Jimmy White believes it is ‘inevitable’ that the snooker World Championship will be moved to China in the future.
The sport’s most prestigious event has been held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield since 1977 but White says the growth of the sport in the Far East will result in a change over the coming years.
Speaking to BBC Sport, White said: ‘I would always want to see the World Championship stay where it is but it will go to China one day. I can’t see it not happening.
‘The people in China love their snooker. We get a fantastic reception when we go over there.’
World Snooker chairman and owner of Matchroom Sport, Barry Hearn, disagrees with White’s views.
He said: ‘I am the chairman of World Snooker. I make the decisions so it is not inevitable that the World Championship will move to China.
‘I have made this clear many times. It is a major traditional British event, like Wimbledon, and while we have the backing of the BBC and other sponsors, it will never move from the Crucible.
‘Much like Wimbledon wouldn’t move to America for financial reasons, the World Championship won’t move to China either. Not in my lifetime and not for as long as I am chairman.’
Almost half of snooker’s 11 ranking events are hosted in China and many of the country’s top players are experiencing increased success.
Ding Junhui has won eight ranking events during his career and could become the first ever Chinese player to make it to number one in the world.
White added: ‘If Ding keeps performing the way he has been doing then it is inevitable the World Championship will go to his country.’