Selby-Ding in tussle as venue deal looks likely

LONDON • Mark Selby and Ding Junhui were involved in a titanic tussle on the first day of the World Snooker Championship final, and the good news for fans is that a deal will be announced soon to keep the event at the Crucible Theatre, the game's spiritual home since 1977.

The contract with The Crucible comes to an end next year, and there had been speculation that the championship - which earns £5 million (S$9.8 million) for Sheffield over the 17 days of the competition - could leave the city, and even move abroad.

However, Jason Ferguson, the chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, said: "I don't think any of us in the sport have the heart to change.

"We've had substantial offers to move the world championship. But what price do you put on history? What price do you put on heritage? On those wonderful photographs you see when you walk backstage?

"Taking snooker away from here would be like taking the Wimbledon tennis championships away from Wimbledon.

"I'm hoping for a long-term deal - and I'm hoping an announcement will be made very shortly."

Nevertheless, Ferguson is concerned the game is under-selling itself, staging its main championship at a venue that can hold only 986 spectators.

He said: "We could easily fill 3,000 seats, which would be about right for the world championship."

Ferguson believes Ding's first appearance in the world championship final has taken the sport to a new level of interest in China.

He said: "It's already huge in China. They've got 1,500 snooker clubs in Shanghai alone, 1,200 in Beijing. These are huge numbers.

"In media and television it is also very big and if Ding wins, it has the potential to be enormous (for the growth of the sport)."

Viewers in China must have been subdued when Ding went 6-0 down in the opening session, before pulling back to trail 10-7 after the opening day of the final.

Ferguson, meanwhile, has his eyes on India as snooker's next boom nation.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline 'Selby-Ding in tussle as venue deal looks likely'. Print Edition | Subscribe