sport

Hearn to discuss format changes

Snooker's Dafabet World Championship is set for a facelift, in plans to be announced next week.

The tournament at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre has been played under a format that has been barely changed since 1982.

Although World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has repeatedly stressed he does not want to make any drastic changes, plans are afoot to introduce some alterations.

Hearn has shed no further light on the upcoming developments, which will be announced in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

There have been calls from players including reigning world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan to reduce the length of the 17-day tournament. Hearn could even act to introduce a flat 128-player draw, having until now protected 16 seeds by handing them automatic entry to the last-32 stage, with all other players entering through qualifying rounds.

"I'm going to discuss changing formats for next year's World Snooker Championship," Hearn said on Saturday as he explained his plans for the press conference.

He also confirmed a decision will also be announced on the possibility of tour wild cards being afforded to veteran players such as Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry - a suggestion he floated earlier in the week. Hendry has been linked with a playing return, two years after retiring.

Davis, due to drop off the professional tour after a slump in form, wrote on Twitter on Saturday: "I was approached by @BarryHearn (about) my intention if offered a 'wildcard' (and) I indicated that as long as it didn't mean another player dropping off I would say yes. I don't think my views are particularly relevant."

Hearn will not vote on the wild-card issue, he has said, due to his long-standing close friendship with Davis, but has asked World Snooker board members to determine the merit of his proposal.

"We're going to continue discussing it and considering whether the game first is a loser by not still having two legends like Davis and Hendry," Hearn said.

"The question I asked my directors is: do we owe these people? Does the game owe these people? And what's the downside?"

Hearn has again ruled out the prospect of the World Championship moving to China, providing the BBC and Sheffield City Council continue to back the event.

"There's no question the people of China would pay a king's ransom to get the World Championship in China," Hearn said on World Snooker's YouTube channel.

"But for once I'm not looking at the balance sheet - I'm looking at the history. So I'm staying, but it is down to those people's support and I'm quite sure over the next few months we will announce a new long-term deal with Sheffield to make sure this great tournament carries on here."