Crucible 'will be retired' before me, says Higgins

John Higgins waves to the crowd at the Crucible
John Higgins has won four World Championship titles, lost in the final four times, and gone out in the semi-finals on three occasions [Getty Images]

Four-time world snooker champion John Higgins has ruled out retiring this summer, saying he expects to outlast the Crucible and play into his 50s.

Higgins, 48, will play world number three Mark Allen in the last 16 after a hard-fought 10-6 win over Welsh qualifier Jamie Jones on Thursday.

The Crucible has staged snooker's World Championship every year since 1977, but Sheffield City Council's latest contract expires in 2027 and China and Saudi Arabia have shown interest in taking the event.

Earlier this week, former World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn warned the event would leave its long-time theatre home unless the building was redeveloped or a bigger arena was built nearby in the city.

There had been speculation that Higgins, 13th in the world but in danger of dropping out of the top 16, would walk away from snooker if he had a disappointing World Championship.

"No, I won't retire. This venue will be retired before I retire from snooker," said Higgins, the 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011 world champion.

"It's a shame, but with all the noises coming out from important people within the game it seems it will be leaving here in three years' time. I've had tears, joy, everything rolled into one, and your life has revolved around this venue, and it will be a sad day when it leaves."

Allen's Crucible record 'nowhere near good enough'

Before the tournament began, Higgins had cast doubt on his future.

When asked if this could be his last season in snooker, Higgins had said: "Who knows? I'll come here, give it everything, then I will evaluate after the tournament. I'm just going to give it my all for this season and we will see what happens."

But he now has a chance to move into an 18th Crucible quarter-final, although to do so he must beat Northern Ireland's Allen, a player who could end the tournament as world number one.

Allen has won two thirds of snooker's 'Triple Crown' - with victory at the Masters in 2018 and the UK Championship in 2022 - but is yet to reach a World Championship final, losing in the semi-finals in both 2009 and 2023.

The 38-year-old from Antrim lost 17-13 to Higgins in the 2009 Crucible semi-final and 13-9 in the last 16 eight years later.

"Mark is an unbelievable player but for him to only reach two semi-finals here for his talent is nowhere near good enough and he would tell you that," added Higgins. "There might be something about the venue that does not agree with him so I have to hold on to that."

Allen beat England's Robbie Williams 10-6 in the first round and said: "I don't care what other people think. I want to be world champion and I want to be world number one. But I can't think of that when I'm out there."

Their last-16 match is the best of 25 frames, so the first to 13 advances. The first session will be on Saturday afternoon (14:30 BST), and the second on Sunday at the same time, before the match will be completed on Monday from 19:00 BST.