Ronnie takes on twitter about match fixing

Yesterday evening Ronnie was in Peterborough to speak about his sporting life. Apparently it was another brilliant night. Not much filtered about that – for now – but before the show he took on twitter to express his views about the recent cases of possible match fixing.

This is the report on that by the BBC

Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘not sure punishing players’ is answer to match-fixing

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the world title five times

Former world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan says snooker’s governing body should look at the reasons for match-fixing instead of sanctioning players.

It comes after three players were suspended by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) over match-fixing allegations.

O’Sullivan posted on social media: “The real question should be why do the players feel the need to do this?

“I’m not sure punishing the players is the answer.”

The latest players to be suspended by the WPBSA are former Welsh professional David John, along with Chinese pair Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng.

Matches involving the trio were investigated and they were found to have a case to answer.

They have been suspended until the outcome of formal hearings, which will take place at a venue and date to be confirmed.

All three players have the right to appeal against the decision.

“In terms of integrity, our governing body the WPBSA is setting an example to many other sports when it comes to detecting corruption, stamping it out and providing an appropriate deterrent to the players,” said a World Snooker spokesperson.

‘A players’ union is the only way forward’

Earlier this month, World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said prize money would be increasing across the board and insisted that “we are seeing the prize money going deeper into the 128 pros”.

However, English five-time world champion O’Sullivan highlighted the expenses for players involved on the snooker circuit as an issue, saying they “kill the players ranked outside the top 16”.

“Maybe decrease the amount of small events and make the events you do have price-effective for everyone,” added the 42-year-old.

“Have more players if you like, but don’t put the players in a position where to make a living becomes unsustainable.

“Everyone eating is always a good thing in my book.”

O’Sullivan said he was “talking about why some players feel the need to fix matches”, adding: “Once you find out why, you can then try to make positive changes to stop it happening.

“Whatever you do, no player on the main tour should end the season minus £30,000, and, trust me, there are a high percentage that are.

“A players’ union is the only way forward. Players stick together and changes will happen, no players no game.

“Some players will stick but I know others who can be picked off. Divide and rule never works for the long term benefit of the all players.”

‘The majority of players are earning good money’

World Snooker, however, insisted prize money had “increased dramatically in recent years”.

“Last season 13 tour players earned over £300,000, 34 earned over £100,000 and 61 earned over £50,000,” said a spokesperson.

“Even taking into account expenses, the majority of players are earning good money.

“We have made huge progress over the past decade and we are committed to continuing this trend which will provide more earning opportunities for the players.”

Here is the full thread is it appeared on my own twitter timeline

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The last two quotes are not by Ronnie. The last one is my reaction to the suggestion to lower the costs for the players by making the tour even more UK centric. This is typical and common amongst Brit fans, and players, who rarely think about what this implies for non UK players. To be fair to Ronnie he retweeted that post

Before coming back to the ones by Snookerbacker and Alex, I’d like to express a few thoughts. Worldsnooker of course will claim that most players earn good money. First I’m not sure if the amounts they cite are before taxes and the levy themselves take on the players earning, but I suppose they are based on the 2017/18 one year list . Well based on that – data published on the Worldsnooker website – 106 players, out of 166 in the list earned no more than £4000 per month, which when you take out taxes, the levy, the travel and accommodations expenses, and probably also additional insurances (medical and others) because those guys are self-employed, isn’t much at al, especially if you have a family. Of course, that list doesn’t take into account money earned in invitational events, but that money goes out mainly to the top players anyway. It also doesn’t take into account things like high break bonuses but, frankly, I doubt it makes a difference to the core discussion. Also there are a number amateurs towards the bottom of the list, but, still, more than half of the pros are definitely struggling badly. Note also that both Cao Yupeng and Yu Delu earned decent money in 2017/18, but then the matches under investigation were played in previous season.

I’m not sure however if poverty is the main factor motivating match fixing, although it definitely could be in some cases. That’s where the posts by Snookerbacker and Alex come into play. They suggested that, in the case of a number of Asian players at least, they are dictated their conduct by a kind of gambling/betting mafia and act under duress. If that is true, then, clearly, punishing the players is both unfair and useless. Players will be banned and new players will be threatened, that’s all that will happen. And to be honest, I don’t know what Worlsnooker can do, except working with the local authorities in Asia to fight those mafias. I’m not sure that’s a very realistic option anyway.

If you believe that this is fantasy, allow me to remind you that James Wattana, in 1999, reported that he was threatened to be shot if he refused to lose a match. You can still read the report on that by BCC here

Also, in 2013, two Thai players, Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon and Passakorn Suwannawat, were under investigation for match fixing when their flat was set to fire. It was definitely arson. Again you can find a report by the British press here.

And here is what David Hendon had to write about it on the then Snooker Scene blog

9.8.13

THAIS AND LOWS

I was in Bangkok for the 1999 Thailand Masters when James Wattana was issued with a death threat. Wattana was told if he didn’t lose his match, he would be shot.

The amiable Thai legend quipped afterwards, “thank God they didn’t say I had to win.”

I’d like to claim I was all over the story but the fact is myself and the two other British journalists present had gone out for a drink between sessions and missed the whole thing, including Wattana’s press conference.

Thailand, great country though it is, has not been short of shady characters getting involved in snooker, particularly from the gambling community. Wattana’s own father was shot dead the day James made his 147 at the 1992 British Open.

This week, betting was suspended on matches featuring Thai players Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon and Passakorn Suwannawat at the Shanghai Masters qualifiers in Doncaster. Both players subsequently lost.

World Snooker were informed of the unusual betting patterns the previous evening and switched one of the matches to be live streamed, with the game recorded for later scrutiny.

Media outlets who ignore snooker for most of the year gleefully reported the latest match fixing allegations levelled against the sport.

An investigation is underway. Experience suggests it may not be straightforward getting information from Asia. A similar investigation into a match involving a Thai player last season was dropped.

Unlike Stephen Lee, the players in question have not been suspended, which will strike many as inconsistent.

Time will tell what evidence is provided but it seems to me the onus should be on the Thailand snooker fraternity to ensure such practices, if proven, are stamped out.

If World Snooker tells them that no new tour places will be offered to Thai players in the future if any further matches are played in suspicious circumstances then that might be a start.

Snooker is involved in a dance with the devil when it comes to gambling: it relies on the industry for a large slice of its sponsorship yet the huge number of betting markets available represents a temptation for some and opportunity for others to cheat.

Most of the fixing over the years has been in low level matches – qualifiers or small tournaments – where in many cases one wonders why odds are being offered at all.

In cases where players have cheated it is usually because they have been put up to it by ‘associates’ who flit around the sport like flies around the proverbial, unregulated and unlicensed, usually bleeding the players dry financially.

It’s a shabby, distasteful side to the game, by no means unique to snooker but one which doesn’t seem to have gone away despite increased threats of punishment.

The saddest thing is that it casts a veil of suspicion over the majority of players who compete fairly and properly and who are, in their propriety, a credit to the sport.

Things have not improved, if anything Snooker is ever more reliant on the betting industry now than five years ago. It’s an unhealthy situation.

As for the evening, I wrote than not much transpired, and indeed that’s the case but maybe this article, by the mirror is revealing some of what was said. A lot of it is old news, in particular the things about drugs and drinks are mentioned at lengths in Ronnie’s bios, and “Double Kiss” was published some time ago, it’s the paperback version that came out recently. The main message though is that he’s happy within himself, happy to become a grand-father, and, maybe considering a fourth child himself, and marriage…  and that’s all great.

Mansfield – 25.05.2018

Manfield25May2018

Ronnie was in Mansfield yesterday evening, with Willie Thorne as a host and Brendan Moore as the referee on duty. Also there were my good friends, snooker and pool players Deb Burchell  and Rachel Tucker. Going by reactions on twitter it was a great night, and here is Deb’s account on Facebook:

It was great.. slow start from the rocket.. once settled in.. got a century in about frame 2 or 3. then in frame 6 went for a 147… but missed a red at about 80 points. Guy at the end nearly beat ronnie.. was a pink battle. Ronnie played safe and the guy left him on. Great night though. Hugs xx

Here are a few images thanks to Deb and Jason Francis

as well as those two short videos shared on Facebook (live) by Jason

Causes for concern?

Today saw the conclusion of the Q-School event 2. After two events out of three, eight players have earned a two years professional card: Jak Jones, Sam Baird, Hammad Miah, Sam Craigie, Jordan Brown, Craig Steadman, Lu Ning and Zao Xintong. All of them have been professionals before and six of the eight competed as pros during the 2017/18 season. This means that, for now at least, the Q-School hasn’t produced a “new” pro.

I find this a bit worrying because what it means is that currently the gap between the guys who were not quite good enough to stay on tour and the amateurs who have never been pros is significantly big, and I feel it’s growing because of the current state of the amateur game. That’s why the Challenge Tour will be so important: hopefully it will provide the amateurs who aspire to become pros with the quality opposition and the competitive environment they need to be able to succeed as pros.

This is how things stand for now regarding who will be able to play in the Challenge Tour (source snooker.org)  The top 64 amongst the ones who played in the Q-School but didn’t qualify for the Main tour are eligible for the Challenge Tour and it has been confirmed on twitter today that if some of them don’t enter an event, the ones further down the list will be offered the chance.

Other than the Q-School successful there will be a number of “nominations” of course. Over the recent years, nominees from certain regions – from most regions actually – have got very little success as pros, some even not winning a single match over a full season. I feel that this system isn’t right nor fair. I understand that this is part of the efforts to make the game more global but what good does it do when the nominees have next to no chance because they don’t have the required level, mainly because they never had the chance to compete against the type of opposition and under the conditions they find on the main tour? It must be very dispiriting for those players and doesn’t enhance the “global image” of snooker. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved to offer those players a full season of scholarship on the Challenge Tour before throwing them in the bear pit that is the Main Tour? Just an idea…

On an other sorry subject, World Snooker has today published two statements regarding players having a case to answer regarding possible match fixing and breach of betting rules. And, for what I understood, more investigations are underway.

http://www.worldsnooker.com/wpbsa-statement-cao-yupeng-and-yu-delu/

http://www.worldsnooker.com/wpbsa-statement-david-john/

I don’t want to prejudge conclusions, but it looks very bad, in particular where Yu Delu is concerned.

In my opinion those are the things that really damage the sport, not the occasional outspoken outburst, breach of etiquette or swearing by players caught in the heat of the moment or the bitter disappointment of a defeat. Also I feel that the (too?) close relationship between WS and the betting industry isn’t helping. During the World Championship I received mails from Worldsnooker inviting me to bet and being possibly rewarded with tickets to the Crucible. At some events, players, I have heard, get goodie bags with “free” betting slips in them; of course they are not supposed to use them on snooker. There are also events like the Shoot-out or the Championship League Snooker that are tailor-made for betting. The Shootout is largely unpredictable and the Championship League has a format that doesn’t necessary motivate players to win at all cost – they might earn more money by losing at the right stage and getting to the next group. Moreover the Championship League  is only streamed on betting sites too. For me that’s not a very “healthy” situation.

The Importance of being Fit …

By Worldsnooker http://www.worldsnooker.com/fit-for-the-table/

Snooker players may not need the same level of physical fitness as footballers or marathon runners, but as the global circuit grows, so does the importance of keeping healthy.

The World Snooker Tour now incorporates nearly 30 tournaments around the globe. Players are busier than ever, often competing in events for seven or eight weeks in a row before they can take a break.

The notion of “burn-out” – unthinkable ten years ago when there were no more than eight tournaments in a season – is now commonly mentioned. Several players have suffered from physical injuries, particularly to the lower back and neck, partly as a result of the demands placed on their bodies by regular playing, practising and travel.

We spoke to a range of experts to find out how improved fitness, flexibility and nutrition can help any snooker player maintain a healthy body.

Taylor Wilson knows, better than most, the ways in which physical conditioning can benefit a snooker player’s career. A fully qualified personal trainer, he is also the younger brother of world number nine Kyren Wilson, a quarter-finalist at the Crucible in 2016 and 2017 and a semi-finalist this year.

“I have worked with Kyren for a while, he has become fitter, stronger and lost over a stone in weight,” said 22-year-old Taylor. “That has helped him become more consistent and it prepares him for the long matches, especially at the Crucible. I look at him like a Formula One car – if he wants to perform, he has to look after his body and make sure it gets the right treatment and fuel.”

Taylor believes that physical fitness and flexibility are the two key elements. “When I meet someone for the first time I’ll start off with a functional movement screen which tests mobility,” he said. “Then I’ll do a fitness test which might be sixty seconds of non-stop press ups or squats. It’s important to find out a person’s limitations to start with and build gradually into the correct program, because everyone is different. If you start off with a tough gym program you might quickly get muscle injuries. The body has to prepare in phases.

“When I started working with Kyren I got him to stand straight against the wall, and then slide his arms up. It was clear that he had an issue with shoulder mobility so we designed exercises to help that. With another player it might be tight hamstrings, strain on the neck or lower back, or core stability weakness – it’s always a question of hitting the reset button and deciding how to move forward.

“Kyren plays football twice a week so that’s his cardio sessions covered. With anyone I’d encourage a combination of cardio work with mobility exercises.”

Michael Holt, who reached the last 16 at the Crucible two years ago, qualified as a fitness instructor in 2002, partly to give himself back-up in case his snooker career didn’t work out, and partly to help fulfil his own potential on the green baize. “I have learned a lot about it over the years,” said the 2016 Riga Masters finalist. “There are lots of different ways of training and getting fit, but in all of them you have to get outside your comfort zone. Whether it’s weights, running, calisthenics or whatever a person prefers, it’s going to hurt, but in the end you will feel the rewards.

“I lift weights because that’s what I enjoy. That might entail an hour a day of resistance training. It is cardiovascular so it exercises your heart and lungs, and it helps the way I look and feel. My wife Amy is into the same kind of thing which helps – in fact she was training four days before she gave birth!

“I have tried running and done a couple of half marathons, but I didn’t enjoy it. It’s all about personal preference. But I believe that being in good shape will help anyone and give them more confidence in everything they do. The best player in the world is Ronnie O’Sullivan and he’s also one of the fittest – that’s not coincidence.”

Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Mark Williams and Stuart Bingham are among those to have suffered from neck and back pain in recent years while in the past the likes of Chris Small, Martin Clark and Ian McCulloch have been forced into early retirement by issues relating to the spine and neck.

Orlaith Buckley is Consultant Physiotherapist to European Senior Tour golf, a sport where players experience similar injuries. “If a snooker player has back or neck pain, they should first assess their training and technique,” she said. “If they have a considerable increase in hours spent practising or playing, then it may be they are fatigued or not fit enough to endure that volume of training. Discomfort is the body’s way of telling us to move or change position. Modifying practice into blocks of time, with breaks in between, may be all it takes to resolve the issue.

“Getting stronger in the off-season will also help with endurance. Being fit for purpose allows the snooker player to perform for longer and keep their focus on the game. Any player will benefit from an assessment and a suitable training program.  The program could be improved flexibility for one, and more strengthening for another. An individual program is always a benefit.”

You are what you eat

Eating nutritious food and avoiding excess drinking, smoking and sugary snacks are, of course, crucial elements of staying healthy. As Holt put it: “Nutrition is so important because if you don’t eat well, you won’t get the benefits of the training you are doing. I generally cook my own food and I know how to follow a balanced diet. It’s not always easy when we travel to tournaments, but you’ve still often got a choice between something like burger and chips or chicken and rice, so it’s about making the right choices in those moments.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan produced arguably the best form of his career last season at the age of 42, winning five ranking titles. As well as regular running and gym sessions, he works with renowned nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert on making sure his diet helps him to perform effectively at tournaments.

Lambert said: “Snooker requires a lot of concentration. When you don’t eat enough nutrient-rich foods, your body may lack essential vitamins and minerals thus having a negative effect on your energy, mood and brain function. I believe nutrition is important in every aspect of life, including sport. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can have a positive impact on your mood and sense of wellbeing.”

The Crucible in particular places demands on a player’s stamina and energy as he can be on his feet in the arena for up to ten hours in a day.

“Pre and post-match fuel is crucial to the body’s physical performance,” Lambert added. “Without the right fuel, you are less likely to get the most out of your exercise regime. Pre-match food should ideally include some sort of complex carbohydrate that will provide the body with slow releasing energy to keep your stamina high. Something like baked sweet potato with homemade beans and mixed salad, or porridge cooked in milk topped with nuts and berries.”

Have cue, will travel

A successful player on the pro tour might spend 150 days a year away from home, including at least half a dozen long haul flights overseas. This presents the challenge of maintaining a fitness and diet regime which might be easy to follow at home, but less so in foreign locations or while travelling.

But Wilson insists where there’s a will, there’s a way. “The hotel you are in might not have a gym, but that doesn’t stop you going for a jog or doing some shoulder rolls,” he said. “Exercise helps the mind as well because it takes a player’s mind off his next match, in a location where boredom might be an issue.

“In terms of travel, on long haul flights I recommend regular walking and stretching on the plane to keep the circulation flowing. And stay as hydrated as possible by drinking a lot of water.”

Buckley concurred: “If you eat well, stay hydrated and sleep well, you give yourself the best chance to perform. Fatigue has an effect on both mental and physical fitness, so training good habits around travel is vital.”

And Lambert insists that being away from home should not be an excuse to submit to junk food. “When you’re on the go and don’t have food prepared, it is up to you to make smart food choices,” she said. “Opting for foods that include essential fats, protein, complex carbs and a good amount of fruit and vegetables is a great place to start. For long days of travel, I would recommend building a lunch box with things like wholegrain avocado and chicken sandwiches, packs of hummus and vegetable sticks and fruit and yoghurt.”

Jet-lag can also be a factor, as it affects performance. World Champion Mark Selby has had plenty of success in the Far East in recent years, winning three ranking events in China within the past 14 months. He stresses the importance of travelling well in advance of the start of the tournament in order to give the body time to acclimatise.

“I usually fly to Hong Kong four or five days before a tournament in China starts,” said Selby. “I feel that gives me an advantage because the jet lag always affects you for the first two or three days, so you don’t want that problem while you are playing.”

So snooker players of all levels, follow the advice above and you’ll soon start seeing better results – on and off the table.

Thanks to:
– Orlaith Buckley (follow @ylmsportscience)
– Taylor Wilson (New Evolution Personal Training – see http://www.newevolutionpt.co.uk)
– Rhiannon Lambert (See http://www.Rhitrition.com and follow @Rhitrition. RE-NOURISH: A Simple Way to Eat Well by Rhiannon Lambert is available now from Amazon for £18.99)

Ten years ago, when Ronnie was getting up for a run as early as 5 am on the morning of the 2008 World Final, most people were thinking that he’s a weirdo. Now most young players are into fitness in a way or another. Now, Ronnie is actively promoting a healthier way of eating without promoting restrictive diets and I’m sure the message is spreading as well.

Vegan Power?

Not really although Ronnie was thinking about Neil Robertson whilst cooking this one.

Ronnie and Rhiannon were at it again today on social media, cooking one of the receipts that will feature in their book to come “Top of your game”. So for those who aren’t on FB here it is … with some interesting bits of conversation.

2018/19 Provisional Calendar

Worldsnooker has issued the provisional calendar for the 2018/19 season.

Find it here

Note that there are a few new venues for the main tour events, that the Tour Championship is now on and that the Challenge tour ten events are duly scheduled.  The Hong Kong Masters and the Romanian Masters have gone. The Hong Kong Masters was a huge success so this is a bit disappointing, but on the other hand it was part of the festivities around the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong and China reunification, which obviously was one-off event.

Regarding venues, moving tournaments around of course allow for new audiences getting access to live snooker, but, on the other hand, having a “dedicated” venue with history contributes to the tournaments identity. What’s your view?

Things that matter in Ronnie’s life …

This little interview brings nothing really new but is refreshing: for once there is no negativity, nor reminders of past mistakes…

Ronnie O’Sullivan: 5 things I can’t live without (source: the Express)

FIVE times world champion snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, 42, lives in Essex with his partner, actress Laila Rouass, 46

DIET GURU: Ronnie now cooks

GETTY

DIET GURU: Ronnie now cooks

1. SOHO

When I was growing up I spent a lot of time hanging around the snooker halls of Soho with my dad.

It has always been a magical place for me and one of the things I love about Soho is that although it is bursting with wonderful bars and restaurants, there is always somewhere new to discover.

My clubbing days might be behind me now but I still enjoy regular nights out in the West End.Laila and I belong to the private members’ club Soho House and it’s such a relaxing place to spend time.

2. SNOOKER

I guess I wouldn’t be living the life I have now without snooker and although it has become more of a job than a pleasure, it obviously plays a central part in my life.

As a child I always had strong hand-eye coordination and I was naturally good at tennis and golf. The first time I played snooker I was eight. I had talent but didn’t begin competing until I was 15.

As a youngster I was mesmerised by the game and spent all my spare time down at the snooker club. Back then Steve Davis was my absolute hero and I lived and breathed snooker.

However these days I prefer a bit of balance and I like to have other pleasures in my life too.

3. COOKING

I used to be someone who paid absolutely no attention to my diet and I just ate whenever and whatever.

Then a few years ago I started to put on weight and after realising how much it was getting me down, a good friend offered to teach me to cook.

Each week he would pop round and show me how to make a new dish. To my surprise, I started to really enjoy cooking and to think more carefully about my diet.

Now I regularly visit a nutritionist and I am all about meal plans and healthy snacks. I honestly can’t believe how much better I feel.

4. TAILORED SUIT

When it comes to clothes, I’ve always been a bit of a slob as fashion isn’t something that has ever interested me much.

I am happiest in jeans and a T-shirt and I’ve never really seen the point of spending a lot of money on my wardrobe.

Until recently I always bought all my shirts and suits off the peg but for my birthday, a friend insisted on treating me to a tailored suit. I think he thought I needed to smarten up for television and he probably had a point.

However now that I’ve worn my suit, I have to admit I’m sold. It looks and feels so good that I might even splash out on some designer shirts.

 

‘Running is something I have grown to love’ says Ronnie O’Sullivan

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‘Running is something I have grown to love’ says Ronnie O’Sullivan

5. RUNNING

About 15 years ago a really good friend of mine persuaded me to join him for a run and it was a life-changing moment for me.

As someone who had never paid much attention to my fitness, I unexpectedly caught the running bug and soon I was racking up 40 miles a week.

Running is something I have grown to love as it doesn’t just help me to manage my weight and boost my energy levels, it always leaves me feeling incredibly fit and relaxed too.

_________________________

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s new novel Double Kiss (£7.99, Macmillan) is out now in paperback