This is the full interview that started it all
Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘ready to go’ with breakaway snooker tour
‘You don’t see Leyton Orient playing Barcelona’: Ronnie O’Sullivan threatens to start breakaway snooker tour over number of events
- Ronnie O’Sullivan is ready to form a breakaway ‘Champions League-style’ tour
- He is unhappy with the number of events on the calendar and travelling required
- Five-time world champion wants to get the world’s best players to join him
Ronnie O’Sullivan threatened to start a breakaway snooker tour after keeping his bid for a record seventh UK Championship title alive on Sunday.
The Rocket edged past Irish veteran Ken Doherty 6-5 to reach the third round at York’s Barbican Centre. But five-time world champion O’Sullivan, 42, then urged fellow ‘Class of 1992’ member John Higgins to join him in creating a separate Champions League of snooker.
A dejected Higgins, 43, claimed that he was close to retirement and lacking form and motivation after losing to Alan McManus on Saturday night.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has threatened to start a breakaway ‘Champions League-style’ snooker tour
World No 4 O’Sullivan has been fiercely critical of World Snooker in recent weeks over venues, formats and large fields — but believes he can find a solution.
‘It is very sad when you see someone like John Higgins talking about retirement,’ he said.
‘I will talk to him and find out what he is thinking. But if he wants to play and finds the tour a grind, I am waiting for four or five unhappy players because I can’t play on my own. I am ready to go if there was another platform. If there are people who are fed up and want to play a Champions League-style thing with titles, money and trophies in good venues — it is possible but I need players.
‘It is a big ask — they would have to give up a tour card and not play in the World Championship. And you have to have something to offer them to come over. But I have talked to possible backers.
‘If John is at that stage that he doesn’t want to play on this tour for whatever his own reasons are, then there is an opportunity because I think he would still like to play.
O’Sullivan also urged fellow ‘Class of 1992’ member John Higgins to join him
‘The unhappier players are, the more they would like to play some snooker rather than retire. John doesn’t want to retire I think, but he doesn’t want to be on the slog that there is.’
O’Sullivan outlined his plans for the new tour, saying: ‘I see an ATP style, best of the best — or people can watch the 128 players on the regular tour. I want to play in quality events, eight of the best. I just need players.
‘You don’t see Leyton Orient playing Barcelona, Messi would be demotivated doing that. So there is space for a 128-player tour, and then a creme de la creme. I wouldn’t be doing the Ryanair service. There are a lot of other players who are kind of a little bit unsettled as well. The more unhappy the players are, the more the chance we can maybe do an alternative tour.’
O’Sullivan added: ‘You have the Chinese kids who have been banned recently, which was maybe a bit heavy, and a couple of top-ranked Chinese players are tired of the travelling.’
O’Sullivan beat Ken Doherty to keep his bid for a record seventh UK Championship title alive
World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn hit back at O’Sullivan for his remark about Chinese stars Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng, who have been banned for a combined 16 years for match-fixing.
He tweeted: ‘Harshly! Are you serious? Cheats were exposed and punished. Please keep such stupid comments to yourself. You are getting ridiculous, and I expect better from a player of your standing. Enough.’
And 1997 world champion Doherty, questioned if a rival snooker tour would succeed.
‘I would be sad if such a breakaway happened, you need those players on the tour. I couldn’t see how it would work, it has been tried before in other sports and it hasn’t always worked.
‘I don’t think the public would like it, they want to see them play in all our blue-riband events, this being one of them. Why break away when you could go on and create more history?
‘And I honestly don’t think John Higgins would be up for it anyway,’ said Doherty.
Now I’m really not sure that involving players who have been banned for match-fixing is a great idea.
Anyway, it’s clearly just an idea, for now, nothing actually decided and sealed. Also, it’s not meant to be a replacement for the main tour, there is no ambition to create a rival professional body, more like a platform where players who feel that the current structure of the main tour doesn’t suit them, could play and earn some cash. If the idea comes to something – which I doubt at this stage – it’s likely to attract older players, with an established CV, who want to put their families and some me-time ahead of running all around the world week-in, week out, to earn more money and titles. How many are into that sort of state of mind, I’m not sure.
Anyway, this is Judd’s Trump reaction on Eurosport. Obviously a very different perspective, but then Judd is young, he doesn’t have children and he’s not been around in the nineties which is the era Ronnie clearly is nostalgic about.
And someone who clearly has changed his perspective since having a child is Ding. Ding this season has cut on his schedule in the UK.
As for what Hearn reacted to, here it is
Ronnie didn’t elaborate further and got a lot of stick for this. But not everyone thinks it’s “ridiculous”. Neil Robertson obviously has a more nuanced opinion and was interviewed about the issue. Unfortunately I couldn’t find that interview anywhere, which is a bit strange. Asked what he said, this was his answer on Twitter: