Following Ronnie’s emotional press conference the media soap continued in full force producing foam and froth … I’m sure to the delight of most editors!
So, where do we stand now?
This article by Hector Nunns somehow summarises the situation:
The Rocket accused Hearn and the sport’s governing bodies of “bullying” and “intimidation” following his 10-7 win over Gary Wilson at the World Championships in Sheffield on Sunday night.
O’Sullivan’s astonishing outburst stemmed from a letter he received after the Masters warning of possible disciplinary action for fiercely criticising referee Terry Camilleri and swearing at a photographer.
No action was taken but O’Sullivan sees himself as the victim of unfair treatment for his comments in recent years and warned he may contact the lawyers of artist pal Damien Hirst.
Now Hearn has hit back threatening legal action of his own.
He said: “I personally take any accusation of bullying and intimidation by me or World Snooker very seriously.
“Unfounded accusations such as these are damaging to World Snooker’s global reputation, as well as my own.
“And we will take whatever action is required to protect this reputation from such inaccurate comments.
“I hope all parties can move on from this position and concentrate on the brilliant entertainment provided by players at the Betfred World Championship.
“Neither World Snooker nor myself have received any communication from Ronnie O’Sullivan’s lawyers in regard to his responsibilities or concerns in relation to his signed players’ contract.”
Snooker’s governing body, the WPBSA, says it will take no action over O’Sullivan’s latest blast.
But WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson added: “In terms of bullying and intimidation – we don’t accept that at all.
“I’m more than happy to sit down with Ronnie and discuss the issues.”
Speaking after yesterday 10-5 first round win over Peter Ebdon at the Crucible former world champion Stuart Bingham said: “You hear there are no characters in the game but we feel we are doing interviews like this with tape over our mouth.”
Bold was added by me.
So in short:
- Ronnie opened up about his feelings, saying he felt bullied by the way the authorities reacted to some of the things he said, whilst admitting at the same time that what he says isn’t always right.
- Barry Hearn issued a statement, refuting what Ronnie claimed and hinting at the fact that he might take legal action.
- Jason Ferguson, who is actually in charge of WPBSA, the body that deals with disciplinary matters, said that Ronnie’s comments were not acceptable, but that no action will be taken and offered to discuss the situation with Ronnie.
- Stuart Bingham, in his own press conference, strongly hinted that in fact he sympathises with Ronnie, insofar he feels that the players are constantly under threat to be punished should they speak openly to the press whilst at the same time there are ongoing complaints that they should show more “character”.
Now, for those who have the patience, here is my analysis of the various elements of this soap…
Justified or not, Ronnie’s feelings are genuine and have been bothering him for months. This is something I know first hand. He chose to speak out, and maybe this might help him focus on his snooker, now that he has it out of his system.
Are those feelings justified?
Well, I believe they are at least to an extend. Clearly Stuart Bingham also feels that the players are being excessively controlled and threatened with fines when talking openly to the press. We live in an era where “politically correctness” seems to rule the way we interact with each others. Personally I don’t think this is healthy at all and maybe there is food for thoughts here for the people in charge of the sport, of any sport. We, every one of us, as persons, are imperfect. We fail, we do and say things we shouldn’t. It happens, often enough, and it’s part of being human. I find it very hard to relate to “perfect people”. I can’t believe that they are genuine, honest, real. As hard as we try, none of us can be that way in real life, always “perfect”, always nice, always controlled. If you look at the sportsmen/women who endeared the fans most, they aren’t the perfect guys. They are the Alex Higgins, the George Best, the Jimmy White, the Paul Gascoigne. Some of those would be nightmares in real life if they were close to you, but people can relate to their imperfections, whilst they can’t relate to the perfect images they know can’t be genuine. So maybe indeed, the authorities, and not just in snooker, should be a bit more relaxed about the occasional slip of the tongue or ill-timed reaction in the heat of a moment.
Another aspect is touched in this post by Snookerbacker, who has never been shy in criticising players, including Ronnie, and authorities:
here is an excerpt:
Having had time to reflect and watch it again in the cold light of day away from the Crucible bubble I’d say a couple of things to Ronnie. Firstly, if that’s how you feel then that’s absolutely fine with me, I just wish you’d have said all this earlier before all the one word nonsense and singing, but that wouldn’t have generated headlines at the biggest event of the lot would it? His point about giving enough to the sport over 25 years is of course 100% correct, whether meaning to or not, nobody has created more column inches for snooker since Alex Higgins and for that snooker and in particular Barry Hearn owe him a debt of gratitude, but not a license to behave however he likes.
I’d also make a further point that I have seen one of the letters he refers to, not his, but one to another player and I have indeed (quite deservedly by the way) in the past been sent one and I would agree that the language is threatening in tone, perhaps in my view excessively so, but wholly legal. However, if someone is very sensitive to such things, which Ronnie professes to be, it could quite easily cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
However this leads me on to my final point. It’s only snooker. At this event in particular you could be forgiven for thinking that the world has stopped and that we are the new focus of it. I haven’t watched the news for a few days which I have to say has made me feel a lot happier, but in the great scheme of things we are just a group of people watching skilled sportsmen knocking balls around with a stick, this isn’t The People versus OJ Simpson. This is an arguably over-bearing world governing body being perceived to be bullying their best asset. That’s all.
I don’t alway agree with SB, but I totally second this.
I’m also glad that Jason Ferguson took the stance he took. Jason is a man I respect greatly. He’s a former player, he knows what it is like to be in the players position. He loves his sport and wants the best for all involved. And he’s open and understanding to human frailties. I hope that Ronnie takes his offer to discuss the issues with him, not as an “authority”, but as a person. There is only good that can come out of it, for both sides.
And finally, here is Barry Hearn statement:
Statement from Barry Hearn, Chairman of World Snooker
In view of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s comments yesterday regarding ‘bullying and intimidation’ by Barry Hearn and World Snooker, I find it necessary to respond as follows:
All players have contracts with World Snooker Limited by way of a players’ contract which was written in conjunction with WPBSA and agreed with the players’ governing body. This sets out the obligations of the players and applies to all participants on the World Snooker Tour. There are no exceptions. Ronnie O’Sullivan has signed this contract and is therefore eligible to play in any World Snooker events as he wishes.
World Snooker owns the worldwide commercial rights for professional snooker. WPBSA is the governing body and represents the professional players on the World Snooker Tour. The WPBSA is exclusively responsible for all disciplinary matters pertaining to snooker, its players and their responsibilities outlined in the players’ contract. Neither World Snooker nor myself have any involvement whatsoever in disciplinary matters.
Neither World Snooker nor myself have received any communication from Ronnie O’Sullivan’s lawyers in regard to his responsibilities or concerns in relation to his signed players’ contract.
I personally take any accusation of ‘bullying and intimidation’ by me or World Snooker very seriously. Unfounded accusations such as these are damaging to World Snooker’s global reputation, as well as my own, and we will take whatever action is required to protect this reputation from such inaccurate comments. I hope all parties can move on from this position and concentrate on the brilliant entertainment provided by players at the Betfred World Championship.
I will just add this comment: basically what Hearn says there is “You are barking at the wrong tree, me and WS have nothing to do with disciplinary matters and we haven’t heard from your lawyers”. Isn’t that a bit hypocrite? Just a bit? Because everyone since years is used to say “World Snooker”, as Ronnie did in his presser, when indeed we should say “WPBSA” if we were being accurate, but it’s been that way for years, it’s a legacy of the past history of the game. So, this for me, is a “non answer”, a denial of an issue that is real and needs solving for the sake of the sport AND the human persons involved, a denial coupled with threats. Me, I wouldn’t be proud of this … well I wouldn’t do this in the first place, not this way.
Players are the game biggest asset, it takes years of hard work and dedication, countless hours of practice, sweat and tears to become of good snooker player, not even mentioning to become a great in the sport. Maybe, sometimes, it should be acknowledged: they are not just disposable items in a commercial game of power.
Update (Tuesday 18 April 19h15)
Now John Higgins has expressed his sympathy with Ronnie as well and raised another point, the players contract. It’s been reported by various media, here is an excerpt of an article by SportingLife
Four-time champion Higgins addressed the issue after booking his own place in the second round with a 10-6 victory over Martin Gould.
“I have a degree of sympathy for him,” he told BBC Radio Five Live.
“If I am led to believe what I have heard about how he was reprimanded, it is out of order.
“He has a lot to take on his shoulders in this sport because he is the biggest name – along with Ding (Junhui), the biggest name in the Far East.
“The game would be a lot poorer without him.”
In a television interview with BBC Two, Higgins elaborated on the subject of player contracts and the requirements placed on them.
“There are things in the players’ contracts that are too severe but the only way we can change that is if all the top players got together and stood together, tried to get things taken out,” he said.
“But I don’t think every top player is going to stand together.”
And that’s unfortunately very true. Too many players seem to think that they have just to accept whatever Barry Hearn decides to come up with. But he can’t do anything without them and, if they were united, they would have the power to make their voice and concerns heard and taken into account… IF …