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WST Announces No Snooker Fans Until 2021

The decision comes as the UK government announced a tiered plan to allow crowds to return to sporting events next month.

There will be no fans at snooker events until the Masters in January at the earliest, the World Snooker Tour revealed on Friday.

With the recent decision by the UK government to permit the return of fans to sporting events amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there had been speculation that people would be able to attend tournaments in December – possibly even the end of the ongoing UK Championship.

However, WST has opted to continue with its original plan to host the remainder of the UK Championship, in addition to the Scottish Open and the World Grand Prix, behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.

The Marshall Arena has staged every tournament since the 2020/21 snooker season’s delayed start in September.

Players and officials have been tested for COVID-19 at most events with many returning positive results, including former ranking event winners Matthew Stevens, Ryan Day, and Anthony Hamilton in this week’s UK Championship.

Snooker was among the first sports to return after the first lockdown earlier in 2020, and it participated in a pilot scheme that briefly allowed fans to attend the delayed World Snooker Championship in August.

The first tournament after the New Year will be the prestigious Masters, which has been staged at the Alexandra Palace in London since 2011.

A huge arena that can accommodate thousands of fans, WST hopes they will be able to safely welcome 1,000 people for each session.

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome our fabulous fans back to live snooker events.”

“We are reliant on government advice but we will do everything in our powers to make this a reality.

“In 2020 we will stage a total of 20 events on the World Snooker Tour which is an incredible achievement in the circumstances.

“We have maintained prize money levels for the players and given our millions of fans around the globe an abundance of live snooker to watch on television.

“In August at the World Championship we were extremely proud to be the first post-lockdown UK indoor sporting event to host fans.

“Since then our events have been behind closed doors and we have missed the amazing atmosphere which only our dedicated fans can generate.

“It is wonderful news for the players that they will soon be able to feel the buzz around them when they walk into an arena.

“The Masters in London is such a special event and I’m sure anyone who has the opportunity to be one of the lucky few in the crowd will grasp that chance.

“The event is renowned for the enthusiasm of the fans and even with a reduced audience I have no doubt it will be a sensational occasion.”

The Masters is the second biggest tournament on the calendar and features the top 16 players in the official world rankings list.

Stuart Bingham is the defending champion, and the likes of Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, and Ding Junhui are in line to participate again in the capital city.

Featured photo credit: WST

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