Today is the last of the 2022 Turkish Masters qualifiers and I will look at the outcome tomorrow. Ronnie won’t be there. Jason Ferguson as head of WPBSA is disappointed by his decision, but accepts it.
Here is a piece by Eurosport explaining both side’s point of view:
‘DISAPPOINTED’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN’S TURKISH MASTERS SNUB FAILS TO BRING DELIGHT TO SNOOKER CHIEFS
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s decision to opt out of playing in the inaugural Turkish Masters next month could cost him more money than the appearance fee he was demanding to play in Antalya, according to WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson. Ferguson has described O’Sullivan’s decision as “disappointing”.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has missed out on the opportunity to cash in by opting out of snooker’s inaugural Turkish Masters in a dispute over appearance money, according to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association chairman (WPBSA) Jason Ferguson.
The world No. 2 has decided against travelling to the salubrious five-star Nirvana Cosmopolitan Hotel in Antalya next month because he was not offered any extra financial incentive by tournament promoters to participate.
The £500,000 Turkish Masters runs between March 7-13 and is live on Eurosport with a £100,000 winner’s cheque, but that has not been enough to tempt the sport’s biggest draw to board a plane in his 30th year as a professional.
O’Sullivan is the only player in the world’s top 16 to give the event a miss, much to the chagrin of organisers, with former world No. 28 Ferguson lamenting the short-sightedness of the thought process.
“Of course I am disappointed he did not enter and won’t be there. I know Ronnie has a huge number of fans in Turkey,” Ferguson said in an interview with the Sportsman. “And it is disappointing for them that they won’t see him.
“That said, they will be overjoyed with the rest of the players who make the trip, apart from that the entries were amazing – 15 of the top 16.
It sounds a far cry from O’Sullivan’s experience of the 2018 English Open at the K2 Leisure centre in Crawley when he said: “They put me by some toilet and I had to stand there for four or five minutes and all I could smell was urine.
“It was really quite off-putting, no-one wants to be subject to smelling urine.
YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE MAIN FOYER – YOU DON’T WANT TO BE TRAIPSING THROUGH FAMILIES GOING SWIMMING WITH KIDS WITH SNORKELS AND FLIP-FLOPS ON AND YOU’RE ABOUT TO PLAY A MATCH OR TO DO A PRESS CONFERENCE.
Ferguson is adamant the sport has worked hard to improve conditions for the World Snooker Tour and said: “Ronnie has in the past said he doesn’t want to play in leisure centres and wants better venues – this is exactly that.
SO WE HAVE UPPED OUR GAME CONSIDERABLY AND GONE OUT TO PUT SOMETHING WORLD-CLASS ON, AND IT IS DISAPPOINTING HE WON’T BE THERE. I AM LED TO BELIEVE IT HAS GENERATED QUITE A BIT OF COMMENT IN TURKEY ON SOCIAL MEDIA THAT HE IS NOT LEADING THE CHARGE AS A HUGE STAR IN THE SPORT.
“If every top player did the same we might not have any of them there – but they wouldn’t, that’s the point. Top players love winning and competing – as does Ronnie, to be fair. We have some terrific players and people in snooker who give back, and I don’t struggle with the rest of the membership asking for five minutes here or 10 minutes there.
“But Ronnie is different, it is an individual sport and he has got his own agenda. From the governing bodies it has to be a level playing field, so we will never and cannot offer extra money.
“We can’t force people to play, all we can do is provide the opportunities for all from world No. 1 down to the kid that first walks in to a club.
“Ironically something Ronnie may not be aware of is how huge potentially that market and fan base is in Turkey.
“It is a big country with huge companies and I think he has missed out passing up the chance to go.
THE NUMBERS HE WAS ASKING FOR MIGHT HAVE PROVED PENNIES FINANCIALLY IN COMPARISON TO WHAT HE COULD HAVE GOT WHILE OUT THERE. WE’LL NEVER KNOW NOW.
O’Sullivan will return to snooker’s coveted No. 1 spot if he can claim the Players Championship title and a £125,000 top prize in Wolverhampton next week.
The sport’s GOAT earned appearance money from travelling to China in the pre-pandemic past, but has defended his decision to miss the season’s 13th ranking event
“I don’t really have any regrets about not being involved in the Turkish Masters and playing in the qualifiers,” said O’Sullivan, during his 38th ranking title success at the World Grand Prix in December.
A FIVE-STAR HOTEL ON THE BEACH ISN’T GOING TO ENTICE ME TO GET MY CUE OUT OF MY CASE AND ENTER A TOURNAMENT. I COULD PROBABLY GO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND EXPERIENCE THAT – AND NOT HAVE TO BE SURROUNDED BY LOADS OF SNOOKER PLAYERS AND OFFICIALS!
“I could go to Hawaii or Dubai and get invited out there and have equally a great time. It is all about the value for my time and commercial decisions now. I am going to play 10 tournaments a season, because that is what I am contracted to do for my sponsors. I don’t have to play more.
“And if promoters want me to play in their events, then they’ll have to get on the phone and we can come to some sort of arrangement. If not I have got enough work on and enough things to do to keep myself busy. It is a business for me, and I thank World Snooker Tour for that because they have shown it is a business.
“That’s what they are doing, and that’s what the players are doing. Was I surprised they didn’t try and get me there? No, listen, I don’t get surprised by anything these days and take each decision as it comes.”
The “blue/underline” above is my doing.
I have the uttermost respect for Jason Ferguson who I have got to know on the tour. He’s extremely hard working, he loves his sport, and always has time for the players as he has been a player himself. I understand why he is disappointed. Ronnie’s presence in Turkey would have been a boost for the tournament, no doubts.
What surprises me a bit is that quotes from Ronnie as reported here suggest that he wasn’t aware that he would not need to go to qualifiers for this one anyway.
But other than that, he made his position clear: snooker is a job and a business and, now, in his mid 40s, he treats it like as such. He is in a position to choose, and he does. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love competing and winning. He does, some of his reactions after winning show that much. I have no doubts about it, and Jason knows it as well. The thing is, snooker is not the alpha and omega of Ronnie’s anymore.
I know that many fans will be disappointed by Ronnie’s attitude, but the basic fact is that he is right. It’s a job and it’s a business. Not just in snooker, in all sports. Broadcasters, sponsors, and bookies make billions out of sport, managers to as well to an extend, the sportspersons, especially the big names, want their part of it, and it’s only right. Sports wouldn’t exist without them.
I know that a lot of fans want to believe that it should be all about winning and trophies. That’s naive and/or delusional. Unfortunately, many aspiring kids share those “romantic” views when considering a career in individual sport, only to be hit hard by the reality: nobody lives on thin air and hopes. Bills are waiting to be paid, they need a roof on their heads, they need food in their plate and money to travel to their job … because professional sport IS a job, one you can only successfully do for a limited time and one that does not entitle you to a retirement pension. Many very sucessful snooker players ended up in bankruptcy, even Stephen Hendry.
Some will tell me that Ronnie, by expressing his views, might discourage some youngsters to pursue their dreams. Possibly, but if their dreams aren’t strong enough to resist Ronnie’s opinions, they won’t survive the hard reality check either.
16 thoughts on “About Ronnie’s decision to skip the Turkish Masters”
I think it’s really quite simple – these are the rules of the WST, if Ronnie decides he does not want to adhere to them then that’s his choice. There isn’t really any moral right or wrong here. He’s basically saying ‘I’m not going on a 4 hour flight to Turkey unless you pay me for my time’. Objectively, a not-unreasonable request. And the WST’s position is that it’s impossible for us to do this as it would make a mockery of rules and competitive regulations of the tour. Again, a totally reasonable position.
Ronnie’s gripe is really with the Turkish company organising the event and honestly it should stay that way. The WST should not stick their oar in and at the same time Ronnie should not go whining to/about the WST when The Turks don’t return his calls. It’s basicaly a private fee negotiation between 2 parties and should stay that way
Ronnie never expected WST to pay for appearance fees. They wouldn’t and they can’t because they are the governing body and must treat all the players equally. In the past he has got appearance money in some events, and that money came from the sponsors. I’m not sure if it was the case each time, but at least in some occasions he did extra promotion work for them, in the form of exhibitions, private coaching or appearance at promotional events.
Yeah this is my point, it’s a private issue between Ronnie and the sponsors of the event, not really a Ronnie v WST issue.
He probably didn’t want to go, but could have been persuaded with some extra money. But the sponsors were not interested.
If some of the elite players pass on the announced Saudi tournament, for any reason, is Jason Ferguson prepared to shame them for that too? Personally, I’d applaud any player to give that a miss.
Me too Jo.
Agreed. It would of course be even better if this tournament never happened.
Ronnie’s position for many years has always been the top 16 shouldn’t have to qualify for tournaments, and this is the natural extension of this. The appearance fee quote is a bit of red herring for me.
If WST want the big names to help expand the game, then they should treat the big names with the respect they deserve. Let’s say Ronnie did enter only for him, Judd, Robertson, Higgins, Williams, Selby all to get knocked out in qualifiers – the tournament risks being a damp squib. I have no idea why they risk this sort of thing, it’s mad. For a new tournament in a new territory, top 16 should all be there and first round losers should get expenses covered, another topic Ronnie has been right all along about.
Hi Monique. I really think Ronnie’s development is normal for a man in his forties. When we’re younger, we’re super-competitive. As we age, we become more nurturing, and at a deep level we realise how daft competitive pastimes are. Mark Williams is another example of a man with this insight; even John Higgins has mellowed.
Of course, we can all think of snooker players in their 40s who couldn’t bear losing, but even Alex Higgins and Ray Reardon had the irony and grace born of experience. Ray was a gentleman; and I always felt Alex was grieving the loss of his soul, and his loved ones, rather than the matches themselves.
Another aspect is that Ronnie doesn’t want to be anybody’s plaything. He wants to be independent morally as well as financially; and good on him. And with that goes a refusal to take on unreasonable pressure – that he can reduce by deliberately sounding as though he doesn’t care, although of course he loves the game and loves to compete.
There sure is a lot of truth in that Athar
I certainly applaud the organizers/sponsors for not paying appearance fees to players, no matter how good it might be to see them there. If anything, WST should cover the expenses of those low ranked players who were drawn against the top 4 seeds and need to travel to Turkey to most likely lose and earn nothing only to save the top from the qualifying venue.
There should NOT be any qualifiers Csilla. If WST wants a flat draw, everyone should get to the final venue and experience how it feels like to play there instead of playing qualifiers in front of nobody in the UK. This system just allows the UK centric nature of the tour to continue. UK players play in their own country most of the time, others need to expat and play qualifiers in the UK for the right to play in their home events. How is THAT right? And first round losers should get their basic expenses covered, no matter where they are playing, and not counting towards ranking. Doing their job shouldn’t cost them.
The current system is not there to “save” the top players from the qualifying venue, it’s to make sure that those guys WILL be at the venue because ultimately that’s what the sponsors and organisers want. If you look at such a system, and if it is to bring value to the event, and attract the fans, then logic would dictate that it’s not the ranking that should determine who is “held-over” to the venue, but it should be the sponsors and organisers choosing who they believe will appeal to the local fans. Countless times there have been German wildcards in the German Masters draw and they never made it to the Tempodrom, having lost in a qualifying venue in the UK. What’s the value of that? Also, when I was taking pictures on the tour, it was not uncommon that some of the top players were asked to do promotion work for the sponsors, a lot of it, for free. It was in their contract and maybe it still is. Of course some were more in demand than others… and occasionally it did interfere with their preparation. Personally, I have no problem with appearance money as a retribution for specific promotion work, agreed in advance.
I agree with you on the qualifying issue. I approached it from the real existing situation and while there is value in bringing top players to the venue, chances are they would qualify anyway and I feel for the ones who will have to make the trip and get nothing in return. But yes, a tournament should be played in the venue in its entirety and all players should have their expenses covered.
I find he idea of appearance fees appalling. If extra money is paid for special promotion work is fine, that’s a different thing, and of course there is nothing to stop private sponsors from paying whomever they want to show up there with the built-in risk that the player in question may not last longer than the first round, but there is something disturbing in the idea of reducing everyone’s prize money to finance one specific player.
Yes, it is problematic for the tournament to pay appearance fees directly. I recall one quote by the chess World Champion Petrosian, before an important match against Fischer:
“it is hard for a player… when one is receiving an additional appearance fee and the other is not. You involuntarily begin to feel a kind of discrimination, offense and even humiliation”
If their budget was capped, the organisers could have reduced the top prize from £100000 to £90000, other prizes accordingly, and found about £25000 for Ronnie. My guess is that the organisers/sponsors were unaware of this issue, since it’s a new tournament. They didn’t make the allowances that other had done.
Yes it’s a disappointment but I do agree mainly with Ronnie and treats this rightfully so as a business and if managed badly would lead to shortcomings elsewhere. He has committed himself over the last 30 years to snooker but no one can go on for ever regardless of how good you are and is now coming to the stage of his career where he needs to have other opportunities in place for when he eventually steps back. I certainly know that over the years he has given pleasure to millions but for Ronnie to do just commentary when he hangs up his cue like others, no I don’t think so.
Yes, but you’ve ignored the main argument: that by not entering he alienates a potentially lucrative market. No, the reasons for Ronnie’s stand is to make it clear he won’t travel unless he gets a special appearance fee, wherever it is. It’s a message for tournament organisers, sponsors and the WPBSA: they have to pay a “Ronnie bonus”. This is not a criticism – he can do what he wants.
But actually it is good for snooker if other players take centre stage. No sport can be healthy when the focus is dominated by just one participant. If Trump, Robertson, Selby, Zhao, Hossein Vafaei, etc. become stars in Turkey and the Middle East then that’s better for the future popularity as snooker tries to get established there.
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