Newspaper headlines suggested today that Ronnie O’Sullivan was planning a breakaway tour but these were misleading. He isn’t.
What O’Sullivan wants is a series of tournaments featuring hand-picked players he thinks the public would like to see.
He wants these to run alongside existing World Snooker tournaments, although with the tournament calendar now so packed it would be hard to see how clashes could be avoided.
Not all the quotes made it into the original stories but I have been given access to them.
This is what O’Sullivan said:
“Other players like John Higgins and Mark Williams may feel the same as me soon. Get them with maybe Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson and Judd Trump and you have a show.
“These are the players people want to see, the rest like Ali Carter are making up the numbers.
“I don’t see myself as in competition with World Snooker, they have big tournaments, but if I’m not in main events I need to do other stuff.
“Stephen Hendry retired for similar reasons, a year down the line who knows who might be up for it.
“People switch on the TV to watch certain players, like with John McEnroe in tennis. They know the characters, know the person, are excited by what they do and waiting for something to happen.
“I am not the only one who feels this way, I am the only one who has had the balls to say it. I believe there is another way, and I can open a door for other players.
“They could be fantastic, proper tournaments. Only eight players would have the status that bring something to that, that the public would pay to see, that I would pay to see.
“I think seven or eight now on tour would be interested in that concept.”
O’Sullivan is right that there are a handful of star names that draw the crowds. This is true of any sport.
But the danger is that a slew of tournaments featuring a small number of players would soon become a bore.
Without a ranking system or joined-up structure underpinning them they would just look like a series of exhibitions, although this is not to say they wouldn't attract the paying public.
An exhibition featuring Ronnie against, say, Jimmy White is a good night out and the Snooker Legends organisers have made a success of their events, of which these two crowd-pleasers are a part.
I can fully understand why O'Sullivan's idea would appeal to players: well paid events for little real pressure.
But would the public really take to them?
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn was distinctly unimpressed. He said: “Ronnie is looking for something to do and tour players are not allowed to play in unsanctioned events. We won’t sanction anything counter-productive to us.
“Tour players playing in events set up by Ronnie is a non-starter. I expect him to support the game that made him a world champion, not undermine it.
“He’s a great player and we want him on tour, but there would be zero tolerance for him or others joining him on this kind of thing. I am talking heavy sanctions.”
On the face of it this isn’t very constructive. Why not work together?
But neither of these big characters seems willing to back down now. In fact, the O’Sullivan v Hearn turf war is developing into a rather tedious clash of egos.
If O’Sullivan feels the players’ contract is too restrictive then he has every right not to sign it. However, World Snooker sources are adamant he asked for appearance money, which they flatly refused to pay.
O’Sullivan can beat anyone on the snooker table but he won’t beat Hearn off it. He has various people in his ear telling him he’s worth more than everyone else but all they have done is left him without playing opportunities and, therefore, financially poorer.
Ironically, he seemed to be at his happiest early in his career when he was managed by, yes, Barry Hearn.
This latest plan will probably fall flat too. World Snooker won’t sanction tournaments that clash with their own and the other players won’t risk disciplinary action by competing in rival events.
I was there in the thick of the TSN breakaway tour and all that it ultimately did was damaged snooker and seriously depleted not only its reputation but also its cash reserves.
However, if O’Sullivan can bring new events to the table then World Snooker should not withhold a sanction just because he doesn’t want to enter all of their tournaments.
One thing worth mentioning in closing: there already is an event which features the game’s biggest names playing a series of matches for big money.
It’s called the Premier League and O’Sullivan has opted not to play in it despite winning it ten times, including all but one time under the shot clock rules.
Had he won it this year it would have been worth around £80,000 to him. It’s an event he genuinely enjoys and I think it’s one he’ll miss when it starts in August.
Perhaps the real test of this long running saga is the extent to which it misses him.