UK snooker championship moved amid virus lockdown

London (AFP) –


This month's UK Snooker Championship has been moved from the northern English city of York to Milton Keynes ahead of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the sport's governing body announced on Wednesday.

The tournament, which starts on November 23, was scheduled to be staged at the York Barbican, its home since 2011, from the second round onwards.

But ahead of an England-wide lockdown starting Thursday and ending on December 2, snooker chiefs have moved the event to the Marshall Arena to northwest of London.

The venue has staged several events this year in an established Covid-secure bubble, with players either staying in an on-site hotel, or travelling directly from home.

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn said: "Following extensive consultation with the UK Government and the relevant public health bodies, the decision has been made to stage all matches in Milton Keynes this time.

"It is an ideal venue, we are working with an exceptional team there and we have proved over the past few months that we can stage major tournaments there, involving 128 players, safely and successfully."

The tournament is the sport's second-most important tournament behind the World Championship.

Hearn added: "In the circumstances we face today, our crucial objective is to keep our events going, provide competitive action and prize money for our players, and top-class sport for the many millions of television viewers around the world who are in need of inspiration."

China's Ding Junhui is the reigning champion, while five-time winner Stephen Hendry is set to make his comeback in the behind-closed-doors event after the seven-time world champion accepted a two-year invitational tour card.