Former world champion Shaun Murphy has accused rival Hossein Vafaei of “sacrilege” after the Iranian launched a scathing attack on the conditions at the Crucible Theatre.

Vafaei described the venue as “smelly” and said the practice room was like a garage in the wake of his 10-5 World Championship first-round defeat to Judd Trump on Sunday.

But Murphy, who swept to victory over Lyu Haotian by the same score, jumped to the defence of the Crucible, which has hosted every World Championship since 1977.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 – Day Three – The Crucible
Shaun Murphy has criticised rival Hossein Vafaei over his criticism of the Crucible (Martin RIckett/PA)

Murphy said: “This is holy ground. It’s almost sacrilege for a professional snooker player to be so openly critical of our home.

“Hossein should educate himself on how our tour works in relationships with the WST and our broadcast partners, and what a special place this is.

“Does he think he is helping our sport grow by being so openly critical of one of our biggest partners? He has not helped the sport at all.”

Speculation is mounting over the future of the venue, with its current deal due to expire in 2027 and some stars including world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan openly calling for the sport’s power-brokers to pursue more lucrative options abroad.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 – Day 2 – The Crucible
Hossein Vafaei blasted conditions at the Crucible on Sunday (Richard Sellers/PA)

Murphy, who is based in Sheffield and won the world title as a qualifier in 2005, conceded the Crucible has its problems but said he hoped it would find a way to extend its historic association with the sport.

“We’re coming up to the 50th anniversary of snooker being here and if the World Snooker Tour turned up tomorrow and did a site visit they would probably not come here because it’s not big enough, but there’s nothing we can do about that,” added Murphy.

“I don’t want the snooker to leave here. I don’t think anyone wants to leave apart from Hossein and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Everyone else wants to stay but it can’t stay as it is.”

Former semi-finalist Mark Allen admitted he is in two minds about the future of the sport’s showpiece event given the lure of those potentially lucrative alternatives elsewhere.

The WST recently signed a deal to step up promotion of the game in Saudi Arabia, and next year’s second World Masters of Snooker event will offer a stunning one million dollars (£810,000) jackpot for any player capable of potting a special golden ball after a maximum break.

“Sometimes money talks and it doesn’t look too good for the Crucible, but I wouldn’t be openly pushing to leave,” said Allen.

“I’m a traditionalist and I love the history that is attached to this venue. The sport needs to evolve and grow but I’m not sure about the direction it wants to go in.

“On the other hand you need money to provide for your family and if somewhere else is better placed to help with that then so be it. Perhaps the answer is to find a bigger venue in Sheffield to keep it here.”