World Snooker Championship: Horrible to play with no fans, says Matthew Stevens

Barry Hearn says 'the show must go on' after government restriction wreck snooker plans
Betfred World Championship
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 31 July-16 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and Red Button, with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app. Full details and times.

Two-time finalist Matthew Stevens says it was "horrible" to play in front of no fans at snooker's World Championship.

Welshman Stevens, 42, was beaten 10-5 in the first round by Scotland's John Higgins.

There were no spectators watching their match at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It wasn't pleasant at all. It was the same for John but it wasn't nice," said Stevens.

"I wouldn't like to do that again. But that's the world we are living in at the minute - we have got to get on with it."

A reduced number of fans were admitted to the Crucible for day one of the 2020 World Championship last Friday.

Along with two county cricket matches and racing at Goodwood, the tournament was chosen as a pilot event to test the return of spectators after the coronavirus lockdown.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that the pilot scheme had been scrapped because of a spike in coronavirus cases.

Matthew Stevens is out of the World Championship after losing to John Higgins, who has reached the last three Crucible finals
Matthew Stevens is out of the World Championship after losing to John Higgins, who has reached the last three Crucible finals

Stevens, a World Championship runner-up in 2000 and 2005, says the lack of an audience is particularly noticeable at snooker's flagship event.

"If it was in a different venue maybe it would be different," he said.

"Every time you come to the Crucible, there's always a full house. That's what we are used to in every session.

"But in other tournaments maybe the crowds aren't so big and you don't really notice it so much. The other tournaments behind closed doors won't matter so much."

Stevens had to come through qualifying to set up his meeting with Higgins. He felt the match got away from him after he missed an opportunity to go 4-2 up.

"Once I lost that frame he pounced on me a little bit," Stevens added.

"I didn't expect to get this far. I managed to play okay but I wasn't match-sharp."