UK Championship back to the Barbican, Masters to Alexandra Palace

It has been an open secret around the Crucible for the past week but World Snooker have today confirmed that the UK Championship will this year be returning to the Barbican Centre in York following a five-year absence while the Masters will be on the move…

UK Championship Returns to York

Following its four-year stint in Telford, the UK Championship will be returning to the Barbican Centre in York next season and will be staged between the 3rd-11th December 2011.

The tournament was previously staged there between 2001 and 2006 before the venue was closed down for refurbishment following the final between Peter Ebdon and Stephen Hendry, although as I have seen in person, the venue was left dormant for some time before recently being restored to its former glory.

The table being dismantled following the 2006 UK final

Is this a good move? For me personally it certainly is as I live much closer to York than I do Telford and furthermore York is an excellent city, particularly in the run-up to Christmas when the tournament is staged. I attended the tournament there back in both 2005 and 2006 and felt that the venue was a great place for snooker.

I cannot comment on Telford but the impression that I get is that the venue was some distance away from shops and so on. As was said to me yesterday however, it is a shame to see it move in some ways as after four years the tournament was just beginning to establish itself there and was well-supported by the local fans.

Barry Hearn told the York Press:

The top players had six happy years there and they all talk about the superb set-up of the arena and the excellent backstage facilities at the venue.

“The fans in York always generated a cracking atmosphere and no doubt they can’t wait for another chance to see the very best in the world in action.”

UK Qualifiers to Gloucester?

While this is not yet official as far as I know, I have also heard that qualifiers for the UK Championship will be moved to the Southwest Snooker Academy in Gloucester, an excellent venue and importantly one that caters for spectators so some of us will be able to go down and watch.

The only disappointment is that I understand the matches will be reduced from the best of 17’s to the best of 11’s which in my view is a poor decision as while shorter formats are in vogue at the moment, for me it is the longer matches that really tell a story and provide the drama that makes the sport so gripping.

I certainly support the move to have a wider variety of formats and was pleasantly surprised by the Shootout, but it is not as though these days there are many longer format tournaments left and I don’t see the need to shorten the UK’s for good measure. Also the newer qualifiers will perhaps find it more of a culture shock to arrive at the venue stage should they qualify and then be thrown into the longer matches whereas now as least they have qualified under that format.

I also understand that the Southwest Snooker Academy will stage two of the six English PTC events next season.

Masters Moves to ‘Ally Pally’

In recent years following its enforced move from the Wembley Conference Centre the Masters tournament has been staged at the Wembley Arena but although I have not been there myself, the general view seems to be that the cavernous venue was not the most suited to a tournament such as this.

Perhaps with this in mind, World Snooker have now decided to move the tournament to the home of the PDC World Darts Championship, Alexandra Palace. The tournament will be held between 15th-22nd January 2012.

More will follow on the calendar as the information filters through over the course of the next few days, particularly on the subject of the ‘overseas ranking’ event scheduled for this summer which should also be announced shortly…