Snooker: Hendry's 'delight' as showcase event stays in Sheffield for five years

As it was confirmed yesterday that the World Championship will remain in Sheffield until at least 2010 - and specifically at the Crucible Theatre for at least another year - the venue's most prolific champion, Stephen Hendry, breezed into this year's quarter-finals with a session of his second-round match to spare.

As it was confirmed yesterday that the World Championship will remain in Sheffield until at least 2010 - and specifically at the Crucible Theatre for at least another year - the venue's most prolific champion, Stephen Hendry, breezed into this year's quarter-finals with a session of his second-round match to spare.

"In patches I felt good, but when the score goes to 9-2 and 10-2 it's very difficult to stay focused," said Hendry after thrashing Anthony Hamilton 13-3.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the defending champion, starts today's deciding second-round deciding session with a 9-7 lead over fellow Essex boy Ali Carter.

Though Hendry had been one of several prominent players to offer provisional support for a World Championship rotated around several venues, he said he was "delighted" it would be staying in Sheffield. "I don't think any player wanted to see it leave."

Rodney Walker, the chairman of World Snooker, said that Sheffield had beaten bids from two other cities, thought to be Liverpool and Birmingham, to stage the game's showcase event for the next five years.

Walker said that the World Championship will remain "at least initially" at the 970-seat Crucible - home to the event since 1977 - while the feasibility of building a new venue in the city is explored. The Crucible will undergo a £10m refurbishment by 2007, which will help its chances of keeping the competition beyond next year.

Walker also announced yesterday that a snooker academy is to be opened in Sheffield. It will initially be based at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield's Lower Don Valley.

"This is a very exciting time for snooker," said Walker, who hopes to agree a new five-year broadcasting deal with the BBC "within weeks rather than months." The BBC's current deal expires next year.

Once a new television deal is in place, Walker will be better placed to seek a new sponsor for the tournament to replace Embassy, whose 30-year association will end after this year's final because of the Government ban of tobacco advertising.

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