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SNOOKER: Brum in line for prized contract.

Byline: LEE McLAUGHLAN

BIRMINGHAM's top sports chief is backing the city's sporting know-how to land the major prize of the World Snooker Championships.

The sport's top event is up for grabs as the contract to stage the showcase tournament is due for renewal at the end of the season.

Birmingham, which is considering an offer to host the event for five years, is among six cities approached by the World Snooker Association to put in a bid.

Bidders have until December 17 to stake their claim for the tournament, which has been staged at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre since 1977, and the city council's head of sport and international events, Brian Stocks, believes Birmingham's sporting pedigree puts it in a strong position.

'Birmingham's international record at running world events certainly stands us in good stead,' he said.

'But it's not just that. We have a range of facilities in the city that are capable of holding world championships, whether that's the NEC, the NIA or elsewhere.'

Birmingham's rivals for the championships are Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Coventry.

But Stocks is keeping coy on the exact plans of the bid to avoid tipping off competitors. The city council is working in partnership with NEC Group and Marketing Birmingham, among others, to produce a bid capable of winning.

'The latest discussions we had with World Snooker chairman Sir Rodney Walker are probably the most fruitful we've had,' said Stocks.

'We know that this a very competitive bid but we don't want to broadcast our plans and alert our rivals to what we are doing.'

Snooker is currently undergoing an overhaul as it looks to enhance its image. Moving events from their traditional venues appears to be one of the tactics.

And Stocks believes that Birmingham can be at the forefront of the changes.

'Snooker has been in certain venues for a long time but it seems that the sport is looking to change that - to open it up to newer audiences and to take events all over the world,' he said.

'It is looking to attract bluechip sponsors by using bluechip international venues. We have those in Birmingham.'

The winner is expected to be announced in the spring.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 5, 2004
Words:366
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