Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Mancunian misses and miscues

I watched the World Snooker Final from Sheffield yesterday, the forty-third played at the city's Crucible Theatre since it moved there in 1977.

For the first fifty years of the World Snooker Championship, the final was played across the country, often in less than salubrious venues, such as the British Legion club in Birmingham where the 1972 final was contested in front of spectators sitting on beer crates around the table, reflecting the slightly disreputable, bar room image the sport had before the era of television contracts and tournaments around the world, especially the Far East where the game has grown massively since China first hosted a professional championship in 1997.

I knew that the 1976 final, the last before Sheffield became the permanent home of snooker's most prestigious event, was held at Wythenshawe Forum, the leisure centre where I now go swimming, with Ray Reardon beating Alex Higgins 27-16 in a best of 53 frames match, but there were another four finals in Manchester before that, two, in 1952 and 1954, at Houldsworth Hall on Deansgate, one just down the road at the City Exhibition Hall on Liverpool Road in 1973, and one the following year at Belle Vue.

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