YORK'S biggest single sports event will has been given a massive boost this year.

The UK Snooker Championship, being staged at the Barbican Centre and starting on December 1, now has a sponsor.

Electrical giants PowerHouse, the UK's largest independent electrical retailer, have turned up the heat by agreeing to support the second biggest tournament in world snooker.

World No 1 Ronnie O'Sullivan, who will be defending his UK title, greeted the deal by saying it was 'fantastic news for the players and the sport as a whole'.

PowerHouse, who have more than 230 stores in the UK, have agreed a one-year deal to sponsor the championship, which carries a total prize fund of £615,000, with £84,500 going to the winner.

The news comes only a week after the players threw their full weight behind the Board of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and their new commercial partners World Snooker Enterprises.

"I have always said that once snooker started moving forward sponsors and broadcasters would support us and this deal proves the point," said O'Sullivan.

"It's great that a major name like PowerHouse wants to be associated with snooker and I'm sure all the players will provide them with a tournament to remember."

O'Sullivan will be launching the UK Championship in York next Thursday, when he will also be turning on the city's Christmas lights.

Powerhouse chairman, Derrick Bloomfield said: "PowerHouse is delighted to be involved in such a prestigious event. I am looking forward to what I believe will be the most exciting championship yet"

Richard Relton, chief executive of World Snooker, said: "We're delighted that a tournament with the history and prestige of the UK Championship now has a dynamic new sponsor in PowerHouse."

Nearly 8,000 tickets had been sold by midweek for the two-week long event, which runs from December 1 to 15, and an extra 1,200 tickets went on sale yesterday for the semi-finals and final.

The line-up of 48 players includes the world's top 32. The second week's matches will be televised exclusively by the BBC.

Win tickets to the snooker final in Wednesday's Evening Press. (Nov 27)

Updated: 11:44 Monday, November 25, 2002