Could Cheltenham Racecourse be set to host top-class snooker on a more regular basis?
The players certainly hope so. They were unanimous in their assertions that they wanted Gloucestershire added to the list of regular venues on the circuit with three-time World Champion Mark Selby giving his backing to Prestbury Park’s 1,500 capacity arena, The Centaur.
“The facilities are great. It’s about time World Snooker looked after us and put us in a decent venue and it’s good. Hopefully it’s here to stay,” Selby exclusively told ParkLifeSport.
That speaks volumes in itself, so don’t be surprised if the world’s best descend on Gloucestershire again in 12 months’ time.
Selby led the list of names among snooker’s top-32 ranked players for the calendar year who headed to Gloucestershire for the 2019 World Grand Prix on February 4 – 10 and he wasn’t the only one to praise the venue.
Most of the players had sampled the delights of Gloucestershire for the Cheltenham Festival before but this was their first chance to earn a bit of money without the danger of fluttering it all away at the various betting stations dotted along the racecourse.
It’s testament to the tour officials that The Centaur received rave reviews from all the players – they can be tricky customers to please at times – and it was a well-structured event throughout.
Those sentiments were also highlighted by the staff that brought it all together in-front of the ITV4 cameras.
For a ‘Master of Ceremonies,’ getting the audience engaged and interacting is your main job and Phil Seymour says The Centaur’s layout allows him to get the crowd involved.
He explained: “As an MC, it’s all about audience reaction and participation in the sport. Some venues can leave you cold, some are a bit sports-hally and we can work with those and generate an atmosphere.
“But here in Cheltenham, it’s quite steep tiered and that has helped create a fantastic atmosphere.”
World snooker press officer Roddy Bissett added: “It was a fantastic venue. I think Cheltenham Racecourse is used to seeing world class sport and this was really well received by the fans.”
Social media reaction
As has become normal at modern day snooker tournaments, the crowds peaked towards the end of the week when the action intensified, and the stakes became a lot higher.
If ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan had survived longer than his first-round defeat to Marco Fu then more people may have been enticed to The Centaur – there was a discernible difference on Monday after his exit, as much of the audience around table one had left by the time Stuart Bingham and Zhao Xintong came out to play the next match.
It should also be factored in that this tournament didn’t fall on half-term week – that luxury is usually afforded to the Welsh Open in Cardiff – so that affected the percentages certainly in the afternoon sessions, and proceedings didn’t finish on Thursday night until 11:22pm so that may have surpassed some bedtimes.
Overall, the crowds went from sparse to packed – avoiding the lull that sometimes occurs in televised tournaments – and created a noisy but friendly atmosphere.
It’s clear everyone wants The Centaur on the circuit as a regular venue so don’t be surprised if the world’s top-32 descend on Cheltenham Racecourse again in the near future.
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