WORLD SNOOKER chairman Barry Hearn confirmed on Thursday that after a rethink and tackling logistical issues experienced this season that the williamhill.com UK Championship is to remain in York.
Taking 128 players to the Barbican Centre for the first time for the second-biggest ranking event on the calendar was not without problems six weeks ago.
But York has always been one of the most popular destinations on the circuit for players, officials and fans alike and the decision will be warmly welcomed in many quarters.
Hearn had strongly hinted, possibly for negotiating reasons, that other venues including Coventry’s Ricoh Arena were in the running to stage the tournament this year.
And the first week of the fortnight-long 2013 event saw a procession of player complaints about cramped conditions, practice facilities matches featuring top players being held back.
The latter looks certain to be scrapped, and Hearn has been given assurances that some of the other issues can be corrected leading to something of a U-turn.
That has led the sport’s leader to change his view that the Barbican Centre cannot cope with 128 players, something he claimed in December.
There will again be an eight-table set-up, with four in the practice room and four in the main arena.
And there is little doubt that the reaction of the city of York, the hospitality extended to snooker over the years and the perennially strong ticket sales in the city have played a big part.
It was not made clear on Thursday, however, whether the deal was for one year only or longer.
Hearn said: “We love going to York, and said that at the time and all along.
“Logistically the shapes, sizes and designs didn’t work and we have reshuffled it. It will be an eight-table set-up, with four in the practice room and four in the main arena.
“But we will have four tables in the main arena right the way up to the quarter-finals this year, whereas it was last 16 last year.
“And no player will be seeded through to the main arena, everyone will play one pre-TV round. Last time for the BBC we held some back, we are not doing that any more.
“We may have two tables for the semi-finals or not, that is being discussed, and format and match length all stays the same. There will be 128 players at the venue, that is not negotiable.
“I am now confident we can make it better than it was in December with more space round the table and lighting issues, and we have got round the issue of where the BBC production units are. It will be smoother.
“If it was like it was last year we wouldn’t have gone back, but I have been convinced by the logistics.
“Coventry hopefully will stay as the venue for the Champions of Champions but York is a better venue for the UK in terms of attendances, and it has been a great host city.
“It is all about money, and of course the ticket sales in York have played a part in this and the way we all view York.”
Hearn also revealed that this year will be the last Newport hosts the Welsh Open, with the Newport Centre set to give way to somewhere bigger in Cardiff or Swansea.
A full roster of 128 players is expected at the Newport Centre in February, where only four tables will be in use to get through the matches in under two weeks.
Hearn added: “We are in the process of upgrading venues across the board on a wider issue. Everything has got to be a massive event like the worlds and the Masters.
“This year will be the last time the Welsh Open is held in Newport, it might be Cardiff. Some venues we have used in the past we won’t be using any more.
“The way it is going in sport the big events are getting bigger, small events tick over, but the medium sized events are getting killed. We don’t want to be in the middle.”