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Mystery surrounds £50m arena set to replace Crucible as World Snooker Championship host

SHEFFIELD’S Crucible Arena is the most hallowed venue in snooker history – but mystery surrounds its future in the city and even in England.

It has been the home of the World Snooker Championship since 1977, but its contract with the tournament will expire in three years’ time.

There is a growing recognition that the World Snooker Championships must be moved from the CrucibleCredit: Reuters

Given the increased involvement of Saudi money in snooker, there has been intense speculation that the World Championships could be moved there when the Crucible contract expires.

Traditionalists have campaigned for the tournament to remain in Sheffield, but there is recognition that the venue needs to be changed.

Given its year-round use as a theatre, the Crucible has a small capacity of just 980.

Players such as Hossein Vafaei and Ronnie O’Sullivan have also criticized the legendary venue.

Before rumors of a move to Saudi Arabia or even China began to swirl, Sheffield Council made a proposal to build a £50m concert venue to replace the Crucible, according to The Sheffield Star.

The plan for a 4,000-seat venue was submitted to the city council in 2022 by former Sheffield MP Richard Caborn.

Two sites in Sheffield have been examined with suggestions the new site could be built within 18 months.

But Caborn said he had now “lost touch” with the proposal after early consultations and the status of the new site is now shrouded in mystery.

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A spokesman for Sheffield City Council told The Star they “have no further comment to make on a new location in the city centre”.

Former snooker boss Barry Hearn has said he supports keeping the tournament in Sheffield but a new venue is essential.

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He told the BBC: “The priority is to stay in the Steel City of Sheffield because it has been our home for a long, long time.

“But we owe it to everyone to listen. We listen to the fans, the locals, we also listen to the players.

“The Effect on Prize Money. We look at the conditions and say the game has moved on and deserves better than the current conditions.”

Speaking about where the event should be hosted, Hearn said: “I think it’s new construction in town.

“It can’t be an expansion of the Crucible. There is not enough space. The building is too small.

“But I think there are other buildings that could be converted … but I need a place to emphasize the importance of the event, the quality of the event.

“You can’t put it in a leisure center and say ‘this is our World Championship’ just for the sake of another 1,000 (or) 1,500 tickets a session.”

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