The tension between Ronnie O’Sullivan and snooker’s governing bodies shows no signs of relenting, with ‘The Rocket’ accusing the two organisations of trying to intimidate him following an incident during the World Masters in January.
O’Sullivan publicly criticised a referee and swore at a photographer during his record-breaking seventh Masters title victory, resulting in him being referred to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), the sport’s governing body, by World Snooker, which oversees the promotional side of the game.
The WPBSA ultimately took no disciplinary action against O’Sullivan but later sent the five-time world champion a letter warning him that similar conduct could incur financial punishment, a move which seemingly enraged O’Sullivan who was asked to respond to the letter the day before a tournament.
“I just want to play and have fun. i won’t be bullied or intimidated” – ronnie o’sullivan
“To go in with all that hanging over my head, having to go and see lawyers to fight off something I feel I shouldn’t have to, it ruined me for the next three or four tournaments”, raged O’Sullivan after his first round World Championship win over Gary Wilson.
“I phoned Barry [Hearn, World Snooker chairman] four weeks ago and told him I’m done with him and his board.
“I’ll let my lawyers deal with it. I won’t get involved anymore because I won’t be bullied.”
O’Sullivan broke his silence after months of bizarre press dealings, which included impersonating a robot as he answered questions and breaking into song after repeated one and two-word replies.
“I just want to play and have fun. I like Barry, but I’m not being bullied or intimidated”, claimed ‘The Rocket’.
“If I didn’t have good lawyers I’d probably walk away.
“I’ve given 25 years to the game. I feel I’ve done my bit and I’m not putting up with someone thinking they can bully or intimidate me into not voicing my opinion.”
“We will take whatever action is required to protect our reputation from such inaccurate comments” – barry hearn
“I take any accusation of bullying and intimidation by me or World Snooker very seriously”, responded Barry Hearn.
“Unfounded accusations such as these are damaging to World Snooker’s global reputation, as well as my own.
“We will take whatever action is required to protect this reputation from such inaccurate comments”, added Hearn.
“WPBSA is exclusively responsible for all discipline relating to snooker, its players and their responsibilities as outlined in the players’ contract which sets out the obligations to all participants on the tour and was agreed in conjunction with the players’ governing body.”
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the WPBSA, claimed, “In terms of bullying and intimidation we do not accept that all.
“I’m prepared to sit down with Ronnie and discuss the issue.”
“The game would be a lot poorer without him” – john higgins
“To claim he has been bullied is quite inaccurate”, commented 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy before his second round World Championship clash with O’Sullivan.
“The players’ contract is clear for all to see.”
But O’Sullivan found support from four-time world champion John Higgins.
“If I am led to believe what I have heard about how he was reprimanded, it is out of order”, claimed Higgins.
“There are things in the players’ contracts that are too severe. He has a lot to take on his shoulders because he is the biggest name in the sport. I have a degree of sympathy for him”, added the Scot.
“The game would be a lot poorer without him.”
—Alistair Sargent, Correspondent (Sport)