Crucible Theatre
The new deal sees the Crucible keep the world championships until at least 2017Getty Images

Barry Hearn will never initiate moving the World Snooker Championships away from the Crucible Theatre after securing a deal to take the tournament into a 40th year at the legendary venue.

Speculation has been rife that China was bidding to host the World Championships, whose contract with the Steel City ended after the 2015 competition which is hosted from 20 April–4 May.

But speaking on Sunday (18 January) during Shaun Murphy's thumping 10-2 Masters final win over Neil Robertson, World Snooker chief Hearn announced a two-year deal had been agreed to take the partnership with Sheffield up to 2017.

In addition, the 66-year-old said the two-week tournament, which is worth £5m to the city of Sheffield, would only move should the city council and host broadcaster the BBC demand it.

"Never say never in the same way you can never say that we aren't going to do deals somewhere in the world," Hearn said.

"What we've said from day one we've been very consistent that while Sheffield City Council want us there, while the BBC want us there we will never leave Sheffield. That decision is not mine to make, it rests with Sheffield and the BBC.

"There were lots of other places that wanted to take this event with its global TV audience of nearly 300 million viewers. Lots of places said we can sell more tickets, we're a bigger venue but none had the magic of the Crucible."

The news will come as welcome relief to many traditionalist snooker fans and world champion Mark Selby told IBTimes UK: "I would be very disappointed if it did move from Sheffield.

"When you talk to people that's what they talk about, the Crucible is the home of snooker much in the same way as Wimbledon and tennis and Wembley with football.

"With China being so popular there were rumours last year and the year before that it could go over there. With China at the moment you've got so many tournaments over there you could overpower it. If the tournament goes to China the tournament loses a bit of its value."