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.


Anonymous said...

I only watch the snooker for Ali Carter soooo.....

David Langley said...

How can you say he won't beat Hearn off the table?! If ronnie doesn't turn up snooker suffers therefore Hearn is doing a terrible job, which obviously means he fails!! and the point you make about ronnie losing money is totally irrelevant, ronnie is a multi millionaire who does not need money or public attention he has had plenty of it in the past!! he simply wants to play in top quality tournaments not 4 frame shootouts in Chinatown infront of joe bloggs and his dog!!

Anonymous said...

Looking at that SF line-up in Wuxi, a high profile invitational with Ronnie and Judd looks very appealing right now.

Cut a deal with him Barry. You're clogging the calendars with pro-ams, and the best players are starting to skip them. Drop the UK PTC spots and let outside promoters have the places in the calendar. If you can make room for Power Shite you can make room for 3/4 high profile invitationals. Would love to see the Irish Masters back, possibly a return of the Champions Cup featuring all players who won a WSA event. Yeah this could be good.

Monique said...

I personally think that the fact that Ronnie opted out an event he loves so much and that is so lucrative is actually a good measure how abusive he feels the players contract is.
In an ideal world, people would sit together and talk.
In the real world egos talk and people don't. Big shame.

Anonymous said...

When Hearn took over I seem to remember Ronnie being all over him like a rash. Oh Ronnie, just play....

Anonymous said...

the spotlight kid strikes again

total bore, on and off the table.

kildare cueman said...

There is a space in the calendar for a potential event. Why not let Ronnie use that for his hand picked has beens.

As the game moves towards a flatter structure, it would be no harm to have another couple of masters style events. It will make it worthwhile for top players to slog it out in the rankers to guarantee inclusion.

Anonymous said...

If money doesn't matter to him why did he ask for appearance money?

He's been poorly advised.

Anonymous said...

I am so angry right now! BH and ROS are truly fucking up snooker for me ... A sport I used to love so much.

4 nobodies in the semi's .. it happens sometimes, but going in the direction of darts is NOT the answer!

Dzierzgul said...

I was under the impression that, apart from Premier League, there was a tournament for big players - I believe it's called Masters.

IMHO, it's not how the World Champion should behave. He needn't have made it all about him - and the bit about Ali Carter was really uncalled for. Pity O'Sullivan doesn't want to take a special responsibility that comes with a win in a small theatre in Sheffield.

I wouldn't also point out to Wuxi semis line-up as a proof of Hearn's 'failure'. It's the beginning of a season. Many top players simply picked up a cue for the first time since WC on the way to the airport and so the supporting cast gets through. The same thing used to happen with Shanghai Masters. Remember how Dominic Dale and Ricky Walden won it? Or how Dave Harold got to the final of Norhern Ireland Trophy? Same story.

wild said...


Ronnie is being a bit of a wet fish here and your just feeding the Big Girls Blouse with Rubbish like Abusive.

its called being a Professional sport the fact Ronnie talkes about Tournament of exhibitions Rubish instead of Hard Graft Tournament Snooker shows just how much of pansy he is.

Anonymous said...

i see monique has her ros tinted glasses on.

well seeing she "works" for him.


Mics147 said...

We already have such a league called Premier League Snooker. :)

jamie brannon said...

I've got to say O'Sullivan views seem silly to me.

It would be series of events with very little meaning. The best sport is the stuff that resonates the strongest in terms of what it means to the competitors.

He needs to come back and do what he does best: giving masterclasses in serious competition, not indulging himself with exhibition events.

Anonymous said...

once again the spotlight kid forgets what made him so popular.

selfish man!

NewsfoxSport said...

Oh, people do talk some rubbish don't they? Ronnie O'Sullivan is a great player who unfortunately has a superiority complex and surrounds himself with two bit nobodies who could not run a corner shop.

Snooker has grown exponentially at a time when Ronnie has been missing event after event. He's only got a few good years left and is choosing the Higgins road which is a shame.

I'm all in favour of invitational tournaments or whatever. But the worlds did not have a great semi line up either - these things happen in sport.

Other management stables do not promote tournaments because they haven't the slightest clue how to. So they just carp instead.

Must say, I prefer snooker 'existing', surprised that others clearly don't!

Anonymous said...

What is the obsession in snooker with invitational events ? Golf and tennis do very well with barely any!
Snooker must not pander to a spoiled brat who only cares about himself and his own bank balance .
Let him join Stephen Hendry promoting Chinese pool if he wants to !

Anonymous said...

A world champion should act like one.