World champion Mark Selby is fired up about his home city of Leicester staging a first ever ranking tournament this season.
The 37-year-old, who claimed a fourth Betfred World Championship crown in early May at the Crucible, is delighted Wednesday’s new calendar for 2021-22 brings the Shootout to the East Midlands.
After a campaign spent almost entirely in Milton Keynes, snooker is back on the road, with venues across the UK as well as Berlin, Gibraltar and quite possibly China and Malta too.
Selby, who must wait until January for his big day at the Morningside Arena, was the runner-up at last season’s quickfire event with frames lasting 10 minutes and a shot-clock dropping to just 10 seconds.
Selby, who watched Leicester City win the FA Cup at Wembley before seeing them miss out on a Champions League spot against Spurs at the King Power, was off to play golf with two of Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker’s sons at top course Sunningdale on Wednesday.
He said, “I am delighted Leicester has finally got a ranking tournament with the Shootout.
“It is a hotbed of snooker and has produced a lot of players, and there is huge interest in the game in the city. I expect the crowds to be really good for that one.
“Leicester has been very high-profile as a sporting city over recent years with obviously the football, and rugby’s Leicester Tigers, and the Riders basketball who play at the Arena.
“But apart from the odd invitation event or the Championship League, Leicester hasn’t had a big tournament like that.
“I didn’t play the Shootout a few times, but I’ll definitely be there this season.
“The atmosphere will be excellent, Vikki and Sofia can come and there will be a lot of friends there to cheer the Leicester players.
“For me personally, there are a few events on the new calendar in the Midlands which is going to make travelling there from home much easier.
“Of course it is brilliant to be going back to all our usual venues and some new and exciting ones. And it shows that things are gradually getting back to normality.
“But Milton Keynes and the MK Stadium served a valuable purpose for us all last season, if they hadn’t have staged all those tournaments we probably wouldn’t have played at all.
“We could easily have been sitting at home and not earning like many other sports.
“And so I am glad that has been recognised with them keeping the English Open this season, to show some gratitude from the sport. It’s the least we could do.”
The UK Championship will be back in York, and the Masters at Alexandra Palace – with the Champion of Champions in Bolton and the revived British Open still awaiting a venue.
The English Open is the event remaining in Milton Keynes but the other Home Series tournaments will be in Glasgow, Belfast and Celtic Manor.
In the Cazoo Series the venues will be the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, the Aldersley Arena in Wolverhampton and the Venue Cymru in Llandudno. The German Masters will return to Berlin, the new Turkish Masters is in Antalya, and the Gibraltar Open is back on ‘the Rock’ with further events possible in China and Malta.
Governing body World Snooker Tour, mindful of recent developments in certain areas of the UK related to the Covid Indian variant, issued their own statement on Wednesday.
It read: “We will continue to work closely with the government and all of our venues and partners on Covid-19 regulation. Fans can be assured that all necessary precautions will be taken at events to minimise the risk of virus transmission, keeping safety as our highest priority.
“If at the time of the event the Government restrictions force this event to change its terms of attendance, customers will be offered a variety of options and where necessary refunds will be made available. As an additional measure and where possible, e-tickets will be issued in place of more traditional ticketing methods.”
WST chairman Steve Dawson said, “We are thrilled to offer this chance to snooker fans across the UK to come to our events next season and enjoy the incredible experience of watching snooker live.
“The World Championship at the Crucible was a landmark for British sport in welcoming back a live audience and the atmosphere was extraordinary. We want to see that repeated across our tour next season.
“It’s fantastic to add new host cities to our roster, such as Leicester, Coventry and Wolverhampton, where we know there is deep-rooted support for snooker, while keeping many of the superb venues we have grown to love over the years.
“The players are excited by the chance to get back out on the road around the UK, visit these great cities and enjoy the buzz of competing in front of fans.
“There has never been a better time to watch snooker live and to witness the remarkable talent of the leading stars.”