Ronnie O’Sullivan says he is happy to stay on World Snooker’s Tour if changes are made, with Barry Hearn calling his breakaway idea a ‘cranky scheme’.
The five-time world champion, the game’s greatest and most marketable player, stole the headlines at the UK Championship on Sunday as claimed he was ‘ready to go’ and kick-off a Champions League-style tour for the elite players.
Unhappy with playing conditions at venues he considers remote, along with a 128-player flat draw, O’Sullivan reckoned he was ‘just waiting for four or five unhappy players’ to join him.
Ronnie O’Sullivan threatened to start a breakaway ‘Champions League-style’ snooker tour
World No 5 Judd Trump said O’Sullivan was ‘living on a different planet’ and Hearn, World Snooker’s chairman, was more scathing.
While acknowledging the 42-year-old, who beat Zhou Yuelong 6-0 on Monday to ensure he will celebrate his birthday in the last 16 on Wednesday, was a ‘genius’ with a cue, Hearn told 5 Live: ‘(I am) incredulous as usual with Ronnie. He gets headlines, I will give him that, but it’s a nonsensical thought.
‘Ronnie needs someone to play and it’s quite clear there is not one single player on the 128-member pro tour that will ever trust Mr O’Sullivan and his rather cranky schemes.
‘He’s a genius and a fabulous player, but off the table he gets carried away and should be a little more mature with his comments.’
O’Sullivan is unhappy with playing conditions at certain venues and the number of events
Hearn’s comments came during O’Sullivan’s routine third-round win at the sport’s second-biggest title, which he has won six times and pays £170,000 to its winner.
Shortly after that, O’Sullivan went into the BBC studio where he was interviewed by six-time world champion Steve Davis, who had already said while players look up to O’Sullivan’s abilities, they do not to his comments.
The pair, along with presenter Hazel Irvine and former world champion Ken Doherty, had an animated exchange, with O’Sullivan conceding he did not want to breakaway and would rather World Snooker made changes.
‘There are some simple things to be done to make it fairer for the top players,’ he said.
‘I don’t want to go nowhere, but I’m not going to wait. I’m not a entrepreneur, but if tweaks don’t happen, I’m not going to sit here and not do myself justice.’
World Snooker’s chairman Barry Hearn called O’Sullivan’s breakaway idea a ‘cranky scheme’
Put to him by Davis that he could retire if he is unhappy, O’Sullivan said: ‘I don’t want to retire. I love playing. I haven’t had enough. I like to perform, it’s nice to play in front of packed crowds.’
O’Sullivan wants World Snooker to make it simpler for ‘top’ players to qualify for events and not have to travel from country to country chasing ranking points.
He said Roger Federer would not be asked to ‘qualify for Wimbledon at Richmond Park’ and says breakaway talk came about because ‘I want to be number one and make the live TV events’.
O’Sullivan says that under current set-up he has to ‘go backwards and forwards’ to events in order to try and stay in the top 16.