Ronnie O’Sullivan is praying the Crucible will be around as snooker’s theatre of dreams for many years to come.
The Rocket charged into a 6-2 lead over Kyren Wilson in the first session of the Betfred World Championship final at the iconic Sheffield venue yesterday.
The famous building is still reverberating from arguably the sport’s greatest ever day on Friday when, for the first time, both semi-finals went to a deciding frame.
And five-time world champion O’Sullivan, 44, has repeated his objections to a crowd now being allowed in over the weekend — branding the decision ‘irresponsible’.
But there is no doubt about his love for a venue that figures prominently in an astonishing 28-year career and has supplied some of his greatest highs and most demoralising lows.
Theatres are under huge financial strain from the coronavirus pandemic, with Southampton Nuffield Theatres forced to close through lockdown and funding cuts.
But both O’Sullivan and Wilson are desperate to see the Crucible — who have announced there will be redundancies — continue to stage snooker’s showpiece event.
‘This place is important, and I believe it will never die,’ said O’Sullivan. ‘The snooker means it is recognised worldwide.
‘I was at some awards thing with the Royal Family, I think it was Prince Philip. He said, ‘You play snooker, is it the Crucible?’ And I say, ‘Yes, that is it, sir’. He didn’t know who I was!
‘Even Prince Philip knows nothing about me but he knows about the Crucible! You cannot lose the Crucible.
‘He doesn’t know me, he probably thinks, ‘Who’s this piece of s*** in my house?’.’
Wilson, playing in his first Crucible final, said: ‘You cannot replace this place. For snooker, the history, being here, the pictures on the walls outside, it is so special to our game in particular.
‘I love the Crucible and hope they can bounce back from what is happening, and 100 per cent we need them to pull through. Snooker would not be the same without it.’
There is a deal in place between World Snooker Tour, Sheffield City Council and the Crucible to stage the World Championship until at least 2027.
And owner, Sheffield Theatres, are confident that will be fulfilled.
Chief executive Dan Bates said: ‘Snooker is a vital part of our year. It is a challenge. There is 89 per cent of our income comes from our audiences through ticket sales, and 11 per cent through subsidies. So we need audiences to trade and be solvent.
‘It is great to see a crowd back for the final and we can learn a lot from that.’