Ronnie O’Sullivan went ‘too far’ with ‘damaging’ snooker comments

Ronnie O’Sullivan suggested that players were afraid to speak out against the sport  (PA Wire)
Ronnie O’Sullivan suggested that players were afraid to speak out against the sport (PA Wire)

Ronnie O’Sullivan went “too far” with his criticism of snooker, the sport’s chief has said, after the seven-time world champion said it was “in the worst place it’s ever been”.

O’Sullivan further described snooker as “cheap” and suggested that players were afraid to speak out in an interview with The Sportsman last week.

Widely regarded as one of the most talented snooker players ever, the 47-year-old has nonetheless been critical of aspects of the sport.

Describing the situation as “beyond a crisis”, O’Sullivan noted his fear for the future, saying the game had become “like a pub sport”.

But Steve Dawson, chair of the World Snooker Tour (WST), has now hit back at the 21-time Triple Crown event winner, saying that O’Sullivan should be more like golfer Rory McIlroy and former tennis player Roger Federer in trying to grow snooker.

“Snooker is bigger than any player,” Dawson said. “Ronnie is a fantastic player and a legend of our sport, but sometimes his misguided comments go too far.

“He often compares snooker to golf and tennis, but I would challenge him as to whether for his part he elevates the sport and acts as a role model like a McIlroy or Federer.

“Ronnie has never attended a players’ meeting or engaged with us to discuss his opinions. There are three formal levels where he can provide feedback: through the WST Board, the WPBSA Players’ board or through players’ meetings, and he has not engaged through any of these channels.”

O’Sullivan will seek a record eighth World Championship win at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield next month.

He has previously said that pursuing snooker professionally would be “waste of life” for most people.

The lack of prize money on offer to top players was among the latest criticisms offered by O’Sullivan, but Dawson defended the potential earnings for WST players.

“Prize money reached £15m before the pandemic and is currently at £11m.

“The dip since 2019 has been principally caused by the inability to stage tournaments in China while the country was in an unprecedented lockdown.

“There are many individual sports where the levels of prize money are significantly lower than snooker. For now, we are more than holding our own for the nature and size of the sport.

“This season we have provided every player with a £20,000 income guarantee to help them pay expenses and develop their careers.

“We are striving to take snooker to a higher level, but we need the players to be ambassadors in public, and to communicate any concerns they have through the right channels.

“Comments like those from Ronnie this week are damaging to us as a sport - and they’re unfounded.

“If Ronnie took advantage of his own massive global popularity to be a true ambassador for snooker then he could work with us to drive the sport forward for his benefit and for the sport as a whole.”

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