The Masters snooker event has been moved from its traditional venue of Alexandra Palace in London to Milton Keynes to enable COVID-19 regulations to be followed.
The World Snooker Tour (WST) had planned on hosting the event as scheduled this month at Alexandra Palace but the decision has been taken to stage the tournament in a bubble environment behind closed doors at Arena MK (pictured) in Milton Keynes due to COVID-19 restrictions in the capital.
All players will be tested the day before their first match and will remain within the bubble as long as they are participating in the tournament. All tournament officials and staff will also be within the bubble.
The Masters has been held at Alexandra Palace since 2011. This year’s tournament runs from January 10-17.
WST chairman Barry Hearn said: “It’s disappointing for everyone connected with the event not to be heading to its spiritual home at Alexandra Palace. However, our highest priority is always health and safety, and that is the basis of this decision.
“We must take all necessary steps to ensure that the event will go ahead and provide fantastic entertainment for many millions of fans throughout the world. Throughout this pandemic we have done all we can to keep our tour going.
“There have been setbacks along the way, including the decision to stage the Masters without the live fans we have missed so much. All assessments are based on data and our regular discussions with the UK Government and public health bodies.
“We staged several events in a strict bubble environment in Milton Keynes last summer and we were delighted that these were run successfully. I trust the 16 players to accept this decision, follow the rules carefully and enjoy one of our greatest tournaments. The standard of play and entertainment they have provided so far this season has been astonishing.”
The Masters is one of snooker’s Triple Crown events alongside the World Championship and the UK Championship. Stuart Bingham is the defending champion.