Shaun Murphy
Main News, World Championship

Shaun Murphy – ‘my dream is to bulldoze the Crucible and rebuild a bigger version’

Shaun Murphy doesn’t want the World Snooker Championship to leave Sheffield but concedes that the Crucible Theatre is too small as a host venue.

The famous venue has staged every World Snooker Championship since 1977 and its current contract runs until 2027.

Beyond that, however, it is unclear where future editions of snooker’s blue-riband tournament will be held.

It was a controversial topic that, in some ways, overshadowed the recently concluded 2024 World Championship that was won by Kyren Wilson.

World Snooker Tour and Matchroom Sport supremo Barry Hearn has publicly stated his wish for Sheffield City Council to fund a new and/or improved venue of greater capacity.

Players and fans have been split on the issue, with many not wanting to sacrifice the history and prestige that is already attached with the intimate setting of the Crucible Theatre.

Others understand the monetary benefit that the sport could generate if the event were able to sell more tickets, including additional options for a corporate audience.

Several alternatives have been suggested, including a move to other venues in Sheffield or the UK, or even travelling abroad with Saudi Arabia and China constantly rumoured as potential destinations.

“Listen, if it were up to me,” Shaun Murphy said on the latest episode of his OneFourSeven Podcast with Phil Seymour.

“If I had a blank cheque book and Bob the Builder on speed dial, I’d be asking him to flatten the Crucible and start again.”

“I don’t want it to move venues, I don’t want it to go to Sheffield Arena. I don’t want it go to somewhere, I want it to stay at the Crucible.

“I think if the Crucible had twice as many seats in it, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.

“But these are my views, and it’s important I make this clear, because I do wear several hats.

“As a player director, I have to represent the thoughts and feelings of the players that voted myself and my fellow directors onto that board.

“It’s up to us to represent their best interests. Financially, that may not be staying at the Crucible.

“Like Barry Hearn said during the championship, he has a fiduciary duty to the tour to provide and make sure that there’s ample earning opportunities for the players.

“Having our biggest event in our smallest arena doesn’t do that necessarily, does it? It’s a problem that, thankfully, I don’t have to solve.

“My absolute dream scenario would be to bulldoze the Crucible and rebuild a much bigger version of it in its place.

“I made the point during the championship that, if you look at other major sporting venues – let’s take the ones in England that spring to mind, your Wimbledons and Wembleys and places like that – that’s what they’ve done.

“To retain their position in the public’s consciousness, they’ve had to get bigger, to develop, and they’ve had to change from what they were originally.

“Nobody goes to Wimbledon and says that we’re not playing at the same Wimbledon that we did all those years ago.

“It’s one of those things. I think it will have to change, it cannot carry on in its current format.

“I think what we have to remember is, the fact that we’re having this conversation means that the game’s expanding and growing beyond any of our wildest dreams in recent years.

“The fact that we’re considering having to go elsewhere because it’s no longer big enough.

“I’m sure I heard Barry Hearn say that he thinks he could sell the Crucible out five or ten times over for the World Championships.

“If that’s true we don’t know, but we have to start taking notice of things that get said. I’d love to see what offers have actually been tabled to WST.

“That’s not going to happen, I know that. But I’d love to see what they actually are, what are we talking about here.

“And again, that brings into play that we have a responsibility to put on and provide the best events that we can for the tour to compete in.

“That’s our duty. But it’s one of those old things, isn’t it? You just can’t keep everyone happy, we’re not going to please everybody.

“It’s a real difficult one, and it really did overshadow the World Championship this year for me. It became the talking point, I got really bored of it.

“I didn’t like the fact that it was being conducted so publicly during the championship with all the dignitaries from Sheffield City Council there.

“I just don’t like that element of people being hung out to dry. It makes me uncomfortable, and I wish things like this were done behind closed doors.

“Maybe we’re part of the problem, because two weeks later, we are still sat here talking about it.

“But I think unfortunately that, despite us wanting it to go away, even if you and I never spoke about it again, this will now only intensify as what was a three-year deal and is now a two-year deal plays out.”

Murphy also offered a tribute to Dene O’Kane, who sadly passed away in New Zealand earlier this week.

O’Kane, who reportedly suffered a fall at his home, was a professional for the best part of 20 years on the main tour – reaching the Hong Kong Open final in 1989.

“He was no age, no age at all,” Shaun Murphy said of the former World Championship quarter-finalist, who was 61.

“Very, very sad to hear that news that Dene O’Kane had passed away. Obviously there is a huge generation gap.”

“When he was playing, I was just getting into the game really. Our paths may have crossed the odd time, I think I can only remember meeting him once.

“Even just in that one meeting, you knew enough of him. He was well-respected enough that you just knew that here was a very classy man.

“A lovely player, and I think he did some commentary as well back in the day. One of New Zealand’s finest exports, certainly in cue sports terms.

“A real gent of a man, and our thoughts have to be with his family and loved ones who he leaves behind.

“But as a snooker family, we come together and remember. We just wish his family well.”

Featured photo credit: WST

9 Comments

  1. I rarely agree with Shaun Murphy, but of course a Sheffield solution would be the best. A very important factor is that the ‘size’ of the Crucible is not just a reference to capacity (980 seats). It’s about facilities. For example, it’s really terrible that there is so little for media – just space for a few British journalists, and even Eurosport are not onsite throughout, commentating from a studio in west London. I have been to Wembley, Wimbledon, Lord’s and it’s a different world… However, I doubt whether there’s enough space on the Crucible’s existing site to expand. But the key thing is for some definite consensus to emerge in the snooker community. The simplest solution for the Hearns would be Saudi Arabia, and nobody wants that. A middle way has to be pushed for.

  2. Jay Brannon

    A new Crucible in Sheffield is not the Crucible no matter how it’s packaged up and sold to us. I’m with Dave Hendon that to have an alternative venue in Sheffield would be hard knowing what we used to have.

    All this corporate talk bugs me as this sport is one that has strong working class credentials and is still accessible to the general public in ways that many sports aren’t. While the fact so many corporate seats were empty at this venue makes me wonder why so keen to create more space given their apathy to actually watching the snooker.

    Eurosport are onsite throughout now I believe.

    Broadcast revenue is the real economic driver for any sport. This need to sell extra tickets is overhyped.

    • No, the commentary boxes are reserved for Dennis Taylor and John Virgo. ES get to go there for the semi-finals, when there’s a little more space. Dave Hendon posted a photograph on Twitter when he arrived. Prior to that, they were in the main office in Chiswick.

      I’m afraid we need the corporate stuff, as any sport does. I’d prefer that there was a private gallery, out of the way for more serious fans, and preferably behind a glass screen to avoid distractions such as champaigne corks popping. Similarly, we need a media gallery for the world’s press and commentary.

      I completely disagree with this ‘working class’ trope. Snooker is for everyone. You might equally say snooker is a ‘white’ game, or a ‘male’ game. That’s not how people think in the 21st century. But I would agree that there need to be reasonably affordable ticket prices (I paid £115 for mine). Given that the main revenue is from broadcasting, the objective should be to have a large and enthusiastic audience. If some sessions weren’t sold out this year, then that’s a symptom that we need to expand snooker’s appeal, not that capacity shouldn’t be increased. We had around 750 in for the Women’s World Championship final, inconceivable a year ago. Ambition for the game!

      • Jay Brannon

        I’m sorry but to say I was saying this game is only for working class people is ridiculous. I take offence also at you saying that I might as well have said it is only for males or white people. One of the reasons I refuse to watch sport being played in Saudi Arabia is how they treat women. You’re talking to a man of the political left here and not some Trump supporter. I mentioned the working class element as the sport is founded on working class players largely. What that brings is a down to earth cast of players who give a lot time to fans. I worry if we bring more corporate elements into the sport we will lose some of that accessibility.

        You said on your website that you don’t bother with the Crucible bit so seems odd you fork out that much given you primarily want to watch developing talent.

        Another issue I have chasing corporate types is the potential for alienating many of the sport’s current supporters.

        • I’m sorry Jay, I didn’t mean to offend you.

          • Apology accepted. I do enjoy our exchanges generally. I’m presuming that bio about how you watch snooker and your background with the game was written a good few years ago.

          • I did modify the bio when I went to the Crucible this year, but apart from that I mainly go to qualifiers and multi-table events. The thing is, I realised I had been quite harsh about the Crucible (even rude!), so I thought it only right I should go there to at least be properly informed and up-to-date. I would say it was enjoyable and I recommend it. But it does fall short of what should be expected from a World Championship.

  3. Jay Brannon

    The sessions were sold out supposedly but those in the ‘corporate’ seats were not often bothering to take their seats. People say take it to Ally Pally but that venues works for the Masters due to its format. No arena holding two or three thousand would sell out for a 17 day marathon. It should stay at the Crucible.

  4. Ian Robinson

    Shaun should just have a word with Sheffield City Council. They’re good at knocking things down, decimating the city centre. But don’t hold your breath on them getting a building work done anytime soon! Come and have a look at Fargate and other ‘projects’ in the city centre.

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