John Higgins has blasted Ronnie O’Sullivan’s comments over discouraging children to take up snooker as “dreadful” and “a disgrace”.
O’Sullivan sparked debate across the sport on Wednesday after highlighting the difficulties lower-ranked players face, particularly with regards to zero prize money for First Round losers in events with a 128-player field.
The six-time World Champion admitted he would not recommended young children to pursue a career in snooker, adding that he would “prefer them to play golf, football or tennis”.
“I’ll be honest with you, if I had a son I would not let him play snooker so maybe it is a good thing there isn’t the opportunity for him to play snooker,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport after his Second Round win at the Scottish Open.
“I’d rather he played golf, football, tennis. I’d rather he played curling, I’m only joking! Personally if I had a child I would not want him to play snooker, I really wouldn’t.
“Maybe 20-25 years ago it was a sexy sport but it has kind of fallen behind to other sports, somewhat.
“If you have a child you’d want them to get into a sport like Emma Raducanu, she’s doing fantastic. You look at the golfers like Rory McIlroy and the footballers, it’s just lovely sports to be in.
“It’s just timing I suppose. Maybe in another 25-30 years snooker might be back on top but at the moment I’d be like, “go and get a job mate.” Forget playing snooker. That’s my honest opinion.
“I’m not talking about the winners. I’m talking about the guys that are ranked 60, 70 in the world that are struggling. It’s not good for them.
“If you compared the 125th golfer and what he earns and the 125th snooker player then he’d make a million dollars on the golf tour. You can afford to miss a few cuts because you can make enough money to offset the losses you might make.
“One way you could maybe remedy it is at least give the first round losers their expenses. A lot of these guys have not got the money. It’s unfair.
“Take it off the top. Winners don’t really need that extra money, give it to the first round losers so at least it doesn’t cost them anything. Then you can call it a job.”
O’Sullivan believes expenses should be covered for First Round losers, something Higgins agrees with, but the Scot reacted angrily his rival’s other claims.
Asked about the situation with prize money for First Round losers, Higgins told Eurosport, “I agree”, but added: “I heard Ronnie, which I thought it was a disgrace what he was saying, that he’d be saying to young kids, “don’t play snooker.”
“I thought that was dreadful for someone as good as that to sit there and say that.
“I was thinking to myself, if my dad had heard Jimmy White or Steve Davis saying, “don’t let your kids get into it” and I was wanting to play snooker, he’d say, “nah, Steve Davis said you shouldn’t be playing snooker now so I’m not giving you the money to go down and practice.”
“I think it was terrible of Ronnie saying that, he should know better.
“But he was right what he was saying about first round prize money, I agree with that if you’re a professional.
“I don’t think the top players would miss it off the winning cheque. Judd beat me in the Champion of Champions, won £150,000, if you’d have maybe took £20,000 off Judd he wouldn’t miss that and that would help fund the youngsters.”
O’Sullivan will face Jamie Jones in the Third Round of the Scottish Open in Llandudno on Thursday, while Higgins meets Ryan Day.
The two ‘Class of 92’ rivals are situated in the bottom half of the draw and are on a collision course to clash in the Semi-Finals.
Higgins has won both of their meetings this season – in the Semi-Finals of the English Open and the Quarter-Finals of the Champion of Champions.