Live professional sport…
Has been away from fans’ screens for two months now.
But, in a bid to slowly get the country back to some kind of normality, snooker will be the first professional sport to be back on TV screens in June -whilst others are struggling to work out how to.
Amid the chaos of lockdown and the postponement of the World Snooker Championships in April/May, fans have had to suffer repeats of classic sport to keep them sane for the last few weeks.
The BBC showcased two weeks of Crucible Snooker Classics in April-cum-May.
But in June from the 1 – 11, thanks to Barry Hearn and co, snooker is making history as being the first sport to return, despite there still being queries over whether schools will re-open and what will happen with the coronavirus pandemic and a potential second spike in cases.
The winner of the new Championship League event will pocket 30K and fans will get to see the likes of Judd Trump and Neil Robertson in action once again.
It won’t all be like it was before though.
Although ITV4 will showcase the 64 person Championship League tournament with players being invited to compete in the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, fans will not be able to attend.
Like Gibraltar was, for a part, it will ALL be behind closed doors.
And, presenters like Jill Douglas and co will be working remotely and not in a TV studio. Messrs David Hendon and the commentary team will be at the venue.
Everyone will be tested and will isolate before the show starts. There will be the recommended social distancing measures in place as well.
Championship League will be split into three phases, with all matches during all stages played as the best-of-four frames. Play will begin at 3pm each day, running continuously until both groups are complete, with the exception of Friday, June 5th when play will begin at 4pm.
• GROUP MATCHES from June 1st to 8th will feature 16 groups of four players, with two groups played each day across two tables. The player who tops each group table will progress to Phase Two. Players will be awarded three points for a win and one point for a drawn match.
• GROUP WINNERS from June 9th to 10th sees the 16 group winners split into four further groups of four, with two groups per day also played over two tables.
• TOURNAMENT FINALS from June 11th will see the four Phase Two winners battle it out over one final group, played on one table, to determine the Championship League winner.
Boss Barry Hearn said: “We will be the first major sport to get back to live televised action. That’s not by chance, it’s because of the hard work and preparation we have done during the lockdown to make sure we are ready to get going again as soon as it is legal.”
He added: “During the challenging times of the past few weeks, we have examined the opportunities which still exist, and worked relentlessly towards the goal of getting our tour going again. While most other sports remain sidelined, we are ready to return from June 1st. This sends out a message to the sporting world that snooker is at the forefront of innovation.”
Some fans have welcomed the move, whilst others are skeptical of the timing.
One fan said on the Snooker Fans Facebook page: “I’m a huge snooker fan, but I can’t get to grips with this event in June. My gut is saying it’s wrong.”
Another fan commented: “Maybe it’s a trial to see what the World’s would be like in the quarantined format.”
Barry Hearn is seeking to put on the World Championships at the Crucible on in July, subject to what happens in the next few weeks regarding the pandemic and the lockdown.
There is still a potential of a second spike in cases, and the current lockdown measures are conditional to the R rate not going above 1.
One thing for sure, for a while, professional sport will not have the same buzz as it used to before the Covid-19 pandemic took a hold…
Chris Gaynor is a writer with 10 years’ experience writing for the web.
He loves snooker, CSI and loves cycling off tiramisu!