The 2020 World Snooker Championship got under way on Friday with about 300 supporters inside the Crucible Theatre.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that the test programme reintroducing fans to sporting venues will be suspended – abruptly ending Crucible fans at the World Championship.
With coronavirus cases rising again and other areas of England going into local lockdown, the decision has been made to curtail the pilot scheme.
Crucible fans were at the venue this morning for the first match of the delayed 2020 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
Defending champion Judd Trump entered the arena to applause from the 300 or so supporters, but the remainder of the tournament from Saturday will be contested behind closed doors.
On the eve of the competition, qualifier Anthony Hamilton withdrew citing fears over his health as a result of fans being allowed at the venue.
“Pilots of larger crowds at sports venues will not take place,” Johnson said at a news conference on Friday.
“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 remains hopeful that a small crowd will be allowed for the final on August 15 and 16, and it will follow Government advice on this.
Fans who had tickets for the Crucible will be offered the chance to transfer them to the 2021 event, or will be offered a full refund.
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.”
Fans who have tickets will be contacted soon by the tickets providers to explain how to transfer to next year or receive a refund.
Featured photo credit: WST