Stars cue up to back bid to save Willie Thorne Snooker Club in Leicester
Snooker stars including the world's number one player, Mark Selby, are backing a petition to save a club in Leicester.
Mark has signed the online petition and posted a message of support to try to rescue the Willie Thorne Snooker Club.
The Charles Street club, started by snooker ace Willie Thorne more than 30 years ago and later taken over by Rileys, has been forced to shut its doors because the landlord, Leicester City Council, wants the building back to use for offices.
Willie's niece, Olivia Thorne, launched the petition last week to try to save the club her father Malcolm ran for many years.
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Mark, "The Jester from Leicester", posted: "This was the start of my career! If it was not for Malcolm Thorne, there is no way I would be where I am today!"
Mark played there from the age of 11 to 16 and Malcolm allowed him to practice for free and sponsored him in his first few competitions.
By yesterday, more than 200 people had signed the petition.
Snooker star Jimmy "Whirlwind" White, who was due to play at the club next week, said he was saddened to hear the club had closed. Jimmy, who played in six World Championship finals but never won one, said: "I was so looking forward to playing at Willie's club in Leicester again.
"I must have played there a hundred times and it always a pleasure. It is a real snooker club and there are not many of them left in Britain.
"I hope that somehow this club can be saved because it is such an important venue. Everyone who is anyone knows Willie's club and has played there."
Leicester player Ben Woollaston, ranked number 40 in the world, said he learned his trade there. He said: "We moved from down south to here to help my snooker and for me to play at the club. It made me."
Nancy Thorne, who opened the club in 1981 with her sons Willie, Malcolm and Robert, said the city would not be the same without the club.
The 86-year-old said: "It was real family concern and everyone loved that homely feel.
"The powers that be should move heaven and earth to save it. My son Malcolm put his heart and soul into that place.
"It was unique as a snooker club and players came from all over the world to play there. I would say that at one time it was the most famous snooker club in the world."
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he was prepared to meet a delegation from the club.
He said: "I think Willie Thorne ceased to have any involvement with the club a while ago. It would appear that Rileys, who run the club, have accepted it is not viable to run a snooker club there.
"I am happy to chat to people from the club. I would say that there are other places in the city where people can play snooker."