Snooker set for Sheffield stay

  • Last Updated: January 9 2013, 16:49 GMT

Snooker's World Championship is set to stay at the Crucible until at least 2017 after the BBC today extended its contract to broadcast the sport's blue riband tournaments.

O'Sullivan wins at the Crucible in 2012

The World Championship has been played at the Sheffield theatre since 1977, but growing interest in the sport from China has led to speculation that it could be moved overseas.

A large part of the snooker season is played in the Far East, however the World Championship, UK Championship and Masters are historically the most important events on the calendar and they are all to remain BBC televised events until the end of the 2016-17 season.

It is believed the BBC has signed its latest contract on the understanding the World Championship will remain on British soil for the duration.

World Snooker is contracted with Sheffield City Council to bring the tournament to the South Yorkshire city through to 2015.

Barry Hearn, chairman of World Snooker, said during last year's tournament he would be happy for it to stay in Sheffield "until the day I die".

The other two tournaments in the BBC deal are settling into their present venues. The UK Championship has returned to York's Barbican Centre for the last two years, while the Masters found a new home last year at Alexandra Palace after previously being held at Wembley, and returns there for this year's tournament which starts on Sunday.

All three events have been successes for the BBC, which will show matches on television, online and via the iPlayer.

Hearn said: "This is wonderful news for the many millions of snooker fans throughout the UK who love watching the sport on the BBC.

"Last year's World Championship was watched by 28.5 million people which proves what a wide appeal there is for snooker.

"The World Championship, the UK Championship and the Masters are among the highlights of the sporting calendar so it's terrific that they will remain on terrestrial television."

Director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater added: "The World Snooker Championships are an important part of our sports rights portfolio and we're delighted to be continuing our coverage of these three major tournaments."

The news was also welcomed by players, with world number one and UK champion Mark Selby adding: "Everyone's first memories of snooker are watching the big events on the BBC, so it's great for the players and fans to know that those tournaments will remain on terrestrial TV for at least the next four years."

Click here for completely free £10 bet with Sky Bet & £5 free every week