The 2020 World Snooker Championship is going to be a unique event and one that some players are opting out of competing in, but that is not through a lack of effort from tournament organisers.
The rescheduled main event of the snooker season will run from 31 July – 16 August at the Crucible in Sheffield, with the qualifiers taking place from 21-28 July at the English Institute of Sport in the same city.
While there are a plethora of concerns about a World Championship with no fans in attendance and keeping players, staff and officials safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a serious worry that international players will not be able to compete.
It appears that a number of Chinese players will not be playing, with the South China Morning Post reporting that Zhou Yuelong, Xiao Guodong, and Zhao Xintong are three of ‘at least 10’ players from China who will not be travelling to South Yorkshire.
World number 10 Ding Junhui is expected to return from China for the event, while the likes of Yan Bingtao and Liang Wenbo are already in the UK so will compete.
Safety concerns regarding COVID-19 have put off some players returning to the UK, while the 14-day travel quarantine for arrivals from abroad is also a problem. Flights are much less regular than in normal times, and more expensive, but they are running.
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson insists that no player is unable to play in the event, some are opting to out of their own personal choice, and every effort has been made to allow them to play in Sheffield.
‘We’ve been in contact with every single player,’ Ferguson told Metro.co.uk. ‘We’ve put in place travel and financial support for all players to help them get back to the UK, support for visas and everything.
‘Some of them are thinking, “shall we or shan’t we” but our job is to present the opportunity for every single player to get here. On that we’ve not failed.
‘We’re doing more than ever before on a very individual basis, chasing them to see if they’ve got paperwork sorted etc. We are on top of it.
‘It’s down to personal choice, and we respect that choice, if it’s down to family reasons or safety reasons, that’s down to the players.
‘We don’t want to lose any, we want a full contingent, but if we get a few gaps we will fill up through the normal channels.’
While it is more than understandable that some players do not want to risk travel to the UK at this time, the safest environment possible is being created for those that do.
Any players arriving in the country before 7 July can quarantine in a residential address, while those arriving after that will quarantine in a designated hotel. They will be tested for COVID-19 before entering and then stay there up to and including qualifying.
There will be practice tables available and secure transfers to and from the venue when they play.
Ferguson also made it clear that the entry deadline for the World Championship is not until 6 July, so any players that are considering not playing, or have already decided not to, can still change their minds and help would be in place to get them to the UK to play.
Little is ideal about this year’s World Championship, and undoubtedly playing in it is much trickier for international players than those based in the UK.
Everything possible is being done to accommodate the overseas players, though, with WST and the WPBSA attempting to make the very best of a bad situation.
Tournament organisers in China are confident that events will be back up and running there in the near future, with the possibility of a string of Chinese events being held early next season.
While little could make up for a player missing out on the World Championship, China and its players, along with players from Thailand, mainland Europe and elsewhere, are in no means being forgotten about by snooker’s decision-makers.
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