World number one Neil Robertson expresses woe at UK Barbican blow

York Press: Neil Robertson Neil Robertson

WORLD number one Neil Robertson said it would be "a real shame for York" if the williamhill.com UK Championship was to leave the city - but believes bringing the Champion of Champions event to the Barbican could be a "good trade off".

Robertson, who smoothly eased through to the last 32 of this year's event with a 6-1 victory over Robbie Williams, believes the size of the Fishergate venue makes it difficult to accommodate all 128 players in World Snooker chief Barry Hearn's flat draw tournament structure.

Hearn strongly hinted the championship will have a new home next year and, with the Barbican's deal to host it concluding when a new winner is crowned on Sunday, he said: "York and the Barbican Centre are fantastic but it is just not big enough now".

Jason Ferguson, a board member at World Snooker and chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, said top class snooker could still remain in York, though, stressing: "We have played at the Barbican for many years and I don’t think we will pull snooker out of the Barbican at all."

Asked hypothetically about whether York could trade the UK for the Champion of Champions event at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, which is now the front-runner to host the game's second biggest tournament, Ferguson said it was a possibility.

Commenting on the speculation, Robertson said: "I guess on the experience of last week, it (Ricoh arena) was a really big venue and I guess it could accommodate the tables better but it would be a real shame for York.

"It is a brilliant venue when you get down to the last 32 and last 16 and the one table set up is fantastic. It is a real shame for the Barbican but, with 128 players and the flat draw, we do need to play in venues with a lot of space and have enough practice facilities.

"In the first round here, we had to go to the snooker club just across the road and it is not ideal preparation for a match. A lot of the players like to go on the practice table and then walk a couple of minutes to the arena."

When told that switching the Champions event to York could be an option, Robertson added: "That would be a really good trade off. York would lose the UK Championship but the Champions of Champions tournament is one all the players are really excited about.

"So it would mean you have all the tournament winners here next year. I would be really happy with that. That would be fantastic if it could work out."

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