Why the postponement of the Snooker World Championships matters for Sheffield businesses

This weekend should have seen the start of a storied Sheffield event, in the World Snooker Championship. The flagship tournament on the world snooker calendar has been held at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield for the last 43 years.

For that reason Sheffield is often referred to as the ‘snooker city’.

But like most other major sporting events it was postponed last month due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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This isn’t just a blow for snooker lovers but also a severe economic hit for businesses in Sheffield.

For reference, the 2019 staging event was said to have boosted the city economy by £3m with fans packing out the winter gardens and the city centre during the 17-day tournament.

In addition to fans visiting Sheffield directly, over 1.6 billion TV viewers internationally tuned in to watch the matches over the course of the event.

We spoke to one fan who had been planning to travel to Sheffield for the tournament. Jonathan Holder, 45, of Milton Keynes, said: “I first went up for the final in 2018, went up again twice last year and had managed to get tickets for this year.

“We’d planned for four of us to stay overnight at a hotel and spend that night out in the city. Hopefully if it’s rescheduled and we can make it we’ll still be able to come up later in the year.”

The importance of the tournament to the city can also be seen historically. In a 2017 study Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre found that since the first staging in 1977 the championship has generated over £100m for the Sheffield economy.

An average turnover of £2.6m every year can be put down to fan expenditure on hotels, shopping, local travel, food and entertainment, as well as spending from players, officials and media.

With the event attracting 40,000 spectators every year it’s no wonder it gives the city such a cash boost.

There remains hope that the event may still be rescheduled for later in the year with organizers suggesting August as a potential option, meaning the city may not lose out on these benefits entirely.

However, World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn said discussions of matches behind closed doors had taken place. This would mark a sure blow to the Sheffield economy should the tournament be held without the presence of fans.

For fans of snooker though there is still some action to be seen over the next few weeks as World Snooker will be offering 17 days of marvelous moments from years gone by at the crucible, releasing one per day on their Facebook and YouTube pages.