Barry Hearn gives Ronnie O’Sullivan’s new tour plan ‘absolutely zero chance’ of happening
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.