Fans will not be allowed at the World Snooker Championship from Saturday after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson backtracked on a pilot scheme trialling the return of spectators to sport.
The decision was made as a result of fears of a second wave of the coronavirus, after the UK Government announced on Thursday night that the Greater Manchester and surrounding areas would undergo stricter lockdown meaures.
Fans are already in attendance at the World Snooker Championship, which started on Friday. Spectators with tickets to Friday's afternoon and evening sessions will still be allowed entry, but no more fans can attend the Crucible event from Saturday for at least two weeks.
The venue was operating at one-third capacity to allow for social distancing, but mask wearing was not obligatory when seated.
“We realise this will be a huge disappointment for fans who were excited to witness the magic of the Crucible over the next fortnight, and we feel the same ourselves," said WST Chairman Barry Hearn.
“At every stage of this process we have been following Government guidelines and working with them on the correct procedures. We have had very positive feedback from the Government, they have been impressed by the measures we have implemented. Safety has always been our number one priority and we have met every aspect of the Government guidelines in this regard.
“Above all it’s a great shame for people who had those golden tickets, but in the circumstances we are now living in we have to accept the decision and move on.
“Snooker has led the way in terms of the return of live sport, in recent weeks we have been the first to stage live televised events and now live events with a small crowd. In the months to come we will continue to find innovative ways to bring sport back safely and entertain our many millions of fans around the globe.”
Fans return to Crucible as World Snooker Championship begins
The restrictions on attending sporting events are now scheduled to be lifted in part in two weeks, with WST still hopeful a small crowd can attend the final on August 15 and 16.
“We can’t just ignore this evidence,” Johnson announced on Friday afternoon.
“We have to act rapidly in order to protect those we love, and we know measures such as these work.
“We’re postponing those changes for at least a fortnight.