UK Snooker Championship 2020: Ding Junhui concerned about crowds return

Ding Junhui
Dates: 23 November to 6 December Venue: Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app from Saturday, 28 November.

China’s Ding Junhui says it is “not safe yet” for the return of crowds to snooker events being played in a bio-secure bubble in Milton Keynes.

The Buckinghamshire town is in tier two of regions in England meaning fans would be allowed to attend the ongoing UK Championship from 2 December.

So far this season, all snooker tournaments have taken place behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena.

However, world number one Judd Trump would “welcome” fans back into events.

He said: “If you get a couple of hundred back then see what happens and keep improving from there. You don’t want a situation where you bring crowds back then take them away again.”

In June, Ding, 33, pulled out of the Tour Championship as a “safety precaution” and to “avoid extensive travel” from China.

When restrictions are lifted, spectators will be allowed to return to football matches depending on which tier teams fall into.

It also means fans may be in attendance from the quarter-finals onwards for the UK Championship, but players are still waiting to see if organisers are in a position to allow this.

BBC Sport understands government guidance will say masks are mandatory in all areas for indoor sports venues.

Speaking after his 6-1 first round win over Jamie Barrett-Curtis, defending UK champion Ding said: “Everybody is looking forward to having the crowds back but the first thing is to keep players safe.

“If the players do not feel safe then you cannot put them in danger, you cannot take a risk. No players mean no tournament.”

Asked if he would feel safe, Ding replied: “Not at the minute, it is not safe yet. We are in a room, not like a football stadium. There is much more chance to catch the virus. It is too risky.

“If they put a crowd in, I will have to think about other options but if I am in the quarters or semi-finals I have no chance to pull out, you have to go for it.

“I will not be fully concentrated on the table, someone might be coughing behind me. I will be thinking about that and not my snooker.

“I don’t know about other players but at the moment I don’t feel nice. It is only my personal feeling.”

But Trump pointed to the World Championship in August where around 300 fans were allowed in for the final at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

Spectators had attended the first day of the tournament on 31 July but were barred thereafter because of changes in government guidelines, though this changed again in time for the final.

“You have to keep the crowds as far away as possible and they did a brilliant job at the Crucible,” Trump said after his 6-1 victory over Paul Davison.

“We are in safe hands, you don’t want to be worrying about that when you are playing. At some point there has to be a return for crowds and why not now? I would welcome them back”

Meanwhile, world number 27 Matthew Selt was in sensational form, making five centuries to whitewash Morocco’s Amine Amiri 6-0.

Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen and Englishman Jack Lisowski also progressed.

Key matches in the second round

Friday sees a rest day and the second-round matches take place throughout the weekend, live across the BBC.

Here are some key matches to look out for:


Australia’s Neil Robertson, a two-time winner of the event, plays Chris Wakelin (13:00 GMT) and Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen is up against China’s Chang Bingyu (19:00).


World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan faces Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher (13:00) and two-time champion Mark Selby takes on Liam Highfield.

World number four Kyren Wilson, who made a maximum 147 break in the first round, faces Mark Joyce, while Masters champion Stuart Bingham, who also made a 147, plays Andrew Higginson.

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