Ken Doherty impressed with snooker's attempt to break virus impasse

Ken Doherty believes the Championship League event being played in Milton Keynes will provide a mine of information for future sporting events in the Covid-19 era, not least the World Snooker Championships which are to go ahead in July.
Ken Doherty impressed with snooker's attempt to break virus impasse

Ken Doherty believes the Championship League event being played in Milton Keynes will provide a mine of information for future sporting events in the Covid-19 era, not least the World Snooker Championships which are to go ahead in July.

The Irishman flew from Dublin to England last weekend for the eleven-day event where he has so far been commentating for ITV4. The 1997 world champion will take to the baize himself this Sunday when competing in a group alongside Neil Robertson, Kurt Maflin and Ashley Carty.

The tournament has been put together with minimal notice by Barry Hearn's Matchroom Sport. The Marshall Arena venue is adjacent to the MK Dons stadiums and has a hotel onsite which has allowed players, officials and broadcasters live and work in an isolated environment.

Food is delivered in paper bags to bedrooms and 'residents' are not permitted to stray outside after passing an initial Covid-19 test.

“We have the whole hotel to ourselves, apart from four or five staff and the Matchroom staff, but what they have done in such a small space of time has been amazing,” Doherty told the Irish Examiner. “The setup is amazing, the facilities are fantastic.

“They are very stringent with their rules. Everything is sanitized after being used.

It's a good tournament and a good learning experience for the World Championships which are coming up in July in Sheffield. They'll learn a lot of lessons from here.

Sheffield's Crucible Theatre does not boast a hotel on its doorstep. The nearest is a Mercure found 250m down the Norfolk Road so it remains to be seen how the snooker authorities adapt then but the Championship League setup is one that will be followed keenly by others in the sports sector.

The Irish cricket team may find itself playing and living in similar conditions if their three one-day international series against England gets the go ahead this summer at a venue with on-site hotels while other sporting 'bubbles' have been mooted around the world.

The Milton Keynes event has brought together 64 of the world's top players, among them current world champion and world No.1 Judd Trump and Mark Selby. It is the first snooker tournament to be held since the Gibraltar Open was concluded in mid-March.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, who has previously railed against what he believes to be inadequate prize funds, is due to play this afternoon in a competition offering a £20,000 purse for the winner, although he had threatened to pull out if he could not bring his own food to the venue.

Three-time world champion Mark Williams is one conspicuous absentee from an event which comprises 16 groups of four players after which the winners of each progress through to the knockout stages. The final will be played next Thursday.

“Too soon for me,” said Williams in a tweet last month.

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