York is set to take centre-stage in the world of snooker over the next fortnight, with the UK Championship returning to the city after a five year absence.
Having taken place in Telford every year since 2007, the second most prestigious tournament on the sport’s calendar is once again to be held at the York Barbican, a major coup for the city.
Gillian Cruddas, Chief Executive of Visit York, could not hide her delight when the city was awarded the event earlier in the year, saying, “We are absolutely thrilled the tournament will be returning to the fabulous new Barbican Centre. Sports tourism is an area we are keen to develop in York and this now gives us the opportunity to do just that”.
Cruddas’ initial excitement at the news is sure to be realised this month, with media attention and an influx of fans certain to provide a boost to the city’s hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions.
World champion John Higgins will be hoping to retain the title he won in a dramatic battle with veteran Mark Williams last year, and this week held a special event at York’s ‘Cueball Club’, in support of the Paul Hunter Snooker Foundation.
The Scot, 36, summed up the positive mood amongst the players on returning to York, praising the city’s atmosphere: “The Barbican has always been one of my favourite venues, and I’m sure many of the other players would agree.
“There’s a great general feel about the city and the fans are fantastic here. I’m just really looking forward to getting started and hopefully putting in some good performances”.
Three-time UK Champion, Higgins will surely go into the tournament as one of the favourites to add to his trophy collection.
Snooker’s younger stars are at the top of their game however, and will be seen as a threat by the likes of Higgins, Williams, and four-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Just as he did so superbly on route to the World Championship final in April, Judd Trump is set to bewilder fans at the Barbican with his trademark attacking style of play and bold long-pot attempts.
The 22-year-old will enter the tournament as one of the favourites for victory, as will fellow youngsters Ding Junhui and Mark Selby, currently ranked as world number one.
Whoever claims the trophy and £100,000 prize money that comes with it, the event is sure to provide a treat for local fans in the run up to Christmas, and put York firmly back on the map of UK sport.