BOOKMAKERS Coral have stepped in to sponsor this year’s UK Championship at the Barbican Centre in York.

The 128-man tournament gets under way on Tuesday 25th November with the final on Sunday 7th December, with a first prize of £150,000. Australian Neil Robertson is the defending champion.

The firm have a strong past association with snooker’s second-biggest event, having backed it from 1978 to 1985.

Then staged at the Preston Guildhall, the UK produced some memorable finals in a golden era for the sport.

And none sticks in the mind more than the 1983 showpiece, when the late Alex Higgins produced a sensational fightback against a then dominant Steve Davis to win 16-15 after trailing 7-0.

Coral, who are replacing high street and online rivals, last sponsored the tournament in 1985, when Steve Davis claimed his fourth UK title with a 16-14 win over Willie Thorne.

It is a match snooker’s ‘Mr Maximum’ has never been allowed to forget, after missing a straight blue off the spot that would have seen him move 14-8 in front in the final session.

In a press release this morning World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “It's fantastic to have Coral on board for one of our Triple Crown events. The UK Championship is a true highlight of the sporting calendar.

“It's going to be a spectacular fortnight of drama and excitement as the best players in the world contest the title.”

Simon Clare of Coral said: “Snooker has evolved and modernised over the last few years whilst retaining all of its fine tradition and history. In the same way Coral has also modernised and innovated to offer the very best betting service, whilst staying true to its proud heritage as one of Britain's biggest and best known betting brands. Together, the UK Snooker Championship and Coral make a very good fit indeed.

"It says everything about the longevity of both the UK Championship and Coral that this sponsorship is actually a reunion after an absence spanning three decades. A lot has changed in the world of snooker and the betting industry over the last thirty years, but the UK Championship and Coral are still as pre-eminent as they were in 1978.”

The sponsors rate Ronnie O’Sullivan as the 5-2 favourite to win the title for a fifth time, a tournament he won as a 17-year-old to put him on the road to glory.

Other prices: 7 Judd Trump, 15-2 Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, 8 Ding Junhui, 16 Mark Allen, 20 Shaun Murphy, 22 Barry Hawkins, 33 Stephen Maguire, Ricky Walden, 40 Stuart Bingham, 50 John Higgins, Marco Fu, Allister Carter.