World Snooker Championships could LEAVE iconic Sheffield arena as Barry Hearn begins talks over new modern Crucible II

BARRY HEARN has revealed the World Snooker Tour is in talks to build a bigger and brand new Crucible II venue.

And in a thinly-veiled threat to Sheffield City Council, the snooker supremo would consider moving the prestigious tournament from the Steel City if serious cash is not pumped into the proposed project.

The 980-seater Crucible theatre has a contract to host Betfred World Snooker Championship action until 2027 – the 100th anniversary of the first ever event.

Several players, including Neil Robertson and Mark Allen, believe the exiting site – which has hosted the worlds since 1977 – is too cramped and not modern enough.

Hearn, who stood down as chairman of Matchroom Sport a year ago, has held discussions with councillors and ex-Sports Minister Richard Caborn about them building a replica Crucible with more seats.

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Hearn, 73, said: “A lot of people have been quite public about us needing to go to a bigger venue.

“I can understand it’s quite cramped at the Crucible, especially with a two-table set-up.

“The demand for tickets means a lot of people don’t get to tick their bucket list wishes and get to the Crucible.

“We have an agreement with Sheffield Council for the next five years. That will be honoured.

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“I’ve always made it quite clear that while I’m alive I want snooker to stay in Sheffield. We’re synonymous with Sheffield, the history we have created.

“But there are early-stage talks at the moment with Sheffield Council. Why don’t we look at perhaps building a new Crucible in Sheffield?

“Maybe a 2,000 or 2,500-seater venue instead of 900, which we know we’ll fill up every time. And maybe a little bit more space on the playing arena.

“It’ll cost money. It all starts with the first conversation and it ends when we open the doors to a magnificent new Crucible.

“There are times when central government takes responsibility to spend. Snooker is important to Sheffield.

“Sheffield have been a recipient of money and investment off the back of snooker. It makes sense.

“It is not in today’s world a huge amount of money. So we shall see.”

You can take history with you. Iit would have the original design, just a bit bigger. It’s a wonderful marriage. There is no need to divorce.

Hearn stressed that if the funds or support are not found in the coming years then, against his best judgement and long-term view, he would take the worlds elsewhere.

The legendary sports promoter added: “The Crucible name is synonymous with snooker globally, 500 million people will watch this event around the world, so the name has to remain.

“You can take history with you. It would be the original name, it would have the original design of the building, just a bit bigger.

“It’s a wonderful marriage. There is no need to divorce. It just needs a little bit of understanding and a little bit of investment – people’s times, people’s hearts and maybe a few quid from central government.”

Four-time world champion JOHN HIGGINS moved into the second round as he hit three centuries in a 10-7 win over Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

However the Wizard of Wishaw’s smile and joy was ruined by being told post-match that the BBC Sport TV credit put an ENGLISH flag against his name before the first session on Tuesday.

The proud Scotsman said: “Am I allowed to swear? God they better get that changed pronto. That is poor from the BBC. That is poor.”

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