Barry Hearn has labelled Ronnie O’Sullivan’s plan for a separate tour for ageing players as a ‘crazy idea’ and gives it ‘absolutely zero chance’ of coming to fruition.
Hearn has heard of plans for breakaway tours from O’Sullivan before and does not harbour serious concerns over this new idea coming to pass.
The WST chairman can see why the plan would suit the 45-year-old, but does not envisage any other players wanting to get on board with it.
‘That’s okay because there’s only him,’ Hearn told Metro.co.uk of O’Sullivan’s ambitious plot. ‘What you’ve got to realise is that Ronnie O’Sullivan is a genius on the snooker table, but geniuses are flawed personalities and sometimes they have crazy ideas.
‘Ronnie is great on the table and has crazy ideas off the table.
‘99% of the playing membership are delighted with the way snooker is going and delighted to play every week because they are professional players. There just aren’t any players like Ronnie.
‘When players can’t win on the tour then they may be interested in what else is out there. But whilst there is a dream of winning on the tour, and all the top players still have that, of course some are getting older, the Class of 92, John Higgins, Mark Williams, but these guys are still earning a great deal of money and they love to play snooker.
‘There will come a time where they don’t want to, of course, and Ronnie may well have two or three players that would rather just do exhibition snooker than tournament snooker.
‘But at the moment, as the tour gets bigger, we’ve had a Covid setback obviously with no China events this year, but we will bounce back stronger when this situation clears, and frankly Ronnie’s ideas about alternatives are only for Ronnie O’Sullivan, they’re not for anybody else.
‘Don’t be confused. Ronnie’s ideas are only ideas that appeal to Ronnie.
‘The other players are very much aware of that, which is why he has zero support anywhere else.’
Hearn expects O’Sullivan and his contemporaries, such as Higgins and Williams, to remain on the main tour for years to come because they are good enough to compete at the business end of tournaments for some time.
He recognises that older players will not enjoy the rigours of the full-time tour as much as their younger rivals, but that is the nature of any sport and rules cannot be bent for the veterans.
‘The experience these players have got over the years makes them so difficult to beat, even with their B game,’ said Hearn of the veterans of the baize.
‘Ronnie O’Sullivan definitely falls into that category. Ronnie O’Sullivan could probably be top 16 for another 10 years, if he wanted to.
‘But ideally he’d like things different to suit him better, but unfortunately that doesn’t suit the sport better.
‘So he has no absolutely zero chance of doing anything like that, it’s just words.’
Well, I agree with Hearn that Ronnie is very unlikely to get his project to become reality, unless he has someone like Jason Francis in his corner, someone who has experience with setting up events, negotiating with venue managers, sponsors, and possibly broadcasters. And I wrote like Jason, because Jason himself has more than enough on his hands with the WSS tour and won’t be available for this, even if he wanted to.
Ronnie has neither the experience, nor the mental resilience to do such a thing successfully. Pat Mooney tried something like that with John Higgins, in 2007-2009. It was called the World Series of Snooker. There was a trial event in Warsaw in 2007, then it ran for the whole 2008/09 season, but the 2009/10 season was never completed. They even had Eurosport support. They had some really good and popular players on board as well: John Higgins, Dott, Murphy, Selby, Ding, Jimmy White, Doherty… But, even so, it wasn’t sustainable economically. They ended up in debts.
So I agree with Hearn, but not necessarily for the reasons he puts forward. I’m pretty sure that there are quite a number of players, and not nessarily only the “older” ones who would be happier with a lighter schedule. Hearn will tell you that they don’t have to enter everything, which is true, but the way the rankings work, they are in fact forced to enter everything or about, which is exactly what Hearn wants because it’s what the sponsors and the bookies want.
2020 has been a strange and extremely difficult year for everyone. The covid-19 crisis has disrupted our lives, we have been locked down for long periods, most of us still are. We have been separated from loved ones, some of us have got the disease, some of us have lost someone dear to them to the disease. Most of us have struggled – still struggle – economically and mentally. And, we are not out of it just yet, unfortunately.
In the middle of this disaster, Barry Hearn and WST have managed to get our sport going. Yes, it’s been mainly behind closed doors, yes, many are tired of Milton Keynes and events outside UK have been either moved or canceled BUT most players have been playing and have been offered earning opportunities, and fans have been able to watch a lot of great snooker. Also, great efforts have been put into making the setup attractive and different for each competition.
Thanks you Barry Hearn, thank you WST!
Big thanks also, to all the players, the WPBSA, the officials, the fitters, the pundits, the commentators, the sports journalists, the television crews and everyone behind the scenes who have made it possible.
So, to keep the tradition alive, here are my awards … and the golden turkey.
Player of the Year: Judd Trump
Judd Trump is well ahead of everyone in terms of ranking points, he has more than 800000 points more than Neil Robertson, who is ranked second. He has won six ranking titles during the year: the 2020 German Masters, the 2020 Players Championship, the 2020 Gibraltar Open, the 2020 English Open , the 2020 Northern Ireland Open and the 2020 World Grand prix. He reached two more finals: the 2020 Championship League (October 2020 edition) and the 2020 UK Championship. He has played 103 matches over the year, won 84 of them. He played 721 frames, won 456, made 97 centuries. The only disappointment for him is probably that he started the year as World and Masters Champion and finishes without holding any of the “Triple Crown” titles.
Achievement of the Year: Ronnie’s sixth World Title
Ronnie hadn’t reached the one table setup at the Crucible since his defeat to Mark Selby in the 2014 Final. His last appearance at the Theatre of Dreams had been a nightmare as be went out in the first round to James Cahill, an amateur at the time. His season has been an indifferent one by his standards. For once the bookies weren’t making him a favourite. Very few, if any, expected him the to win the 2020 World Championship, but he did. He went on to beat Thepchaiya Un-nooh, Ding Junhui, Mark Williams, Mark Selby and Kyren Wison to become World Champion for a sixth time, at the age of 44, the oldest winner at the Crucible since Ray Raerdon in 1978. He made 12 centuries during the Championship. He admitted that the reduced media duties, and the absence of crowd had helped him in that there were less distractions, and less pressure as well. It was all about playing… and play, he did, fully focussed from start to finish.
Match of the year: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby Semi-final
I have chosen this match because of its signifiance in the context of the rivalry between Ronnie and Mark Selby. Speaking to Stephen Hendy over Instagram during the lockdown, last June, Ronnie had admitted that, if there was one match he would like to be able to “take back” and play again, it would be the 2014 World Final, a match where he lead by 10-5 and ended up up losing by 18-14.
‘I LOST ALL RHYTHM’ – THE MATCH RONNIE O’SULLIVAN WOULD LOVE TO PLAY AGAIN
Five-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has named the one match he would like to replay – naming the 2014 World Championship final as his major regret.
O’Sullivan looked set to win the world title for a third straight year when he led Mark Selby 8-3 and 10-5 six years ago only to see the Leicester player mount a rousing recovery to complete an 18-14 win with a comeback boosted by a watertight tactical game.
It denied O’Sullivan the chance to join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on six titles in the modern era and continue to leave him two adrift on Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven.
The Essex player has not been beyond the quarter-finals since 2014 as he prepares for his latest bid to recapture the sport’s biggest title at the Crucible next month.
O’Sullivan insists he won’t be drawn into long tactical exchanges with Selby – who added two mores victories in 2016 and 2017 – if he comes across him this year.
“The match I’d like to play again would be Selby in the 2014 final because I’d have played it differently,” said O’Sullivan during his latest chat with Hendry on Instagram.
“I would have done everything I could to not get bogged down and keep the game open.
WHEN I LOOKED BACK I THOUGHT I’D GOT SUCKED INTO HIS GAME. IT WASN’T UNTIL AFTER THAT GAME THAT I THOUGHT, ‘YEAH I MIGHT LOSE TO YOU AND I PROBABLY WILL LOSE TO YOU AGAIN, BUT IT’S GOING TO BE ON MY TERMS.
“I’m just going to blast them open, I’m not getting sucked into eight or nine frames of 50-minute frames, because it destroys you.
“I tried to compete with him and play that sort of game, but then I sat back and thought, ‘I’ve lost my own rhythm.’
“I’d rather lose three frames on the spin but keep my own rhythm, because given the chance I could go bang, bang, bang and win three frames back.
“It got to the point that even if he left me amongst the balls I weren’t even going to make 20 because I just had no rhythm. I learned a lot.”
O’Sullivan certainly seemed to dictate terms in their previous meeting, running out a 5-1 winner in the Welsh Open last eight in February boosted by breaks of 85, 95 and 142.
“Certain players have your number and I think Selby kind of had my number for a bit, I struggled against him, even though I had victories against him,” said O’Sullivan.
“I thought, I might lose to you, but it’ll be on my terms. Ever since I’ve played like that I’ve enjoyed every game I’ve had against him, even if I’ve lost to him.”
Well, given the opportunity to play Mark Selby over four sessions, Ronnie did exactly what he had told Hendry he would do. He refused to get sucked in his opponent game, he refused to enter into safety battles. He went for “hit and hope” shots when in snookers and it worked. Ronnie could easily have lost that match, he was behind for most it. IIn the end, He was 16-14 down and produced an extraordinary salvo of three frames to snatch victory.
Guess what? Mark Selby didn’t like it. He though that it was “disrespectful” from Ronnie to play this way. When he won in 2014, he was praised for “finding a way” to beat Ronnie, and rightly so. This time it was Ronnie who “found a way” to beat him by refusing to let him dictate the pace and the style of the match. He too should be praised for it.
Frame of the year: Kyren Wilson v Anthony McGill World Semi-final decider
This is certainly the most extraordinary frame I have ever watched.
One of the most extraordinary deciding frames in snooker’s rich history. As it progressed, wizened Crucible veterans gawped at the screens backstage, wondering what could possibly happened next. At one stage the two players seemed to have invented a new game within a game, taking turns to bounce the cue ball off the baulk cushion to try to flick the last red into a centre pocket. That was after Wilson gained 43 points in fouls to leave his opponent needing snookers, then somehow contrived to go in-off twice. Eventually it was settled by another freakish moment as Wilson fluked the green during a safety exchange. He was on the verge of tears as he potted the last pink, completing the unique frame score of 103-83. “I have known Anthony since we were kids, and in the last frame we were just two young lads out there feeling the pressure,” said Wilson. “We fought so hard for three days, toe to toe, we both gave it everything. It was just the maddest match.” A gracious McGill smiled: “I feel as if the match was stolen from me – not by Kyren but by the snooker Gods. I really enjoyed the fight, it was played in the right spirit.”
But words can’t really convey the drama ir produced… so here it is for you to watch (again)
Most dramatic day of snooker of the season: Saturday 14th of August, 2020
Yes, actually, the third day of the 2020 World Championship semi-finals, was, in my opinion, the most exciting and dramatic day of snooker, if not ever, certainly since I started following the sport some 15 years ago. Both semi-finals were remarkable, tense, dramatic and went to a deciding frame.
Shot of the year: Stephen Maguire incredible “trick shot” at the 2020 Masters
It has to be this …
I love Maguire’s celebration …
Luckiest man of the year: Stephen Maguire
Stephen Maguire didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship, but got the opportunity to play in it when Ding – who had opted to return to China as the pandemic unfolded in the UK – withdrew. Stepen made the most of this unexpected chance as he went on to win the event, earning himself £150000. Stephen had also previously earned £30000 for reaching the quarter-finals of the 2020 Players Championship. That was enough for him to also win the “Coral Cup” and the £100000 bonus coming with it. Basically he got £250000 by playing in an event when he should’nt even have been in the draw. It had to be won though, so, well done Stephen Maguire!
The Golden Turkey
Barry Hearn’s insensitive treatment of Anthony Hamilton
Anthony Hamilton had qualified for the television stages of the World Championship: he had beaten Sam Craigie by 6-3 and Scott Donaldson by 10-5. He was due to return to the Crucible for the first time since 2008. Anthony had turned 49 in June. Over the last decade he had suffered countless back injuries. He was really looking forward to it, knowing that this may well be his last opportunity to play on the biggest scene of all. People like David Hendon and Hector Nunns, who were on-site, were clear about it on social media: Anyhony was absolutely dlighted to have qualified and definitely wanted to play.
The qualifiers had been well under way when the news came that fans would be allowed into the arena, and they would not be tested, and there would be no temperature checks. Anthony Hamilton only learned about it after he qualified. He had been shielding, as he suffers from asthma. He felt that it was undsafe for him to play. He withdrew.
Barry Hearn’s reaction was particularly insensitive and unfair.
Judd Trump has hit out at Anthony Hamilton for withdrawing from the World Snooker Championship on the eve of the tournament, calling the world No 48 “selfish” and suggesting he should have pulled out prior to securing his place at the event instead of taking an opportunity from another player.
Ronnie O’Sullivan says allowing spectators into the Crucible Theatre for the World Championship is treating snooker players like “lab rats”.
The tournament, which begins on Friday, will be the first indoor sporting event with crowds, allowing around 300 supporters to attend each session.
Qualifier Anthony Hamilton, who suffers from severe asthma, says it is “ridiculous” and “too early” for fans.
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan said players “all run a bit of a risk”.
Those that have booked tickets to attend the Sheffield venue will be placed in ‘bubbles’ of up to four people – limited to a maximum of two households – and will be socially distanced from others in the arena.
Temperature checks will not be in place and although face masks must be worn around the venue they can be removed once spectators are seated inside.
World number 48 Hamilton pulled out of the Championship League – the first event that was played on the sport’s return – because of health concerns and called the decision to allow people to take off their masks in the auditorium “a mad thing”.
He added: “Let’s say one person gets ill and dies from the Crucible, that is one person who has died for no reason, just for entertainment.
“I won’t be comfortable in there personally. I don’t know why anybody would be comfortable – we all know it is airborne.”
However, O’Sullivan said: “I defy anybody if they have been keeping their distance from people for four months to say, oh right, now you’ve got to go into a room full of people – unless you have got a death wish, and some people have in many ways and they just don’t care.
“But if you are one of these people that happens to care about your health and are taking it seriously, I totally get how [Hamilton] feels.
“I would feel a bit strange walking in a room with 10 people I don’t know, and I have done. I didn’t feel comfortable.
“So I totally respect where Anthony is coming from, and where other people are coming from – they want crowds in there, they want things back to normal. We have a choice – we don’t have to go and play. We all run a bit of a risk.
“I have the option not to play but I’ve decided to play. Maybe with 5,000 fans I could see it’s a bit of an income you’re going to lose, but 200 fans, is it really?
“Maybe they have to start doing a test on crowds at some point and I’ve heard people say they’re treating the snooker event a little bit like lab rats – you’ve got to start somewhere, start with snooker players.
“Less insurance to pay out for Anthony Hamilton than there is for Lewis Hamilton.”
O’Sullivan says he has had friends die from Covid-19 and has not been within 20 feet of his mother, who is in the ‘high risk’ category because she had pneumonia last year.
“It’s not until you’ve had people close to you that have gone through it, and know someone who has died,” he said.
“I don’t think it has been taken seriously enough.”
The worst aspect of it, is that Anthony’s fears, and Ronnie’s views were vindicated as the “experiment” came to an end after just one day. It was deemed too risky by the UK government
If that premature, reckless decision to allow a crowd in hadn’t been made, Anthony Hamilton would have been playing at the Crucible. He was the one ‘robbed” of a golden opportunity.
Ronnie O’Sullivan plans to drop off tour in three years and create new events for ageing players
Phil HaighWednesday 30 Dec 2020 11:05 am
Ronnie O’Sullivan has given himself ‘three or four years maximum’ competing on the main snooker tour, before he plans to create different events for players who are slightly past their peak.
The Rocket is the reigning world champion and remains the sport’s biggest star, but feels his time at the top is coming to an end.
The 45-year-old can clearly still compete at the elite level, as he proved at the Crucible this summer, but he is feeling the strain of the relentless snooker calendar and does not expect to keep up a packed schedule for much longer.
From 16 November to 20 December this year, four tournaments were played without a day between each of them, highlighting just how busy players’ diaries have become.
O’Sullivan says he can’t and won’t keep up with this schedule into his 50s, despite wanting to keep playing the game that he loves, so he has come up with a plan.
The six-time world champion wants to assemble a few players at similar stages of their careers and put together a set of events away from the main tour for ageing greats of the game in a bid to keep the competitive juices flowing.
‘I’ve accepted I’ve got another three or four years maximum of playing top level snooker,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk.
‘I don’t want to play much longer than that, so the next three years I just want to enjoy with an eye on playing on a tour that is maybe a bit more suited to how much I want to play. So I can compete but I’m not going to be a slave to playing tournament after tournament.
‘I can’t play and compete the way it is at the moment, they’re literally playing every day. It is every day. It doesn’t seem like there’s a separation from one tournament to the next.
‘I would still like to play into my mid-50s, I still think I could make maximums and play to a very high standard, I don’t think I’m going to be able to compete week-in-week-out, physically you just don’t recover.
‘I’ve noticed if I go deep into a tournament now, then for two or three days I’m knackered. I can’t keep up with the younger people, it’s not so much of a physical thing, it’s more of a mental and just an age thing.
‘I suppose at some point there’s going to be a few players in my age bracket feeling the same way. I think Marco Fu has decided to jack it in, staying in Hong Kong. James Wattana too. All very, very good players but it’s an age thing, you just get to an age where the mind says “yeah I can do it” but the body can’t keep up.’
The Seniors Tour is available to players over 40 who are no longer competing at the top end of the main tour, but the Rocket wants to plug a gap between the two.
He recognises it would be for a small group of players, but has plans to make it work for those not willing to go through the rigours of the main tour, but are still too good for the Seniors.
‘Obviously there’s the exhibition circuit that I can always do, but it’s nice to have a platform to play,’ Ronnie explained. ‘A little bit like the Seniors Tour, but I don’t think I’m ready for the Seniors, I’d like to do something a bit in between, where players are still capable of making 147s and playing to a very high standard, but we’re all on a level playing field.
‘So it might be eight or 10 tournaments, something on those lines. It’s for when I’ve finished on the main tour but I still want to play but I’m probably not good enough or young enough to compete on a level playing field with the rest of them.
‘I think it would be unfair to go on the Seniors Tour, but I think there’s a gap in the middle for an 8-man event, 12-man event. Playing against people who are a little bit older but not past their sell-by date and can still play well enough.
‘They just can’t travel, aren’t fit enough or haven’t got the energy or motivation to go from one tournament to the next. It is a young man’s game now, whether you like it or not.
‘I’m not saying the younger players are better, because they’re probably not, you’ve still got a lot of 40-45 year olds playing the best snooker. But it doesn’t become about who’s the best, it becomes about who can outlast each other, who can recover quicker. Obviously a 25-year-old can recover quicker than a 45-year-old.
‘That’s why I say there’s somewhere in the middle with the right amount of playing so you can prepare right and perform to a very, very high level.’
If this plan doesn’t come together, O’Sullivan says retirement is looking likely in three years, despite still wanting to play the game.
‘That would be something I’d look at at some point to hopefully carry on playing snooker and if that’s not possible then I would definitely retire after three years because it’s just impossible for me to do it from a stamina point of view,’ he said.
O’Sullivan would have to recruit some fellow players to remove themselves from the main tour and join his events, something that he recognises will be a difficult process.
He wants to create a competitive structure for a specific set of players, but these players can still earn huge amounts of money on the main tour.
While Ronnie says he is not financially driven, it is not going to be easy to attract professionals away from their home at World Snooker to back his new venture.
‘I can’t speak for the likes of [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins and I’m not talking about breakaway tours because I’ve already said I’d play for nothing, it’s not like a money thing,’ the world champ said.
‘Obviously if other people were to come on it they wouldn’t play for nothing, but for me it’s not about money, it’s just that I enjoy what I do.
‘I’ve got a hardcore of fans that enjoy watching me play and I feel that I’ve got a duty to them, in a way, to only retire when I feel that it’s the right time to retire.
‘It wouldn’t be a rival tour, because you’ve got the elite 128 players that are competing every day, but for me to prolong my career I’d definitely have to hand in my card, but I’m happy to play for nothing.
‘I know that it wouldn’t be for nothing, I’m sure sponsors and TV and the right management in place, they’d provide all that sort of stuff, all I want to do is play snooker. But I want to enjoy what I do and that’s the key.
‘I definitely think I can possibly get two or three more years as it is, but then after that…I could still compete, I know that, but it would become too much hard work and I probably wouldn’t enjoy it that much. I think the key is to find a happy medium.’
O’Sullivan is playing as much tournament snooker as he has for a number of years, entering nearly every event so far this season, so his drive to play is unquestionably intact.
He has spoken in the past of fear driving him on to compete, the fear of failure and not living up to his own exacting standards, but that is no longer a motivation for him.
The Rocket plays without that pressure on himself anymore, or at least without feeling it as much as he did, and while that allows him to enjoy the game more and be more care-free, he does admit it has taken away some of his killer instinct and a sharpness in his game.
‘I obviously have a lot less to prove, I don’t have anything to prove,’ he said. ‘But I think with that loss of fear…I’ve always said that fear drove me on to want to play well and to put the extra hours in, to devote myself to snooker.
‘When you do that you get such tunnel vision and for the last five years I haven’t had that approach. It’s worked for me, in a way, I’ve been much more relaxed, but I think you get to the point where maybe that intensity isn’t there enough of the time.
‘I don’t know if it’s lack of crowds but I just feel like I’m missing the odd ball I wasn’t missing before. Against 95% of the tour I might get away with it, but against Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Mark Selby I’m just not going to get away with it against them.
‘Against all the other guys I will and have got away with it but If I’m to compete with them three then I’ve got to erase them errors.’
The “bold” highligths are my doing, as usual.
Ronnie’s statement that it would be unfair to play in the Seniors Tour is neither arrogant, nor contemptuous.
It is certain that, if he did compete in the Seniors tour, it would attract a lot of fans, but on the other hand it might drive a lot of seniors players away from that tour, the amateurs in particular. As it is, the Seniors Tour can’t afford to scrap entry fees. Would they still enter events if they feel they have no chance?
The Seniors Tour has produced, great moments and great stories for the over-40 amateurs: Aaron Canavan, an amateur from Jersey, someone who had only rarely played outside the Channel Islands, became a World Champion, Rodney Goggins from Ireland, played a Final in Goffs, in front of a full house, Michael Judge became UK Champion, beating Jimmy White in the final. The Tour’s motto is “Dare to Dream”. If players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark William were to compete in it, in a close future, it would probably kill the dream for many, and they wouldn’t enter as they wouldn’t probably believe that they stand any chance.
It has also offered Greats from the past who are really past it, fantastic opportunities to shine again. Jimmy White struggles to win any match on the Main Tour nowadays, but he is the reigning Seniors Champion, having finally lifted a World trophy at the Crucible last year. Cliff Thorburn won the Seniors Masters at the Crucible, aged 70, and it was an incredibly emotional moment. It mattered so much to Cliff. Their ability may decline, but the competitive spirtit never goes.
Those thing could be destroyed if players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark Williams started racking all the trophies. They may no more be at their best, or willing to compete day-in day-out, but they are still far too good for the Seniors Tour in its current form. So, yes, maybe, something in-between would be a good idea and one that could work for everyone.
The draw and match schedule will be released after the entry deadline, which is January 6th. The event will be staged behind closed doors but details of broadcasters will be announced soon.
Although best of three is a very short format, it’s 7 matches to play in a day, potentially 21 frames. That’s a lot of snooker. I believe that this kind of competition can really help the younger players. It’s playing against 7 different opponents. They are bound to face different types of games, different styles of players and different paces through the matches. It would be great if both tables were identical “television tables”. that too would help the lower ranked players as they can do with gaining experience with such conditions.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is spending the festive period helping out with charity work, visiting a food bank on Christmas Day and making deliveries in the build up to 25 December.
The Rocket has had a busy schedule on the snooker table since winning his sixth World Championship title in the summer, competing in almost every event this season and reaching the finals of the Northern Ireland and Scottish Opens.
It is a rare couple of weeks off for the world champ but he is not putting his feet up during the rest period and will be helping out some friends in their charity endeavours.
It’s not the first time O’Sullivan has been involved with charity work, but he has felt all the more encouraged to do so thanks to the pandemic and the uncertainty of lockdown this year.
Regularly a Labour voter over the years, O’Sullivan would not be drawn on his opinion of the current Government, but feels the confusion this year has encouraged him to turn his attention to personal, local issues that he can impact himself.
‘I’m generally more liberal and have sided with Labour, but I’ve never really thought Governments can make changes,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk. ‘I don’t know anymore, honestly I just keep my head down.
‘Christmas Day we’re going to be doing a food bank with my friend, handing out food, later on today [Tuesday] I’m going to help a friend doing deliveries to people that ain’t got food.
‘I think all you can do is do your bit and stay true to what you can do. Whatever goes on goes on in the political system.
‘I don’t know, mate, I just like to keep my head down and focus on what I can do. Hopefully they have a ripple effect. Like today, if I can change one or two people’s lives, just make them a bit better by taking them some food they wouldn’t normally have, then that’s great.
‘On Christmas Day, if 50-100 people are eating, having a nice day and I’ve had a little impact there, then great.’
O’Sullivan knows he has been more fortunate than many this year, continuing to play snooker as and when he wants but also having time to rediscover his love of running and getting his trainers on much more regularly than he has been.
While the World Championship is the only silverware he has lifted in 2020, it is the richest prize in the game and he feels that his fitness has helped his snooker.
‘Lockdown’s been alright for me, to be honest. I’ve really just got stuck into my running, so it’s been a massive positive for me,’ he explained.
‘I forgot how much I used to love running, competing in races. It’s allowed me to get back into training. Even in Milton Keynes over the last three months, I had a really good training group in Tring, running seven, eight, nine miles every day, so I was getting really fit.
‘Even when I would come back from Milton Keynes and I’d have four or five days indoors, I just felt like I couldn’t do it, just four days! If you had two or three months, you can get institutionalised after a while, you get used to not going out so you don’t go out. Whereas I’m quite an active person so I find if I break that routine up I’ll struggle. So wherever I go I try and keep that up.
‘The foundations, the principles of my life haven’t changed much, I like to keep fit, get up early, get my work done, I like to have routine. If you have a good routine it leads to positives and being the best you can be.’
Snooker will never be a sport that requires physical fitness for success, but it certainly helps, even if they are small, incremental gains.
‘I’ve always felt better if I feel fit and healthy,’ said Ronnie. ‘Even if it’s just putting clothes on, putting a suit on, if you feel in good shape, everything feels snug, you feel better about yourself.
‘If you’re carrying a few extra pounds, the waistcoat is a struggle, the trousers are tight round the waist, that can chip away at your confidence a little bit. If you do a lot of things that make you feel good about yourself, you’re likely to play a bit better or at least feel better.’
The six-time world champion came up short at the weekend’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, not making the top three which was made up of Lewis Hamilton, Jordan Henderson and Hollie Doyle.
The Rocket didn’t attend the ceremony, and while he admits part of him would have liked to have claimed the prize, he is not exactly fussed and is glad he didn’t bother making the trip.
‘No, not really,’ said Ronnie when asked if he was bothered about losing out. ‘Obviously I had a slight interest [in winning] you never know, I might have got lucky,
‘But yeah it was good fun, it was fun to be part of, you know. I quite enjoyed having the team of people come to where I was staying.
‘It’s really hard because I only get so much time and I’m a real nightmare for being selfish in what I want to do and how I spend my time.
‘I never go to awards, I don’t really want to. I’d go to a charity bash, if it’s for a good cause, but not awards, I’d have to take my whole day out, no running, no practice, no work.
‘I’ve got no interest, really, to go and sit in a room full of other sports people. Listen, it’s great that they won and got their awards but I’ve never really bought into that sort of stuff. I’m glad I didn’t go, really. I’ve been invited for the last 28 years and I haven’t gone once so I didn’t see why I should change that.’
O’Sullivan may not be overly fussed about awards ceremonies, but he didn’t go as far as Tyson Fury in asking to be removed from the shortlist for SPOTY.
The world heavyweight champion claimed he did not need an award to tell him who he was or validate his achievements.
The Rocket sees where the Gypsy King is coming from, though, saying: ‘Tyson’s his own person. I’d never knock anyone, I think as a sportsman he’s fantastic, what he’s done is brilliant.
‘He’s got his own reasons why he wanted to do it. I understand where he’s coming from. He’s got a very, very good fanbase of people that love him for what he is.
‘He hasn’t bought into conforming: say the right thing, do the right thing. He’s got his own rules.
‘People have supported him and he feels a loyalty towards them and he feels like he didn’t want them type of accolades. He gets more of a buzz out of supporting people from a mental health background and be a motivational person, so I get where he’s coming from.’
Fury and O’Sullivan may well appeal to a similar kind of crowd, with their happiness to do and say what they want rather than worry about how it may look or sound.
When parallels between the pair were put to the Rocket, he felt that there has been no better example of people being drawn to the outspoken than in America in recent years.
‘I’ve never really thought of it really,’ Ronnie said of his comparison to Tyson. ‘But if you look at it with Donald Trump and [Joe] Biden. Donald Trump still had 75 million people that liked his ways, that wanted to support him.
‘I suppose if you look at it, it’s what camp you’re in, there always seems to be two camps. It’s just where your personality fits.
‘You always have some people who like the straight-laced, don’t put a foot wrong. Then the other camp thinks, “you know what, that’s not real, they’re not saying what they really want to say.”
‘They probably find it a bit refreshing when someone else comes along and says what everybody’s thinking, if you like. It can be refreshing.
‘I think I’ve kind of learned to keep my mouth shut and stick to my core values and don’t be bothered what other people are up to. Understand that there are going to be polarised views and just accept that and I don’t try and force my views on anyone.
‘I don’t do social media, I don’t look at comments, I just build my own little moat, my own little castle and just try not to display everything out there. Sometimes it’s good to keep things a bit closer to you rather than letting it out so much.’
Just some personal thoughts about this interview, and Ronnie’s reflection about who people really are and what they say. The “blanket political correctness” that has been enforced in the media, in social media and, in general, in our lives has made the bed for the likes of Trump. The absolute crass populism. A lot of people fall for it, they see these guys as “authentic”, and close to themselves, whilst, if you look at the way they live their lives and at their goals, they are anything but persons of the people. Not allowing people to express certain feelings is not going to make those feelings disappear, on the contrary, it will only exacerbate them, and populists play on the frustration generated by the need to repress them. Actually, listening, trying to understand even what you can’t agree with them and talking it through is the only way to build acceptance and tolerance towards the “different”. And, remember, hate, quite often is actually fuelled by fear.
This from someone who turned 14 in 1968 … and lived her teens through the flower power “revolution”. We fought for freedom, peace and love. Yes, it was an utopia, I know that. But how did we end up giving birth to political correctness? I’m not sure, and I’m pretty horrified.
I hope you will forgive me the above political/sociological outing on this special day …
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) has today (Wednesday 23 December 2020) held its Annual General Meeting online.
The AGM saw the election of a further two current members to join the first Board of WPBSA Players, a new body which received formal approval as part of a governance review and wider constitutional changes passed at an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 25 November.
Eight members stood for election: Nigel Bond, Ding Junhui, Joe Perry, Mark Davis, Rod Lawler, Barry Pinches, Lee Walker and Tian Pengfei.
The result was that Nigel Bond and Ding Junhui were successfully elected by the membership and will join existing directors Ken Doherty, Mike Dunn and Peter Lines on the new WPBSA Players Board.
The AGM also saw the presentation of the Accounts and Directors Report, including the latest independently audited accounts, which were unanimously accepted by the meeting.
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “I am today pleased to welcome both Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond to the Board of WPBSA Players following their successful election.
“For over 15 years Ding has been a trailblazer for our sport in Asia following his landmark victory at the 2005 China Open and at last year’s UK Championship he reminded everybody of his class by claiming the title for a third time.
“Away from the baize he has also continues to play a significant role in our sport, having become almost a father figure to many of the young Chinese players competing on the World Snooker Tour. Already he has represented players in China on behalf of our colleagues at the China Billiards & Snooker Association. In this new formalised role, I am sure he will not only be a fantastic representative for Asian players, but for all players who travel great distances living away from home within our sport. Part of our vision to create WPBSA Players was to increase global representation within key roles and I am delighted to this is now becoming a reality.
“Like Ding, Nigel Bond is a former World Championship finalist who brings to the board a wealth of experience at all levels having maintained an unbroken spell on our tour dating back to 1989. A former World Seniors champion, he remains capable of competing at the highest level as he showed with his stunning victory against world number one Judd Trump last year in York.
“Alongside his playing career, he has also become a successful coach around the world and has become an integral part of the WPBSA Coaching Programme, sharing his experience to help train the next generation of qualified snooker coaches.
“I am confident that both will bring significant value to WPBSA Players and that the recently announced constitutional changes will achieve our goal of better serving our member players, as well as furthering the world class governance and development of our great sport.”
First of all congratulations to Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond!
I was surprised when I read that Ding was running for a seat on the board. He’s only 33 and it’s hard to combine a playing career at the top and the duties of a member of the board. Shaun Murphy found it difficult and eventually stepped down from the board to concentrate on his career. On the other hand, China has been investing a lot of money into the game in recent years. About one in six main tour player is from China, including 15 of the 27 players aged under 25. It’s obvious that they need a voice on the board, they need to be represented, and who would be better equipped than Ding for the role? He has the required status, both in the sport and in his country, his command of English is now excellent.
Plans to stage the Snooker World Cup in the city of Wuxi in China in 2021 are taking shape, with 24 national teams to battle for the coveted trophy.
WST is currently in discussion with partners in China, with the ambition to hold the event early in the 2021/22 season.
Scotland are the defending champions as the pair of John Higgins and Stephen Maguire beat China in the 2019 final. That ended a run of three consecutive World Cup victories for China.
Higgins names the moment of lifting the trophy as one of the proudest moments of his glittering career. He said: “The pressure is tenfold compared to playing for yourself. When I first played with Stephen (Maguire), I played a deciding frame against Mark Allen and lost. I’d never felt pressure like it in all of my life. World Championship finals, you name it.
“To win it was a brilliant feeling – the proudest feeling in the world. Scotland haven’t got many World Champions so we were delighted to win it for our country. I always feel that if I am lucky enough to get into the team, I’ll be with a very good partner and we’ll have a chance to win it again.”
The Snooker World Cup has a tremendous history having first been staged in 1979. Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu Province, hosted the event in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Further details on the 2021 World Cup, including the teams and format, will be announced in due course.
The World Cup has been hosted in Wuxi before, including the last edition, so it’s maybe just coincidence that this announcement comes at the same time as Ding’s election as member of the board. However, Ding was born in Yixing, in Jiangsu province, and Wuxi is a major city in Jiangsu, only about 90 km from Yixing, Ding’s presence on the board can only help opening doors in his country, and in particular in his “home” region.
The Championship League Snooker returns to its traditional format and it all starts on January, 4, 2021. You will find all the information you need about the tournament by following this link to the “Tournament Page”.
This is the list of players involved in the tournament: John Higgins, Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Gary Wilson, Zhou Yuelong, Graeme Dott, Kyren Wilson, David Gilbert, Scott Donaldson, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Barry Hawkins, Judd Trump, Yan Bingtao, Jack Lisowski, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Joe Perry, Ali Carter, Matthew Selt, Kurt Maflin, Michael Holt.
There are still three unallocated spots, one in Group 6, two in Group 7.
Ronnie will enter the tournament in Group 5, along with Joe Perry and Ali Cater. That group, and the next, are played just before the 2021 Welsh Open. I’m fairly certain that Ronnie will use the opportunity to get good practice ahead of the 2021 Welsh Open and the 2021 Players Championship that immediately follows. The Players Championship is for the top 16 in the one-year list. Ronnie is currently a comfortable fifth in that list. With only the 2021 German Masters, the 2021 Shoot Out and the 2021 Welsh Open counting towards rankings for the Players Championship, he can’t miss out.