World Championship Qualifiers to be played behind closed doors?

Having received an email from one reader today it appears increasingly likely that unfortunately this season’s World Championship qualifiers will be staged at the Academy in Sheffield, behind closed doors as has been the case with the previous ranking events so far this season…

As long-time readers will know, for the past two years, as well as at the 2008 UK Championship, I attended the qualifying rounds at the EISS and witnessed a number of dramatic matches at the venue such as Swail v Wenbo, Lee v Trump, Walden v Zhang and more.

Although they are ‘just’ qualifiers, given the importance of these long matches as players look to not only make it to the Crucible, but the fight for many of them to stay on the professional circuit for the following season, attending the qualifiers has been one of the highlights of the season for me. The standard of the matches is not always the highest with the pressure involved but there is always plenty of drama and tension to keep things interesting.

It is therefore a great shame that this season it appears as though spectators will not be given the opportunity to watch these matches, particularly given the numbers that many of the matches attracted last year, indeed some were standing room only. The qualifiers, particularly the final round had almost become a mini-event of their own and I can only imagine that the players too would prefer to have a crowd in watching their matches.

I am aware that it was not cheap for the governing body to stage the matches in the Badminton Hall at the English Institute for Sport in Sheffield and that cuts need to be made, but hopefully a way will be found in the near future to allow spectators to watch the qualifiers, even if that does mean a change of venue altogether.

Snooker needs to be encouraging fans to attend tournaments, not to be turning them away.