Barry Hearn: World Snooker chairman
Barry Hearn: World Snooker chairman

Snooker boss Barry Hearn hits back at Ronnie O'Sullivan's criticism

Snooker boss Barry Hearn has responded to Ronnie O'Sullivan's criticism of how the sport is run by taking a defiant stance.

O'Sullivan claimed earlier this week that he was prepared to create a breakaway tour, such was his frustration at current demands on the top players in the game.

Chief amongst O'Sullivan's gripes is the the current ranking system which demands the top players enter the vast majority of tournaments - and compete in an open draw as opposed to the top seeds joining the draw later in tournaments - if they want to make the top 16 and thus be invited to valuable and prestigious events such as the Shanghai Masters and The Masters in London.

O'Sullivan had stated earlier in the week that a breakaway tour would be a last resort if no middle ground is found, but Hearn remains defiant and has warned that he won't sacrifice the commercial interests of the game to pacify a few disgruntled individuals.

Hearn told the BBC: "I don't see why I should cut back on tournaments to the detriment of the majority of the players on tour.

"This is a brutal sport, it doesn't reward first-round losers. The biggest issue is about opportunity for young players coming in and I want the cream to rise to the top.

"The top players are there because they are the best but they also bring commercial value to events by entering and without them entering, the tournaments would not be televised and, frankly, a lot of them would cease to exist.

"What we've done is created this massively forward thinking calendar where there is no time to rest unless they decide to opt out but, of course, Ronnie O'Sullivan, and some others, will give you the selfish approach because it's what is best for them.

"My job is to say what's best for the sport and how we can grow the sport on the back of giving opportunity to everybody, by not allowing allowing mediocrity and giving the opportunity for the cream to rise to the top.

"Then we'll reward them big - The Masters, top 16, Shanghai Masters, top 16, World Championship, top 16 seeded through to the Crucible.

"But there are only so many benefits and if you are a top player I expect you to prove it week in, week out.

"We have to go where the money is. I'm not here to make the players happy, I'm here to give them an opportunity to change their lives and it requires sacrifice.

"Get into the real world."

When pressed on O'Sullivan, Hearn invited him to enter into dialogue through the official channels.

Heard added: "I'm being very greedy. I want our top players to be seen earlier.

"We're an evolving sport, we're not the finished deal.

"We are talking through the proper channels, which is the Players Commission, and they are giving me a hard ride which is great.

"I get opinion from the top, the bottom and the middle.

"These people are passionate about our sport, as I am, but they don't just talk about it on social media, they get involved.

"That's the message to the other players, especially Ronnie O'Sullivan, but when it comes down to it he can't be bothered."

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