The final on August 16th has sold out, but the majority of other sessions still have seats on offer.
After a three-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic it’s finally day one in Sheffield, but a significant number of World Championship tickets are still available.
Judd Trump made his long-awaited entrance into the Crucible Theatre as the reigning world champion on Friday morning to much applause as fans returned to indoor sport for the first time since March in the UK.
The 30 year-old is bidding to break the fabled curse in which no first-time champion has ever managed to repeat the success the following season.
Trump has been a vocal supporter of the moves taken by the World Snooker Tour in getting the sport back to a sense of normality after the coronavirus lockdown.
The world number one slated Anthony Hamilton as “selfish” after the asthma sufferer opted to withdraw on the eve of the event down to fears over the admission of a crowd inside the arena for the 17-day competition.
WST chairman Barry Hearn was also bullish in his response to Hamilton’s late decision, claiming it was “poor form” and against the “integrity” of participating in an event.
“He entered the competition knowing there were going to be fans present,” Hearn was also quoted as saying on talkSPORT. “Why did he not withdraw then, instead of knocking someone else out?”
“He knows the situation. He hasn’t had asthma that started yesterday; he’s had asthma and heath issues for some time, so don’t give me all that.”
While that rather charming take from snooker’s leading figure was echoed by many others on social media, thankfully there were plenty of rationally-minded people out there as well who compassionately understood Hamilton’s dilemma.
He hasn’t just contracted asthma has he ? Robbed another pro of their chance by playing in qualifiers. He hasn’t broken the rules but I think it’s poor form. The players he played in the qualifiers must be sick.
— Barry Hearn (@BarryHearn) July 30, 2020
And it seems as though doubts about the decision to include fans in this year’s rescheduled edition isn’t a lone concern.
It was announced earlier in July that the World Championship would act as a test for a pilot scheme run by the UK government, allowing people to attend sporting occasions once more.
Outdoor events in cricket and horse racing were additionally included, but snooker is acting as the only indoor guinea pig in the project.
While WST made a big deal about leading the way in terms of getting things back to normal and labelled tickets as a unique and golden opportunity, not many people actually seem to agree that taking the risk is worth it.
A quick look at the Crucible box-office website for snooker shows that World Championship tickets have sold out in just half a dozen sessions.
The sport’s authorities have insisted that every possible measure has been taken to guarantee the safety of everyone involved – from the players to the fans, as well as the officials, commentators, and other staff.
While there’s no questioning the fact that WST and the WPBSA have worked hard in getting the World Championship going this year, every possible measure seems to be a stretch.
Fans won’t be assessed upon entry to the venue, because as Hearn puts it, “temperature checks are ineffective”, while masks are not required to be worn while seated inside the Crucible.
The Crucible will be at one-third capacity – at about 300 people when the allocated World Championship tickets for each session are sold – and supporters will allegedly be socially distant from each other at all times.
Whether or not this will be enough and how this tournament will get completed without any coronavirus cases being attributed to it are understandable concerns.
One just has to look at the disaster of the short-lived Adria Tour in tennis to see how things can quickly escalate out of control.
Formula One has been one example of how stricter measures can be imposed, with bubbles and even sub-bubbles implemented within the sport, but even it hasn’t escaped the coronavirus with driver Sergio Perez testing positive ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
Reports that the bubble for the players in snooker, akin to what transpired at the recent Championship League and Tour Championship, has been relaxed heightens the worries surrounding the safety of the event.
Every ticket holder has been emailed a long Code of Conduct, detailing the rules that must be adhered to during their visit to the Crucible.
Upon entering the theatre, fans are being told that “to minimise face-to-face contact we insist that all spectators turn their backs if they need to pass other spectators.”
Hearn loves a soundbite – “equal opportunity” and “meritocracy” immediately spring to mind – but his newest go-to line is that he’s “following government guidelines”.
If those are the government guidelines Hearn animatedly speaks of, it may just be wiser to watch the action from home.
Footnote: Soon after this article was published, the UK government decided to abandon the pilot scheme allowing fans back into sporting venues.