• The Rocket is on the Launchpad

    Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins lined up with Barry Hearn and Betfred boss Fred Done to launch the 2010 Betfred World Championship.

    Higgins and O'Sullivan, both bidding to win the Betfred World Championship for the fourth time, attended the Media Launch for the event at the prestigious RAC Club in London's Pall Mall.

    The sumptious surroundings of the RAC Club couldn't have been further apart from the chaos that still pervades Tudor Square in Sheffield.

    The Crucible renovations have been completed, but the harsh winter has played havoc with the schedule for the complete overhaul of Tudor Square.

    Sheffield Council have just one week left to get the building works completed and they have even installed a heated marquee so that workers can continue to work on the paving in rainy weather.

    On completion of the Tudor Square makeover fans, who traditionally gather to socialise in the area and watch the snooker action on the big screen, will be able to enjoy new paving, lighting, seating and even be able to see trees and grass, a rare sight in the concrete jungle!

    Back at the RAC club Fred Done, the founder of Betfred, pledged to sign on as sponsor for the World Championship for a further four years, despite still having two years left on the existing contract.

    Done explained "What I like about Barry [Hearn] is his enthusiasm. You can see it pouring out of his veins. We didn't get this enthusiasm last year."

    Ronnie O'Sullivan was also full of praise for Hearn and urged his fellow professionals to back Hearn's new blueprint for the sport.

    "It has to be voted through. Look at all the new playing opportunities - what more can you ask for?"

    Hearn, in turn, was hailing Higgins and O'Sullivan as snooker's flag-bearers. "Higgins is a great character, when you can understand what he's saying, with that accent of his!"

    Of O'Sullivan Hearn said "He's a lunatic but I love him!"

    Hearn insisted that the World Championship is the blue riband event and apart from considering 'walk-on' music for the players, there won't be any other change to the format.

    He said "The reason players take up snooker is to win the Betfred World title. Steve Davis once said to me that you can win every tournament in a season, but it means nothing if you don't win the 'big one'.

    "It's a major part of the sporting scene. To follow in the footsteps of the great names who have lifted the trophy, we're talking about history."

    The ebulliant Hearn enthused "There's a buzz about snooker at the moment and ticket sales have smashed records. I'm not going to miss it because this is a must-go-to event. The royalty of our sport will be there and I can't wait for it to start.

    O'Sullivan insisted that Higgins and a resurgent Mark Williams would be two of his biggest rivals. 

    "John and I have three titles each, Hendry's got seven, Davis and Reardon six, so to get to four would be great.

    "I think this is the most open World Championship we've seen. The titles have been shared this season and the standard is very high.

    "Mark Williams won in China last week. He's got the pedigree and the game, John [Higgins], on his day has the best all-round game and he'll be hard to stop."

    John Higgins agreed saying "It's going to be tough but I'd love to win it again. Snooker has a buzz about it which we have not had for a long time and hopefully we can go on now and get more people involved in the sport."

    A few extra tickets have been put on sale but they're selling fast. Try your luck by ringing the booking office on +44 114 249 6006 or visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk