Judd Trump heads snooker’s big return – but testing and isolation issues have seen the event switched to Milton Keynes.
World No1 and reigning world champion Trump will start the build-up to his July world title defence at the Marshall Arena in 10 days’ time.
Trump, 30, along with former world champion Neil Robertson, Mark Allen and Kyren Wilson, has declared himself a runner for the 64-player tournament ahead of his Crucible date on July 31.
The first prize for the 10-day Championship League event – that can only take place amid strict social distancing and hygiene measures – has been boosted to £30,000.
The venue switch to the Stadium MK complex from Leicester’s Morningside Arena is due to the presence of a hotel on site helping comply with government regulations.
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The winner of a tournament to be broadcast on ITV will also claim a lucrative Champion of Champions spot in November.
Players must pass a virus throat swab test at the venue the night before to play, use hand sanitiser and wear masks when not in action.
Matchroom chairman Barry Hearn said: “One of the reasons we have selected the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes is that the hotel is on site.
“That means that once players arrive for testing the night before they play, they don’t need to leave until their matches have finished, and they can remain isolated within the venue. It is a superb venue with ideal facilities.
“After testing, the players will remain isolated other than playing their matches, until they are eliminated from the event.
“It is a group format, so the group winners will leave the venue, then come back for their next group when the process begins again.
“Keeping players isolated at all possible times is an integral part of the procedures we are putting in place.
“We will be the first major sport to get back to live televised action.
“That’s not by chance, it’s because of the hard work and preparation we have done during the lockdown to make sure we are ready to get going again as soon as it is legal.
“Liaising with government advisors, we have prepared highly detailed health and safety documents which will be followed to the letter during the tournament.
“In particular, procedures are being put in place for testing players, staff and contractors, which ensure that we are doing everything possible to keep the event safe.
“Players who have any doubts about their own welfare can rest assured that all precautions are being taken.
“I am confident that there is no other major sport which can meet health and safety criteria on isolation and social distancing as stringently as snooker can, so we are able to return more quickly than others.
“During the challenging times of the past few weeks we have examined the opportunities which still exist and worked relentlessly towards the goal of getting our tour going again.
“While most other sports remain sidelined, we are ready to return from June 1st. This sends out a message to the sporting world that snooker is at the forefront of innovation.
“Our first priority has to be safety and we have had detailed discussions with government in creating a set of approved guidelines for the event which will be rigorously followed.
“The field of players and more details will be announced in the coming days.”
Meanwhile the rescheduled Coral Tour Championship will take place in Llandudno from July 21-26.
The tournament for the season’s top eight players and with a first prize of £150,000 was postponed in March.