Hearn hits out at ‘cranky’ O’Sullivan plan

Ronnie O'Sullivan has floated the idea of breakaway. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire
Ronnie O'Sullivan has floated the idea of breakaway. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire
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Ronnie O’Sullivan says he is happy to stay on World Snooker’s Tour if changes are made, with Barry Hearn calling his breakaway idea a “cranky scheme”.

The five-time world champion, the game’s greatest and most marketable player, stole the headlines at the UK Championship on Sunday as he claimed he was “ready to go” and kick-off a Champions League-style tour for the elite players.

Unhappy with playing conditions at venues he considers remote, along with a 128-player flat draw, O’Sullivan reckoned he was “just waiting for four or five unhappy players” to join him.

World No 5 Judd Trump said O’Sullivan was “living on a different planet” and Hearn, World Snooker’s chairman, was more scathing.

While acknowledging the 42-year-old, who beat Zhou Yuelong 6-0 on Monday to ensure he will celebrate his birthday in the last 16 on Wednesday, was a “genius” with a cue, Hearn told 5 Live: “[I am] incredulous as usual with Ronnie. He gets headlines, I will give him that, but it’s a nonsensical thought.

“Ronnie needs someone to play and it’s quite clear there is not one single player on the 128-member pro tour that will ever trust Mr O’Sullivan and his rather cranky schemes.

“He’s a genius and a fabulous player, but off the table he gets carried away and should be a little more mature with his comments.”

Hearn’s comments came during O’Sullivan’s routine third-round win at the sport’s second-biggest title, which he has won six times and pays £170,000 to its winner.

Shortly after that, O’Sullivan went into the BBC studio where he was interviewed by six-time world champion Steve Davis, who had already said while players look up to O’Sullivan’s abilities, they do not to his comments.

The pair, along with presenter Hazel Irvine and former world champion Ken Doherty, had an animated exchange, with O’Sullivan conceding he did not want to breakaway and would rather World Snooker made changes.

Later, O’Sullivan said: “He [Hearn] can ban me. If he wants to ban me tomorrow then I have already accepted that decision. I would rather walk away than live in fear about what I say.

“It doesn’t worry me what he says any more. He is on mute on Twitter and I don’t really have him in my thinking.

“I haven’t got too much time so either make the tweaks which will benefit everybody or don’t make the tweaks. I still have to be pro-active. But my gut feeling is nothing will change.

“It is simple, we need a few tweaks. Either do it or don’t do it. But if you don’t do it, I will look for alternatives because I still want to play.”

O’Sullivan wants World Snooker to make it simpler for “top” players to qualify for events and not have to travel from country to country chasing ranking points.

He said Roger Federer would not be asked to “qualify for Wimbledon at Richmond Park” and says breakaway talks came about because “I want to be number one and make the live TV events”.

O’Sullivan says that under the current set-up he has to “go backwards and forwards” to events in order to try and stay in the top 16.

He spoke of enticing Stephen Hendry out of retirement to join him in a new tour, as well as great friend and rival John Higgins, who is currently considering ending his career.

But Trump, who beat O’Sullivan in a thrilling Northern Ireland Open final a fortnight ago, dismissed the idea.

“I think he’s living on a different planet to the rest of us,” he said.

“Money’s not an issue to him, he can take chances, he’s got such a strong following he’s always going to be able to earn money in the game, he’s got absolutely no worries.

“I think he’s a bit on his own there. Personally, I think what (World Snooker boss) Barry Hearn has done is amazing for us, the money is going up every year, conditions have been a lot better recently, tables are playing well. I’m more than happy with what’s going on and how I’m playing.

“Obviously you’d always be happy to have another tour on the side, earning extra money, but for most of the players I think we’re all pretty happy.”

O’Sullivan had said on Sunday: “You don’t see Leyton Orient turning up to play [Lionel] Messi at Barcelona. They might play in the FA Cup, not week in, week out.

“It’s demotivating,” O’Sullivan added of top players entering a flat draw. “I think Messi would get fed up having to come out and play Huddersfield Town and Leyton Orient. He wants to play against (Cristiano) Ronaldo, hear that Champions League music. I think there’s room for two tours.”