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“He can ban me” – Ronnie O’Sullivan vows to remain outspoken over breakaway tour

Jamie Shaw in Snooker Interviews


Reigning UK Champion O’Sullivan looks on (credit: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has dismissed fears of being banned by snooker’s governing body over his outspoken comments relating to a potential break-away tour.

The five-time World Champion has expressed his discontent with the number of tournaments on the calendar and the travelling required to compete as regularly as possible.

O’Sullivan has canvassed the idea of an elite break-away tour in which he hopes he would be joined by the likes of John Higgins and Stephen Hendry.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn has blasted the 42-year-old’s proposal as “nonsensical”, but O’Sullivan in unfazed by the prospect of any disciplinary action as a result of his remarks.

“He can ban me,” said O’Sullivan, who has been embroiled in a number of disputes with Hearn on Twitter. “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 and Hearn have been at loggerheads on Twitter (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

O’Sullivan has competed in five events since April’s World Championship, notably winning the Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions, while also finishing runner-up in the Northern Ireland Open.

He has already racked up more than £350,000 in prize money this term, but ‘The Rocket’ insists a fairer system is more important than an increase in prize money.

He offered: “It’s not even about money, it’s about playing and logistics.

“It’s like asking Roger Federer before Wimbledon to go over to Richmond Park and qualify in front of a few people.

“There’s a few simple things that can be done to eradicate that and make it fairer on the top players so they’re not dashing from one venue to another because you really want to play in every event.

“I don’t want a breakaway tour, I just want a platform to play. I love to play but I want to feel like if I’m on a tour, that I can compete and try to get to number one without having to chase around every event because you get burn out – I got it last year.

“I know eventually I’m going to struggle to make the quality tournaments because I’m not prepared to go to from tournament to tournament to try and chase a few ranking points.

“I like to practice, get ready and play in front of a crowd, so I don’t ever want to stop that but I can’t see myself lasting or doing myself justice on this tour if I pick and choose and play the schedule because there’ll be someone who plays 30 events and he’s going to make it into top 16 and I’m going to be sitting there thinking ‘I’m better than him’.

A winner of 33 ranking titles in a career spanning more than 25 years, O’Sullivan insists he is not ready to retire and is prepared to take matters into his own hands unless immediate changes to the tour structure are made.

“I don’t want to retire – I love playing,” he added.

“Steve [Davis] chose to retire because he’d had enough, I haven’t had enough, I still like to compete so wherever that is, it doesn’t really matter.

“I’m no entrepreneur, I’m a snooker player, but if tweaks don’t happen, I’m not going to sit here and not do myself justice on the tour.

“Changes should happen soon, talk is cheap, let’s see some action.”