Ronnie was interviewed by the media in Singapore and here what he had to say, reported by Eurosport:
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: SNOOKER THE LAST SPORT I’D WANT MY CHILDREN TO PLAY, THE SPORT NEEDS TO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER
Seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits tennis, golf, football and athletics pose as more attractive options for parents when looking at sports their children to play. O’Sullivan is launching the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy in Singapore and will play an exhibition tournament this weekend alongside Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai.
BY MICHAEL HINCK
Ronnie O’Sullivan says snooker “needs to get its act together” after admitting he would advise children against playing the sport.
O’Sullivan is in Singapore to officially launch the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy, and is set to play an exhibition tournament on Saturday alongside China’s Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai of Thailand.
Speaking about the challenges snooker faces, world champion O’Sullivan admitted the sport is in a “tough position” given its competition.
“It’s hard because obviously football is such a big sport now, tennis, golf,” O’Sullivan told SNTV.
“You have all these sports so if you’re a parent, and if you’re looking at a sport for your son or daughter to get involved in, would you choose snooker? You probably wouldn’t.
“So it’s really difficult to sort of get excited about snooker. You know, I love snooker, I’ve played it all my life, but also I’m a parent as well and I think if I was advising my children on a sport to play, snooker would be the last sport I probably want them to play.
“I’d say maybe try tennis, maybe try golf, play football, maybe athletics, you know all that sort of stuff. So snooker’s in a really tough position at the moment, of where it goes, so it’s up against a lot of other good sports.
“Snooker needs to get its act together I think, more importantly, and at the moment, you can’t compare it to all the other sports really.”
Asked whether a big investment would help snooker, O’Sullivan added: “I think it’d be fantastic for the sport if that was to happen. You need someone like a big backer like the Saudi-people to just come along and say ‘look, this is what we are going to do’ and the players will be like ‘yeah, great’, they probably go for it. That probably would be a good thing for snooker.
“It may be China, maybe Saudi (Arabia), maybe one of them places I think. You need someone with deep pockets that can afford to put maybe a hundred million aside, this is it for the next five years, the players’ futures are secured, they know where they are, you know then that would be great for snooker.”
O’Sullivan won his seventh world title in May after beating Judd Trump 18-13 in the final.
The 46-year-old admitted he was not entirely enjoying his time at the Crucible, but felt the pressure to perform with a television crew following him for a documentary.
“I decided a long time ago that if something got too much pressure, or I thought you know what, I’m not really enjoying this, then it’s probably better that I lose and let somebody else have that place.
“And I felt that during this world championships. I didn’t really enjoy it. But I had this film crew following me so I thought, I better try hard because they’re following me. So that was why I won it. It wasn’t because I wanted to win it. It was just that I felt bad for the TV crew.
He added: “I don’t even actually like talking about snooker. I enjoy playing it but I don’t really want to be too involved in it. So obviously winning the world championships, it really turned everything around and everyone was like, ‘Ah you’re world champion this, world number one’, I was like oh no, I don’t want to be known as that person anymore.
“I just want to enjoy my life you know, but when you’re in the spotlight, everybody gets excited. I’m like, I don’t really want to be that person anymore.”
There a few things in this interview I want to comment on.
First, it’s very obvious that when Ronnie says that he wouldn’t want his son to embrace snooker, it’s “snooker as a profession”. Every parent wants the best for their kids and they want them to be able to earn a decent living and be safe economically. Whatever WST claims, only the top 32 are in that position in snooker, and to be in the top 32, you have to be exceptionally good at it. Only the very top can make enough money to be safe once they retire. Ronnie feels that other “good” sports provide better opportunities to earn, whilst, currently snooker isn’t in that position.
Ronnie mentions Saudi Arabia, no doubt because all the noise about the golf “LIV” tour. I would hate it if Saudi Arabia was getting deeply involved in snooker. This is a terribly repressive regime that tries to rekindle its image – and secure revenues other than those provided by the oil sector – though sports. It’s called “sportswashing” and here is an article by the guardian explaining what their strategy is. It’s 18 months old but still totally relevant. Last March, Amnesty International again raised strong concerns after 81 persons were executed, some of them merely for peacefully protesting. Does the sport we love really want to be involved with such a terrible regime? Alas, they probably would … after all a very lucrative event had been planned to be played there and is probably still on the cards. Now, whilst the snooker authorities can’t possibly ignore the type of country they are dealing with, the players … I’m not so sure. Most of them don’t read much outside the UK news and even then, their interest is mainly about sports. And, of course, China is also a very repressive regime when it comes to ethnic minorities.
That said, that “sportswashing” policy inevitably brings more foreigners in the country. That, in turn, might, in the longer term, force those regimes to become more tolerant to diversity. No matter how hard you try to “hide” some realities, having more “foreign eyes” around will increase the risk of unwanted truths to be exposed. That’s inevitable: such events attract journalists, you can’t keep every single visitor in a “bubble” and some will see beyond the appearances and will talk. If it happens it will eventually backlash.
Finally about Ronnie’s “lack of desire”, I think his very emotional reaction after his win tells us everything we need to know. That said, he isn’t actually telling lies. The World Championship is a 17 days hard slog. Someone like Ronnie has to cope with a lot of tension, a lot of demands from WST and the media, a lot of expectations from the fans. He’s naturally a rather anxious person. I do believe him when he says he doesn’t enjoy that… not after 30 years in the job and in the media spotligth. Having this documentary filmed gave him extra motivation to try his hardest.