Is the Crucible the spiritual home of snooker? Why World Championship must stay in Sheffield after 2023
The Cazoo Snooker World Championship returned to the Crucible in Sheffield this month for another fortnight of exciting matches
and live on Freeview channel 276
Snooker legends returning to the hallowed ground of the Crucible for the World Championship this month included Ronnie ‘the Rocket’ O’Sullivan, The Wizard of Wishaw, John Higgins, and The Jester from Leicester, Mark Selby.
Every year, as players and pundits descend on Sheffield for the World Championship, the 46-year-old question rears its ugly head - is the Crucible, and Sheffield, the right home for snooker?
In 1977 sports promoter Mike Watterson chose the Crucible as the venue for the World Snooker Championship - the previous year it had been held at Middlesbrough Town Hall, and the year before at a basketball centre in Melbourne. But the competition found a home at the Crucible and has returned there every year since.
Just today Kyren Wilson - who scored a 147 maximum break last week - speaking at the Winter Gardens outside the Crucible, said that it is his favourite place to play snooker. But not everyone agrees, even Ronnie O’Sullivan, who is a seven time World Champion, has said that he prefers playing in China.
Neil Robertson has been a vocal critic of the Crucible, claiming that the venue is too cramped and hailing Alexandra Palace in London, where the Masters is held, as a superior spot. He told Eurosport: “I believe the atmosphere [at Alexandra Palace] is everything that the World Championship isn’t”.
It’s true that the Crucible isn’t a huge venue - it has a capacity of 980, less than half of the 2,200 at Ally Pally. In fact, last year The Star reported that sports promoter Barry Hearn had floated the idea of building a bigger Crucible in the Steel City.
Should the snooker World Championship stay at the Crucible?
Having watched snooker at the Crucible for the first time this week, I’m hardly an expert on the subject. But maybe I can speak for the casual snooker fans who fill the seats at the venue in the morning, afternoon, and evening for 17 days each year.
Living in Sheffield, within walking distance from the Crucible, it was a no-brainer for me to book a ticket to see part of the tournament in the room where it happens. My experience was excellent - I managed to bag the last regular priced ticket for the final round 2 evening session.
I got lucky as I had an unobstructed view of both tables, Antony McGill v Jack Lisowski on table one, and Gary Wilson v Mark Selby on table two.
Commentator Rob Walker was in great form warming up the crowd ahead of the session - he walked across the intimate setting with a certain swagger, and because of the Crucible’s limited size, he barely needed his microphone.
Sitting next to me were two Dutch men, Björn and Stan (I have no idea if I’ve spelled them correctly so apologies to both if you’re reading this) who had flown over especially for the World Championships. They were also friends with the people sitting ahead of me, who happened to have travelled from Belgium.
They told me that, being snooker fans, they wanted to see the game played in the Crucible. To them, The Crucible was the World Championship. It’s also worth noting that whilst they had been to London before, they hadn’t ventured to Ally Pally, it just didn’t mean as much to them.
Both matches turned out not to be all that exciting in the end. Selby and McGill both started streets ahead and both went on to beat their opponents quite comfortably. I saw just two century breaks and no player came close to scoring a maximum.
But it was a great evening because the atmosphere at the Crucible is thrilling. The space is tight for players, and this might make it easier for eco-protestors wielding packets of orange powder to make mad dash to the baize, but it’s also the reason why audiences love being at the Crucible. Ally Pally can have the darts, but the Crucible is the home of snooker.