The Masters has been moved from Alexandra Palace to Milton Keynes

World Snooker Tour

Defending champion Stuart Bingham - Credit: World Snooker Tour

Snooker's prestigious invitation event The Masters has been moved from Alexandra Palace to Milton Keynes's Arena MK so that strict Covid-19 regulations can be followed, writes Ziad Chaudry.

Organisers World Snooker Tour (WST) planned to stage the event which begins this Sunday (January 10) behind closed doors at the iconic Wood Green venue, however it will leave its regular home for only this year and move to a much safer secure 'bubble' environment at Arena MK complex.

The Buckingham venue has so far hosted every WST event this season. 

Sadly for the die-hard local snooker fans, they will miss out seeing the likes of defending champion Stuart Bingham - coached by Hornchurch-based seniors tour pro Gary Filtness - Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, John Higgins and Mark Selby at Ally Pally for the first time since 2011. 

WST chairman and Matchroom Sport supremo Barry Hearn OBE said: “It’s disappointing for everyone connected with the event not to be heading to its spiritual home at Alexandra Palace. However our highest priority is always health and safety, and that is the basis of this decision.

Matchroom Sport

WST Chairman and Matchroom Sport supremo Barry Hearn OBE - Credit: Matchroom Sport

“We must take all necessary steps to ensure that the event will go ahead and provide fantastic entertainment for many millions of fans throughout the world.

“Throughout this pandemic we have done all we can to keep our tour going. There have been setbacks along the way, including the decision to stage the Masters without the live fans we have missed so much.

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"All assessments are based on data and our regular discussions with the UK Government and public health bodies.

“We staged several events in a strict bubble environment in Milton Keynes last summer and we were delighted that these were run successfully. I trust the 16 players to accept this decision, follow the rules carefully and enjoy one of our greatest tournaments. The standard of play and entertainment they have provided so far this season has been astonishing.”