Are you going to the snooker?

It was a Friday morning 31st July 2020. I awoke in my Airbnb ELATED to be in Sheffield for the snooker world championships. I’ve been attending this event for twelve years since I was a student here in Sheffield. I was concerned with the global pandemic still not under control & some of the surrounding local areas like Bradford & Leicester having further restrictions imposed that this event might not be able to go ahead. But I was wrong. Barry Hearn was adamant that it must, & after postponing the event from April earlier in the year, the WST team, the table fitters, Crucible staff, players & everyone else behind the scenes worked tirelessly to develop a new way of going ahead with snookers flagship event in its spiritual home. I read the detailed emails sent to all spectators beforehand detailing the code of conduct we were expected to uphold. A ten point plan that was excellent in my opinion:

As I’d travelled on the train to Sheffield the previous afternoon I got texts through from friends telling me the match I had tickets to (Wilson/Hamilton) was in disarray after Hamilton pulled out last minute. I was deeply disappointed this hadn’t been announced before fans like me had made the journey, but I respected the decision nonetheless. Having been a veteran spectator at this venue I knew they would pull the large blue screen that splits the venue in two, up into the glittery ceiling so I could watch the other match: Ding/King. I made myself a cup of tea and settled down in front of the telly to watch the morning session as I brushed on a little mascara & grazed on biscuits. I excitedly watched the match, scanning the crowd for my friend Kellie who I knew was already inside. As the match wore on my phone started buzzing like crazy, friends sending links of the government announcing sporting events piloting crowds were to be stopped immediately. I knew the Tories had just pulled the rug out from under WST. Barry Hearn had just been on screen beaming at the work everyone had done to get this event on, & safely. The team behind him, masked up, crowds delighted, players buoyed. I was horrified. I realised one of those inside knew what was happening. I messaged Kellie: ‘They’re pulling crowds.’ I was meant to be sitting down to the afternoon session in around an hour. Friends were messaging me ‘Whats happening? Can you still get in??’ I had no idea but I hadn’t come all this way not to try. So I grabbed my bag and headed off to try & get in. And here’s what happened next…

First I approached a little black gazebo approx 50 metres from the entrance of the Crucible in the square out front. Here, they have tall blue toblerones with instructions on what to do, symptoms that prevent you from entering, etc. Your ticket gets checked, they ensure you’ve got your mask on & someone squirts you with sanitiser. Tip: Find the email BEFORE you try to enter this bit. It is NOT under the name Sheffield Theatres like all other correspondence I received it under the name Ticket Office which took me FOREVER to find whilst panicking in the blazing sunshine holding up the queue behind me. Don’t be me.

Once past that point, you can purchase an ear piece if you wish to (cash only) & you’re directed you join one of the queues and stand on the circles:

Whilst you’re stood on your circle, you’ll be approached by someone with a clipboard who will write down your details for their test and trace system. As you can see, we are all very well spaced out, masked up and sanitised. Snooker crowds are the best crowds. FACT. (Note the unisex portaloos available in the background).

They chose five from each queue at a time to move to the front desk. This was quite fast but felt longer cause the sun was INTENSE that day. But open air is safer so I get why it was done like this. Mayyyybe bring a brolly to use as a parasol if it’s this hot again would be my advice if, like me, you’re utterly PATHETIC in the heat.

So you’re at the front! At the desk they scan your ticket. Then once inside the doors someone sanitises your hands again and checks your bag.

Now you’re in! There’s no cloakroom so just go straight up the stairs where you’ll be directed to the correct doorway to your seat.

Sat in my seat. You’re meant to turn your back if you have to pass anyone but I was the only one in my row so that wasn’t an issue for me personally. Despite appearances, it did not *feel* empty in there once the match started. Everyone who made it in person this year is a DIE HARD FAN & stayed utterly mute apart from sharp, RAPTUROUS applause for century breaks and the like, which I felt was doubly loud as we were trying to make up for the fact the other spectators weren’t there. Every single one of the 140 of us in that audience have a great understanding of the game and that was apparent from everyone’s impeccable behaviour throughout. I think this was the first time I never heard a phone go off during play!!

All the seats left empty for bubbling purposes have this nice sticker on them to indicate as such. Don’t sit in these:

Don’t be fooled by the temperatures outside by the way. The Crucible is gloriously cool inside and I always bring an extra scarf or something to drape over my shoulders as the longer you sit there, the colder you’ll feel. There was obviously a lot of care that went into planning such a thoughtfully bubbled event as you can see here:

Popped out to the loo in the MSI. Toilets were unisex to reduce queues and remember those portaloos outside? Well they are available to reduce queues further. People were encouraged not to loiter in the foyer. Most people stayed in their seats for the MSI tbh. No food or drink available so be smart like me and pack a plastic bottle of water in your bag before you arrive.

Once the match has finished, the security ask that everyone remains seated and invite each row one by one out of the arena. This was far speedier than I thought it would be. (Also, check out the two sets of rests under the table for each player)

Anyway, I was REALLY impressed. There’s nowhere near this many safety measures at some of the pubs I went to (except the Brown Bear round the corner, check it out) and it all just ran so smoothly and carefully. A lot of effort had obviously gone into putting this on safely and I felt extremely comfortable in this environment. It’s was so disappointing for the fans and players sure but all the people behind the scenes I imagine felt quite deflated after their hard work was undercut and I’d like them to know their work was appreciated. Thanks WST & everyone else involved, I am SO GLAD there gets to be a crowd at the final, however small, it’s going to be magnificent. If you’re unsure of whether you should go or not, I have some advice for you: GO!

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