blue-chip competition.

As president of Matchroom Sport, majority shareholders in WST, the Essex businessman has appeared to cast doubt over the future of the event being staged by the Crucible when the venue’s current agreement with Sheffield City Council expires in 2027 – the year that will mark 50 years of the World Championship in Sheffield.

Amid several media reports suggesting Saudi Arabia and China could be new destinations for the World Championship, Hearn – who once described the Crucible as “one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues” – told Eurosport: “Look, I can’t be more honest, my hand on my heart, I want to stay at the Crucible.

“I want to stay in Sheffield. Obviously, money talks and we are getting inundated with offers around the world.

“And there’s a certain argument that says we should actually take the World Championships around the world to a different venue every year. Some of the venues want to pay money I’ve never experienced, others just want to show their love and support for snooker.

“We’ve been very consistent. Broadcasters that we’ve worked with and have done a good job for us and have been part of our history, we’re going to stay with as much as we can if they want to stay with us.

“Venues that we’ve used and people that we’ve relied on to be the fans, have been good to us, we want to stay with them as long as they want us.

“Common sense says I have a fiduciary duty to the players to provide the biggest prize money because they’re professional athletes.

“And there is no point in saying: ‘Oh, think of the history’. You can’t eat history.

“Sport, to be progressive, has got to provide bigger and bigger prize funds or it is not going to be competitive in today’s world, and will no longer be aspirational to young people that we want to see come into the sport.”

As a celebrated sports promoter, Hearn traditionally uses the annual World Championship to deliver a state of the nation address on his plans for snooker, with the subject of the Crucible never far from his thoughts.

Here is what he has said about the iconic venue over the years:

Hearn’s previous comments on snooker’s Crucible conundrum

“We ain’t going to China, period! Trust me, that isn’t going to happen. On my tombstone I’m not having: ‘This is the man that took snooker out of Sheffield’. We can sell tournaments, but we’re not going to let our crown jewels go. It would be letting our soul go.” – Barry Hearn discusses future of Crucible in 2015.
“As a businessman, this is quite alien for me to say but sometimes, things are not just about money. I’m just so happy that we have a home here at the Crucible. The players make money, of course, and they deserve to because they entertain a global audience, but the enormity of winning at the Crucible isn’t measured in pounds or pence, but by holding that piece of metal. It belongs to the city of Sheffield, and so do we. This is one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues.” – Barry Hearn praises venue at the 2018 World Championship.
“There’s been some wonderful moments at the Crucible which stand the test of time, and I think these next two weeks will be another. There’s over 500 million people around the world watching this little 900-seater venue. There’s really nothing like it. And with fans there, it’s going to be something to cherish.” – Hearn as snooker recovers from global pandemic in 2021.
“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. That’s what I shall I be aiming for.” – Barry Hearn airs future plans at 2022 World Championship.
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