WORLD SNOOKER chief Barry Hearn has declared the UK Championship will remain in York for “the foreseeable future”.

The owner of the game has moved quickly to allay fears over the future of the event, the second biggest tournament on the calendar, at the York Barbican after Ronnie O’Sullivan savaged conditions following his second round win over Peter Lines.

The Rocket branded the tables as “shocking”, told snooker’s top brass to “get a proper venue” and ridiculed the practice area at the Novotel, in Fishergate.

O’Sullivan said of the format: “It is like asking (Roger) Federer to go and play on court 13 in front of three men and a dog”.

But Hearn, while admitting some of O’Sullivan’s comments regarding the tables had validity, stressed the tournament would remain in the Minster city.

“I have read all of Ronnie’s comments,” Hearn said. “We will listen to everyone’s position but the format is the same as last year in terms of the table set up.

“We have seen some great matches already.

“Logistically, could I do with a bigger venue? Yes. But I like York. Ticket sales are 20 per cent up and the public are speaking with their feet.

“They are the most important customers I have got. That’s the future of the game. While I listen to comments and take on board some of the criticisms of the table, York is where we stay.”

Hearn added: “As Margaret Thatcher once said, this lady is not for turning. The TV ratings are up, the ticket sales are up, sponsorship is up.

“These are the things that are important.”

The World Snooker chairman has seen the UK format, which has brought 128 players to the Barbican for the second year, repeatedly attacked by the top players.

Hearn, though, said he had to “do things that are right for the entire game” and said keeping the tournament at the venue was a “thanks to the people of York for supporting the event”.

He continued: “The UK is a one-off event. It’s the only event where one plays 128. It’s a completely fair playing field. I want to make sure the tables are tip-top.

“There is some validity to some of his (O'Sullivan's) comments but as to playing on an outside court - the arena was packed.

“He is not playing in front of three men. It was packed.

“I don’t really want to say it is my way or the highway but I have got to do things that are right for the entire game - not just one or two individual players who would like it to be the top 16 on one table.

“There are events like that - like the Masters. The UK is 128 players. It is the fairest level playing field that we have.

“I like York. In life generally, you have to look at the people who have supported you. I am not going to say it is staying there forever.

“For the foreseeable future, it is going to be (in York). It’s a thanks to the people of York for supporting the event.”

Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, added: "Last year we received a few complaints. There was a lot of talk about moving this event. We went away and completely redesigned the whole inside.

"The general feedback from the majority of the players is that this is 100 per cent better."

He added: "York is a wonderful city. It is a great city at this time of year as well. Everyone enjoys being here and the immediate future for us is here.

"We will look at various options on the format going forward but we like this place."

Specifically addressing O’Sullivan’s comments, a World Snooker spokesman said: “There is slightly more room in the main arena than there was last year and growing ticket sales indicate that the four table open plan set-up is popular with fans.

“In the Novotel hotel there are three practice tables located in a completely separate air-conditioned function room, with security on duty so there is no public access.

“At the venue in the players’ lounge there is a table for players who might want to have a quick practise before going out to play, or during the mid-session interval. There is a bar but this was never intended to be a main practice table.”

The spokesman added that World Snooker had considered moving the event to the Ricoh Arena, in Coventry, last year but said its concerns were that: “Two TV tables plus lots of outside tables might make the tournament look more like a European Tour event.

“Would a big venue generate the same atmosphere and ticket sales as York, which is more intimate?”