Snooker's Championship League to offer 10 days of live televised sport
Live televised snooker is to return to the sport's calendar next month, with the Championship League in Milton Keynes, England.
The non-ranking tournament will run from 1 to 11 June and be televised in the UK extensively by commercial broadcaster ITV from 3pm to 10pm (BST) each day.
That is the earliest possible date that the UK government has permitted sports events to take place behind closed doors in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Championship League will comprise 64 players in round-robin groups, with all matches played as best-of-four frames.
There will be strict rules on social distancing, Covid-19 testing and hygiene in place, in line with government guidelines. The World Snooker Tour said it selected Marshall Arena as the venue because it has an on-site accommodation meaning no players, officials or staff will need to leave the venue once they have entered.
The total prize fund will exceed £200,000 ($243,450). Participating players will earn a guaranteed £1,000 with the winner taking home £30,000 and earning a place in November’s Champion of Champions.
The Championship League will be promoted by Matchroom Multi Sport, a division of the promoter headed up by Barry Hearn, chairman of the WST.
Hearn said: “During the challenging times of the past few weeks we have examined the opportunities which still exist and worked relentlessly towards the goal of getting our tour going again. While most other sports remain sidelined, we are ready to return from June 1st. This sends out a message to the sporting world that snooker is at the forefront of innovation.
“Our first priority has to be safety and we have had detailed discussions with government in creating a set of approved guidelines for the event which will be rigorously followed. We are making this very clear to the players and everyone working on the event.
“We will be the first major sport to get back to live televised action. That’s not by chance, it’s because of the hard work and preparation we have done during the lockdown to make sure we are ready to get going again as soon as it is legal.
“Liaising with government advisers, we have prepared highly detailed health and safety documents which will be followed to the letter during the tournament. These measures surpass any others made in any other professional sport right now.”
Mark Demuth, controller of ITV Sport Production, added: “We know fans have been missing live action since the lockdown has been in place, so we’re delighted to bring snooker back, marking the return of live sport to free-to-air TV. Behind the scenes, our team has been working with the event organisers to ensure strict adherence to guidelines to safeguard the well-being of all involved, which is our priority.”
In an interview with Sportcal earlier this month, Hearn outlined his desire to get live sport, specifically snooker and darts, back up and running as soon as possible.