Inevitably, Ronnie O’Sullivan’s exit from the Betfred.com World Championship has led to much handwringing as to whether the tournament is now over as a spectacle.

Well, I had a look in the Crucible arena yesterday and the tables are still up, which is a promising sign.

And for all the stick Stephen Maguire and Mark King got for their record breaking 75-minute frame yesterday, the snooker served up by John Higgins and Jamie Cope last night was sensational, and the drama by Neil Robertson and Ali Carter gripping.

The blunt truth is this: Ronnie, for all his pulling power, does not represent the future of snooker. At 33 he is, to use a golfing term, on the back nine of his career.

The likes of Allen, just 23, have the potential to still be top stars in a decade’s time.

“The established stars such as Hendry, O'Sullivan and Higgins have been great for the game but the new breed are announcing themselves and proving that the game is in a very healthy state,” a World Snooker spokesman told the Daily Mirror.

This is certainly true with the talent on the table. (Off the table is a different story – Allen could win the World Championship in the same year his home event, the Northern Ireland Trophy, is axed from the calendar).

The Mirror story predicts viewing figures will fall after O’Sullivan’s exit but, actually, the three world finals he has won attracted lower figures than the two Mark Williams won or Peter Ebdon’s deciding frame victory over Stephen Hendry in 2002.

Allen, like O’Sullivan himself, doesn’t demur from speaking his mind, something I think he should be congratulated on even if you don’t necessarily agree with what he says.

Here’s what he told the Sun and Express newspapers about O’Sullivan’s claim at the Masters that snooker is ‘dying':

“Sometimes he says things he doesn’t think about and they do more damage to the game than he thinks.

“I think Ronnie made a comment that he’s carrying the game on his shoulders and I don’t see it that way.

“And if Ronnie believes that, he should walk away. Maybe they do need to try new things to get the popularity back but you don’t want loads of people drinking and shouting like the darts. It’s a gentleman’s sport.

“There are more than enough players to take the mantle over from Ronnie. The game has never been in better health player-wise. In any sport there should never be one player who runs it and over the last few years it does seem Ronnie has.

“He seems to get away with things other players wouldn’t.”

Does Allen have a point?

Possibly. I certainly think it’s unhealthy to pin an entire sport’s hopes on the shoulders of one man, particularly when that man is a maverick who doesn’t enjoy playing ball with the authorities, who have never really known whether to apply the carrot or stick approach to punishing his transgressions.

But, he is easily the most popular player when it comes to attracting spectators and, by extension, sponsors and broadcasters.

Ronnie has brought many new fans to the game who otherwise may never have been interested in watching it.

Snooker fans won’t turn off because O’Sullivan has been beaten at the Crucible but the likes of Allen still have a long way to go before assuming his mantle and emulating his status.

But, of course, the Northern Irishman can begin that process if he lands the title a week today.


Anonymous said...

The public only knows so little about Allen and others lower in the top 16 because there are so few invitation tournaments profiling the top 16. If Allen had led northern ireland in some world cup battles by now we would know far more about him.

Anonymous said...

the defeat of O'sullivan makes the tournament far more exciting as a tv spectacle as their is now the chance of 9 or 10 different players actually winning it!

Monique said...

The idea that the tournament is "over" because one player is out, be it the defending champion and maverick n°1 in the game and incidently my favourite, is ridiculous indeed. I watched some great snooker yesterday, from tense missfest drama to top draw snooker, and I'm eagerly hoping for more tonight!

I don't agree with everything Mark Allen is saying - if he was quoted properly and in context - but I would be the last to complain about him expressing his feelings and speaking his mind. The last thing snooker needs right now is a dull and overly sanitized field.

jamie brannon said...

Wait a minute, Williams and Ebdon were involved in far tighter finals. Ronnier peaked at over 4 million for both wins v Dott and Carter. If Ebdon won a world final it would not get 2.5 million for me. Of course people will watch the tournament as most of us got into snooker as we wanted to watch the game not one player. However as Simon Barnes says an event goes a little flat when Ronnie is out as there is no one as exciting to watch, and the sad thing is when he goes there will be no one to replace him. He is a one off, a genius you cant replicate genius.

jamie brannon said...

what i meant there was if ebdon won 18-8.

Dave H said...

That's the point I was making: if the snooker is exciting peoplem will watch, regardless of who is playing

Anonymous said...

at last some folk are beginning to realise what several of us have been saying about the swift one for years.

he isnt snooker. the sooner he realises it and the sooner WS realises it, the better

come on anyone but ROS is my motto

jamie brannon said...

He is not snooker but it would be tough loss as you can't replace genius. Every game needs a spearhead and that is Ronnie still, forget what he says he will be back and ready to unleash his genius and there will be nothing the anti Ronnie brigade can do about it.

Anonymous said...

Except beat him

Stephen Hendry is every bit a 'genius' as old sulky

jamie brannon said...

Hendry is not a genius, he is a winning machine. The way O'Sullivan gets through a cue ball is totally different this is what makes geniuses there are they one offs with a distinct style, most in the game would agree that Ronnie is now snookers only authentic genius.

Anonymous said...

first off - Ronnie is not a genius because you say so, or Hendry not one because you say so. that is your opinion. some folks opinion differs.

i think hes more of a bore than a genius. thats my opinion. its not wrong. he bores me and i see no genius quality in him.

oh, and i have forgot what he said about continuing to play as he says it at almost every interview. sends snooker fans (that is real snooker fans and not ronnettes) to sleep that repitition of retiring talk........zzzzzzz genius my bum cheeks

Anonymous said...

Good for Allen to speak out. As for Hendry, he is the greatest player ever to pick up a cue and has proved it with his longevity and consistency. I suspect this view may provoke a reaction.......

Anonymous said...

of course he is the greatest

his record states that

of course you could just go with public opinion. they like players who can run round the table in between shots, so he may not be the greatest in their eyes, but in something measurable, he is by far the best in modern snooker (not considering old invitational worlds of decades ago)

Greg said...

I really hate those who are "happy" about O'Sullivan losing.

It's fair enough if you don't like him, but to lose someone of his calibre (both his personality/star quality, and on-table ability) in the second round, is a huge disappointment. And anyone who disagrees with that is a stupid, petty person, and not a real sports fan.

Myself and many others were looking forward to the prospect of another O'Sullivan/Selby encounter in the semis, that would have truly lit up the tournament. If you don't think their match in the 2009 Masters, or in 2007 UK semi-final, were the best things seen in recent years, you are not a snooker fan.

I'll be cheering on Selby now... but it's a terrible loss to the spectacle of this tournament, to lose O'Sullivan before the semis. That's just a fact.

Anonymous said...

i am not bothered if you hate me Greg.

i DO NOT hate you for being unhappy that he lost.

maybe that says more about you as a person than others on here....

thanks for calling me stupid and petty, however wrong you are.

thanks for thinking i am not a real sports fan because i dont like to watch someone play a particular sport that you like.

thanks for calling me not a snooker fan.

thanks for stating that your opinion is fact

erm, thanks again.

jamie brannon said...

You have to accept my opinion that Ronnie is a genius everyone in the game is universally agreed on that even Dave, who I get the feeling is not Ronnie's biggest fan. Explain to me then why Hendry is a genius as, hardly anyone has called him that, but he is the greatest player of all time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Yes, its a shame to lose O'Sullivan from the tournament and, yes, its great to get some good quotes and copy from a rising star.

But, lets face it, all of this (mass media coverage and these comments being published) just wouldn't have warranted a paragraph if it was at another tournament. It all ONLY happens at Sheffied, and then dies down. Again.

And, am afraid to say, that when it comes to a Monday lunctime at the Welsh Open next season there will be nearly a full house at O'Sullivan's table, whilst the rest may well have been playing at Prestatyn for the number of spectators at their table. Just facts am afraid. Whether thats Allen (which I hope it isn't, or another player.)

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

First off, I like Ronnie

I also like a bit of perspective

What I don't like is this blog being used for name calling and squabbling

And Monday lunchtime at the Welsh Open did have a big crowd - Ali Carter v Jimmy White

Anonymous said...

jamie said...
You have to accept my opinion that Ronnie is a genius everyone in the game is universally agreed on that even Dave, who I get the feeling is not Ronnie's biggest fan. Explain to me then why Hendry is a genius as, hardly anyone has called him that, but he is the greatest player of all time.

6:31 PM

i wasnt the anon that said Hendry was a genius

for what it is worth Jamie i, as a lifelong hendry fan (over 24 years), dont think either of them are a genius.

and i do not have to accept your opinion as being universally agreed upon

you have your opinion which many agree on

i have my opinion which many agree on

thats the way of the world

no arguement, no fuss, i just have a different opinion and thats that.

jamie brannon said...

I agree Dave about the squabbling, but there are people in my opinion who use the anonymous moniker and abuse it by pretending to be one person and then another as we cant differentiate between them. I should not rise to it, but as passionate rocket fan I will defend him, but I have perspective I have criticised him like I did on your post on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

i have never pretended to be anyone else other than myself

i have never swore or been impolite either (that i know of)

if i put "craig" next to my post i could easily put "Michael" against another one, so?

multiple accounts are also possible.

putting a wee name next to your post doesnt make any difference.

i post in reply to blogs or to messages posted. the name beside it doesnt bother me in the slightest, whether its Bananaman or Hooverhead.

Bananaman said...

Cheer's 8:38 pm

Anonymous said...


Let me start by saying I agree with Ronnie being a snooker genius and Hendry being as much the greatest that ever lived as the next person.

But let's face facts as well...RoS lost to Mark Allen. Mark plays a similar, fast, attacking style to Ronnie. Take every opportunity to split the pack, go for shots, etc. IMHO, it's purely the fact that Ronnie is so controversial at times that makes him a crowd favourite.

Look back on the match: 6-4 to Ronnie and Mark's not had a single shot. VERY few players would have been able to do exactly that which he did: respond in the only way he knows (which happens to be muck akin to RoS himself) by making a couple of framewinning break in (near?) record-breaking time.

I like watching Ronnie, Mark and Stephen because I'm in love with the game. Yes, I'd have relished a Selby/O'Sullivan semi as well. As it stands we could be looking at a Selby-Day or Selby-Allen. Same difference: they all play the game their own way and I love them for it.


jamie brannon said...

you should stick to one name simple as that really, but no doubt you won't

Anonymous said...

more lies

i have stuck to one name and shall continue