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Barry Hawkins takes part in the behind-closed-doors Championship League snooker tournament which starts on June 1 at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, getting underway when Judd Trump plays David Grace

Kent cueman Barry Hawkins takes part in snooker’s Championship League which starts today.

The tournament runs from June 1 to 11 in Milton Keynes and is the first time players have been able to compete since the Gibraltar Open on March 15.

Ditton's Barry Hawkins will play in the Championship League tournament which starts this week
Ditton's Barry Hawkins will play in the Championship League tournament which starts this week

Hawkins, from Ditton, is in a group that doesn’t start until June 7 but the first match of the tournament will be played today (Monday) when world number one Judd Trump faces David Grace at 3pm.

All players will be tested for coronavirus before they will be allowed to enter the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. The hotel complex has been chosen so no player or official needs to leave the venue once they have entered.

Matches are being played behind closed doors but are being broadcast on ITV4. Players will need to keep two metres apart from each other, and the referee.

Players will use anti-bacterial hand sanitiser before matches and avoiding handshakes.

Hawkins is in a group that includes Anthony McGill, Craig Steadman, Ashley Carty and the world’s number two ranked player Neil Robertson His first game is against Hammad Miah.

Hawkins was beaten by Chinese player Liang Wenbo is his last-64 match at the Gibraltar Open.

The non-ranking event involves 64 players in total, in round robin groups, including leading stars such as Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Selby.

Group winners will progress to the next round, beginning on June 9, split into four further groups. A final group of winners will then contest the £30,000 top prize. All players will earn £1,000 minimum from a total prize fund of £200,000.

Matchroom Sport chairman Barry Hearn said: “We will be the first major sport to get back to live televised action. That’s not by chance, it’s because of the hard work and preparation we have done during the lockdown to make sure we are ready to get going again as soon as it is legal.

“Liaising with government advisors, we have prepared highly detailed health and safety documents which will be followed to the letter during the tournament. These measures surpass any others made in any other professional sport right now.

“Championship League will provide 11 days of televised sport with extensive live coverage, from 3pm until 10pm each day. For the fans out there who are starved of live sport it will be a fantastic boost and a very welcome diversion from these tough times we are all going through.”

Competitive sport behind closed doors is allowed again from as part of the government’s lockdown easing. Football will return later this month. The Premier League is set to resume on June 17 and the Championship three days later.

Football below that, however, is all but cancelled. League 1 is the only division yet to make a decision. They are currently being asked to vote through new regulations that would come in should the season be curtailed, which clubs are also deciding on.

From today (Monday) golfers can also play in groups of four from different households, with three and fourball play and competitions allowed.

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