The World Snooker Academy in Sheffield will no longer be used for qualifying matches and PTCs next season.
The space upstairs at the English Institute of Sport was originally used for practice and coaching by the WPBSA led by Sir Rodney Walker but this did not make the association money.
Barry Hearn was lumbered with the facility and has used it for qualifying but it isn’t particularly popular with players, not least because there is hardly any room for spectators and there is thus a sterile atmosphere.
There is also only room for eight tables, so the PTCs saw many late nights as matches overran.
A new venue is being scouted for next season large enough to accommodate more tables and space for an audience.
With the new system of everyone coming in at the last 128 stage, it is assumed that some tournaments will have a round or two played at such a venue.
The qualifiers have pitched up in various unglamorous locales down the years. The most famous was the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool, whose large ballroom saw a bewildering array of names and matches.
In the open era is was graced by the teenage Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, as well as many players who were never quite good enough, some who were but who preferred the Marriner’s pub over the road and fading greats such as Alex Higgins.
Hereford, Burton-on-Trent, Newport...their leisure centres got good use out of the WPBSA, as did the two rooms at Pontin’s in Prestatyn used for qualifying.
So where next? Of course, there is already a first class facility, the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, but it has already been announced that the staging of PTCs here will not continue.
I’ve heard various towns mentioned and some have pressed the case of Preston Guild Hall, former home of the UK Championship, which has a first class arena in which spectators on the upper tier can walk round and watch whichever match they choose.
Wherever it is it’ll have to be spacious. First rounds next season will comprise 64 matches. I understand the first qualifier, for the Wuxi Classic, will be from May 28-30 (dates provisional, don’t book holidays without checking with World Snooker).
To most players, the specific location is less important than the quality of the facilities and the playing conditions.
But wherever the qualifiers end up, room for spectators is a must. Qualifying matches by and large don’t draw big crowds but any atmosphere is better than none at all.