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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian sport and agencies

Former world champion Shaun Murphy passionately defends ‘smelly’ Crucible

Shaun Murphy celebrates victory in his first round at the World Snooker Championships.
Shaun Murphy celebrates victory in his first round at the World Snooker Championships. Photograph: George Wood/Getty Images

The former world snooker champion Shaun Murphy has made an emotional intervention in the row brewing about the historic Crucible Theatre which was described as “smelly” by Hossein Vafaei on Sunday, while the seeds continued to fall with Mark Selby and Gary Wilson crashing out.

Selby, a four-time world champion, said he will seriously consider whether to carry on playing after losing 10-6 to his fellow Leicester player Joe O’Connor on Monday.

Vafaei, the world No 19, said the venue for the championships since 1977 “smells really bad”, the practice room is like a “garage” and the tournament should move elsewhere. But Murphy described the Iranian’s outburst as “almost sacrilege”, and complained that he has “not helped the sport at all”.

He said: “It’s almost sacrilege for a professional snooker player to be so openly critical of our home. Hossein should educate himself on how our tour works in relationships with the World Snooker Tour (WST) and our broadcast partners, our venues and how special this place is.

“Does he think he is helping our sport grow by being so openly critical? He has not helped the sport at all. I was always taught by my mum if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”

Murphy made his remarks after his first Crucible success since 2021, a 10-5 victory over Lyu Haotian, when he told the BBC: “This is a working theatre, it’s not a purpose-built snooker venue. If the WST turned up tomorrow and did a site visit, they would probably not come here because it’s not big enough, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”

The Crucible – which, as Murphy pointed out, could “sell out 10 times over for the final” – holds only 980 people and its contract expires in 2027. Some people, including Vafaei and seven-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, say the championships should be held elsewhere, with China and Saudi Arabia among the options mooted.

But Murphy felt it would still be a mistake to move the event. “I don’t want the snooker to leave here,” he said. “We shouldn’t have any other event here, the world championship should stay in this building, but it’s economics, it’s our biggest event in our smallest building.

“I don’t think anyone wants to leave apart from Hossein and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Everyone else wants to stay but it can’t stay as it is and something has to give.”

Murphy – who became world champion at the age of 22 in 2005 – now faces Scotland’s Stephen Maguire in the last 16 later this week.

Meanwhile, O’Connor held his nerve to sink Selby and book his place in the second round, leaving the defeated player to ponder his future after a 10-6 defeat.

It marked the first time since 2018 that Selby has lost in the first round, and prompted “The Jester from Leicester” to admit that he will give some serious thought to his future in the summer.

Selby told the BBC: “I’ll sit down with [my wife] Vicky and see what the options are. Obviously, it will be a big decision but if I do carry on playing I need help, probably on the mental side of it a little bit more, just to go out there and enjoy the game.

“That’s all I want to do, go out there and enjoy it and for me, it’s always sort of life or death; I’ve always been that kind of character, putting too much pressure on myself and trying too hard.”

O’Connor, who is 28 and ranked 30th in the world, is also from Leicester – as is Tom Ford, the world No 14 – and it means there are two players from the East Midlands city through to the last 16, after Ford’s 10-6 win over Ricky Walden … though maybe not the two many would have predicted before the tournament.

Stuart Bingham completed a comfortable 10-5 victory against Wilson. Bingham, the 2015 world champion, had to qualify for this year’s event but stormed into an impressive three-frame lead at the end of the first session on Monday and did not falter when they resumed as Wilson, who has won the Scottish Open and Welsh Open this season, failed to produce his best form.

The result means five seeds have been knocked out in the first three days: Luca Brecel (No 1), Selby (5), Ali Carter (9), Wilson (10) and Zhang Anda (11).

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