A defiant Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he is no longer prepared to be “bullied or intimidated” by snooker’s governing body after being landed with a series of warnings in recent months.
The five-time World Champion had been left outraged by a letter he received from the sport’s disciplinary committee in February regarding his conduct and has since chosen to swerve snooker-related questions in media duties.
O’Sullivan had been fined for criticising the standard of refereeing during January’s Masters, as well as for his behavior towards a photographer, but feels the insensitive handling of the case has affected his performances in subsequent tournaments.
The Rocket, who is in the midst of his 25th World Championship campaign, has defended his decision to avoid discussing snooker in fear of further action being taken against him.
“I’m not prepared to put myself in a position where I’m in breach of the game,” said O’Sullivan. “If I say something bad about the players, ref or venue, I’m accused of tarnishing the sport.
“I’ve given 25 years of service to this game and I think I’ve given enough and done my bit, so I’m not putting up with anyone who thinks they can threaten or bully me.
“I could go and do Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity and could have a great life doing other stuff. I play snooker for love but I’m not going to do it and have people intimidating me.
“I’m equipped to deal with anything they throw at me because I’m not living my life like that.”
O’Sullivan has begun a legal dispute against snooker’s governing body and admits had it not been the involvement of his lawyers, he would be tempted to call time on his illustrious career.
“I phoned Barry [Hearn] up four weeks ago and told him I was done with him and his board of people,” he added. “I’m letting my lawyers sort it all out and not getting involved because I’m not being bullied or intimidated ever again.
“It just ruined me for the next three or four tournaments, which was disappointing because I’d put a lot of work in.
“I’m done with having to fight this off for five or six years – they’ve pushed me too far and, if I didn’t have good lawyers to deal with it, I’d probably walk away because I’m too old to be dealing with things like that.”
O’Sullivan began his latest Betfred World Championship campaign with a 10-7 victory over debutant qualifier Gary Wilson on Sunday and hopes he can put his off-table dispute to one side as he bids to claim the sport’s most prestigious silverware once more.
He added: “Hopefully, they can relax and stop being so precious, but I’m not prepared to put myself in that situation anymore. It’s not fair on my fans because I don’t want to play with disciplinary hearings all the time.
“The language can be quite threatening in these letters, which is quite unsettling because I’m a happy guy.
“I’ve had the best year of my life – playing snooker, doing exhibitions, doing the American Hustle, writing the book and doing my work with Eurosport – I’ve never been happier.
“I play snooker because I love it, but I need to be in peak condition and my brain needs to be focused 100% in a good frame of mind.
“I owe to my fans to do a good job, but I want to just go out there, enjoy my game and not have something lingering in the background.”