Last year, the UK Snooker Championship decamped to Milton Keynes due to the pandemic.
But this year it’s back at the York Barbican – and everyone is delighted.
“To come back to these great cities like York in these brilliant venues like the Barbican is just tremendous,” said head of media of World Snooker, Ivan Hirschowitz.
The championship began again yesterday (Tuesday) offering a first prize of £200,000. Shortly before it all started, YorkMix got a sneak peek behind the scenes.
Ivan said it takes about five days to turn the Barbican into the home of the world’s best snooker players.
“The people who fit the tables and set up the arenas and the TV broadcasts – they know what they’re doing. They’ve done it many times before.
“The hardest job is getting the tables absolutely perfect. Obviously we’re talking about the very best players in the world, and they expect the conditions to be perfect or as perfect as they can be.”
Too small? Never!
There are four tables set up in the main arena, and another four in a smaller area near the rear of the Barbican.
“There’s been a debate over the years about whether this venue is too small to host an event of this magnitude with 128 plays in it,” Ivan told YorkMix.
“There was some talk of it moving away a few years ago,” he said – but fans and players reacted strongly against the idea.
“And because of the strength of that reaction, we thought, wow, this is actually the home of the UK championship. We’ve been coming since 2001.
“You know, it’s a long time. This venue really feels like home, it’s got that magic, it’s got that warmth about it.”
‘Amazing to be home’
York snooker star Ashley Hugill got off to a great start in his tilt for the trophy.
Ranked 81 in the world, he won his first round match against Mark Davis 6 frames to 4 – and hit a break of 120 along the way.
“It’s amazing to be back playing in my home town,” he told YorkMix.
“It’s just extra inspiration. I know my family and my friends are going to be here – they don’t often get the opportunity to come and watch me play with me being all over the country and the world.
“That extra motivation of having my family here is great.”
Ashley started playing pool when he was about eight years old. “My dad took me to my first snooker club when I was about 12 – and that was where it started.”
The snooker club? The Cueball, off James Street, which closed in 2013.
Ashley said he’s feeling very confident. So could he lift the trophy? “That’d be incredible. That’d be absolutely insane. Well, yeah, it’s not it’s not impossible. I’m in the tournament – so I could win the tournament!”
Good luck Ashley – York is behind you!