Top class snooker could stay in York despite threat to UK Championship at the Barbican

THE UK Championship looks likely to move away from York, but World Snooker chief Jason Ferguson said top class snooker could still remain in the city.

Ferguson, a director of World Snooker and chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, said even if the game's second biggest tournament moved away from the York Barbican, it was possible a different event could replace it.

The Barbican's future as host of the UK looks in serious doubt this morning after World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn told The Times: "We know the venue is not right and we have made some mistakes.

"Next year that will change."

The Barbican's deal to host the UK ends after this tournament and rumours are rife that it will move to the Ricoh Arena, in Coventry, which recently successfully held the inaugural Champion of Champions event.

Some of snooker's top stars, including Judd Trump, Graeme Dott and Ali Carter, have been scathing of the flat 128 draw system employed at the championship, which has seen all players descend on the venue and has seen games played on four tables in a main arena and four in the sports hall.

Stephen Maguire said the tournament was in danger of being "ruined" and even some of those in support of Hearn's plans have commented that 128 players are too many to accommodate in one place.

But Hearn has insisted that his measures are the way forward for the sport and that means it is difficult to see the UK Championship remaining at its current home.

Ferguson, though, moved to sooth the worries of those fearing that top class snooker will leave the Barbican entirely.

Nearly 7,000 tickets have been sold so far for the 13-day potting festival in the Minster city and the World Snooker deputy said: "There is absolutely nothing wrong with the venue. We love the city of York and we love playing at the venue.

“The issue is arising from the tables and players. They are teething problems and they can be overcome.

“It is not the case that we are turning round and saying we are not coming back to York. We love York and we think snooker will be in York for many years to come.
“It is dealing with the logistics of bringing 128 players. Snooker has grown so much. We have gone from £3.5 million in prize money three years ago to more than £8 million and almost 30 events.
“Going forward, it is about listening to the players and seeing what their needs are."

Ferguson added: “We have played at the Barbican for many years and I don’t think we will pull snooker out of the Barbican at all.

“Even if we did move the UK, we would look at moving something else there. We have been headstrong about 128 players coming to the final venue but everything is up for change. We are looking at the best way forward.

“The 128 player flat draw system is definitely the right way forward and I support Barry’s view that it will be the right thing for the sport." 

When asked whether a situation could occur where the UK Championship moved to a venue like the Ricoh Arena in Coventry and the Champion of Champions event, currently held in the West Midlands, moved to York, Ferguson said: “That kind of thing is very possible.”

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