THE Welsh Open is returning to Newport - with the event to be held behind closed doors at the Celtic Manor next month.

The world ranking event will run from Monday, February 15 to Sunday, February 21, with 128 of the world's best players battling for the Ray Reardon Trophy.

World Snooker Tour has staged the majority of tournaments in Milton Keynes since June under strict coronavirus regulations at the Marshall Arena, with the sole exception the World Championship in Sheffield.

"WST has full confidence that the same rigorous Covid-19 regulations can be followed at Celtic Manor, which successfully staged the Celtic Classic and ISPS HANDA Wales Open tournaments on golf's European Tour behind closed doors with Covid-secure protocols in August 2020," read a statement.

The tournament, won by Shaun Murphy last year, was held at the Newport Centre before moving to Cardiff in 2015.

South Wales Argus: The Celtic Manor Resort, which is to welcome the world’s best chefs next OctoberThe Celtic Manor Resort, which is to welcome the world’s best chefs next October

WST chairman Barry Hearn said: "We are delighted to be staging this huge tournament at Celtic Manor for the first time.

"This event has such a rich history in Wales, and along with our partners at BBC Wales and Eurosport, we were determined to keep it there.

"In order to stage events of this magnitude we need to ensure that the venue has the right facilities and is big enough to welcome 128 players plus everyone who works on the event while observing social distancing, hygiene, isolation and all of the other Covid-19 regulations which are essential on our events.

"We have no doubt that Celtic Manor ticks all of these boxes, it is a fantastic venue and the players will love it.

"Unfortunately fans can't come to watch but it will be seven days of tremendous entertainment for television viewers across the globe."

The draw for the tournament is yet to be made.

Celtic Manor Resort chief executive Ian Edwards said: "We are very excited to host a professional snooker tournament for the first time.

"It is a shame that fans will not be able to attend, especially as South Wales is such a hotbed for snooker, but we all recognise the public health priorities at this time and we will draw on our experience over the past 12 months to provide the safest possible environment for the players and officials."

The Welsh Open is the fifth event in the BetVictor European Series, with the order of merit leader after six events to bank a £150,000 bonus.

Mark Selby leads but just two of the six events have been played so far.

It is the fourth and final Home Nations event of the season, after the English, Northern Ireland and Scottish Opens.