Snooker is for all, from babies to grannies

Whilst action continued in Barnsley this week for the German Masters qualifiers (two rounds), Ronnie met fans and signed books yesterday in Bluewater.

It was covered by the local press 

Snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan delights one of his oldest fans at Bluewater – Sheila Ulph from Chatham

By Lynn Cox

Five-time snooker world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan delighted fans young and old when he popped into Bluewater.

The top sportsman was at the WHSmith store signing copies of his newest book, Soho Nights thriller, The Break.

Pensioner Sheila Ulph who is from Chatham, is probably Kent’s oldest Ronnie fan.

Mrs Ulph, 91, got a signed card from him because by time she got there yesterday, all his books had sold out.

She was delighted as her daughters had not told her they were taking her to meet him.

Mrs Ulph said: “As far back as I can remember watching snooker with my husband (I have been a fan).

“I didn’t know I was going to meet him – it was a total surprise from my two daughters.

Sheila with the card signed by the snooker champion
Sheila with the card signed by the snooker champion

“My grandson met him before and got his book but I was too late to get the book, but we will buy one.”

However, she said he would treasure the signed Christmas card she had received from him.

Her daughters say their mum has also turned down days out with them and opted to stay in to watch Ronnie play in matches and finals.

“She also put bets on him winning whenever he played.

Ronnie O'Sullivan was at Bluewater meeting fans and signing his book
Ronnie O’Sullivan was at Bluewater meeting fans and signing his book
Ronnie signed a Christmas card for Shelia (6117463)
Ronnie signed a Christmas card for Shelia 
Ronnie O'Sullivan also met a young fan at the book signing
Ronnie O’Sullivan also met a young fan at the book signing

Mrs Ulph added:”Every time I saw him whether he won or lost, it was good.

“Just watching him is enough for me, he’s absolutely superb.”

Hundreds of people went along to meet the sportsman turned author including a young baby which he held and posted for photos with.

His book explores the gangland world of ’90s Soho.

Set in 1997, when Cool Britannia’s in full swing and Oasis and Blur are top of the pops and it feels like the whole country’s sorted out for E’s and wizz.

But it’s not just UK that’s on a high, life’s looking up for Frankie James too – the main character in the book. Frankie’s paid off his debts to London’s fierce gang lord, Tommy Riley.

His Soho open snooker tournament is about to kick off at his club.

Ronnie O'Sullivan was at Bluewater meeting fans and signing his book
Ronnie O’Sullivan was at Bluewater meeting fans and signing his book

The future looks bright, but then Frankie finds himself being blackmailed by a face from his past.

They want him to steal something worth millions and it is enough to get him killed or banged up for life.

Frankie’s going to need every ounce of luck and guile that he’s got if he’s going to pull off the heist of the century and get out of this in one piece.

The Break is the third, fast-paced Soho Nights thriller, written by O’Sullivan.

Since turning professional in 1992, he has clocked up number of awards and trophies, including the UK Championship, the China Open, the Regal Championships, the Benson and Hedges Masters and the British Open.

In January 2000 O’Sullivan won the Nations Cup for England, boasting the best record of any player, 13 wins from 15 frames played.

In 2016 he turned his hand to fiction, publishing his debut novel Framed.

The last part of the article is just a cut and paste from the “trailer” on Amazon and what they chose to “highlight” regarding Ronnie’s record just baffles me … but there you have it. Whoever wrote this trailer probably isn’t a snooker fan.

This was my own review of the book.

As for the German Masters qualifiers, I’ll cover the first round outcome tomorrow.

No #SPOTYforRonnie

Once again snooker has only got minimal coverage in the SPOTY show and neither Ronnie nor Mark Williams have been considered.

Here is Desmond Kane take of it. Desmond is writing for Eurosport

Feature – Ronnie O’Sullivan SPOTY snub reeks of ignorance, snobbery and borders on national disgrace

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s latest snub for the BBC Sports Personality of the year award is a total farce that is either genuine ignorance or a weird old case of class snobbery, writes Desmond Kane

And so the incurable malady of the Sports Personality ceremony lingers on.

The disgraceful decision to again ignore Ronnie O’Sullivan, snooker’s greatest player of all time, from SPOTY, hit a worst note than David Baddiel trying to sing Three Lions at the smug, self-satisfied annual jamboree.

The decision-making to somehow omit O’Sullivan from the shortlist is as much of a waste of space as filling Birmingham’s Genting Arena with 15,000 to celebrate a closed shop. This is an event that completely lost its sense of decorum a long time ago. Probably when blokes like Harry Carpenter and big Frank Bruno were putting golf balls around the old BBC TV Centre back in the 1980s.

SPOTY is no longer for the people who watch sport, but soiled by people who think they know what the public like or want. Who think they know better than the great viewing public.

VIDEO – ‘Absolutely ridiculous!’ – Allen slams Ronnie’s SPOTY snub

00:44

It has as much credibility as the haggard Brexit diatribe “the will of the people” by disconnected eccentrics who have completely lost any sense of what the public actually want or like.

“What has anybody done in British sport done that Ronnie hasn’t done,” said an animated Mark Allen after his 9-7 win over Shaun Murphy in the Scottish Open final in Glasgow.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that he gets overlooked time and time again.”

O’Sullivan was priced at 14-1 for the top award last night behind only Tottenham and England forward Harry Kane, and it must be said a deserving winner in Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.

Even when the six names were trotted out by host Gary Lineker, who weirdly invited them to trudge onto the stage if they heard their name like some sort of sixth form teacher, O’Sullivan was still ahead of Lizzy Yarnold and James Anderson in the betting.

But how can he win if he isn’t allowed a place on the shortlist?

VIDEO – O’Sullivan lifts seventh UK Championship

01:06

Like him or loathe him, at the ripe young age of 43, O’Sullivan has personality, longevity and continues to be a magnificent champion at a stage of his career when other players are reaching for the horlicks.

The latest judging panel who opted against O’Sullivan for the final list of six nominees for the top award are guilty of failing to properly appreciate one of this country’s most talented sports people of all time.

Since he turned professional in 1992, O’Sullivan has astonishingly never been nominated. Yet on he goes, continuing to not only compete with age, but actually improve with 19 major events carried off from the sport.

He has enjoyed a wonderful time in 2018, finishing the year with a record seventh UK title while winning the World Grand Prix, the Players Championship, the Shanghai Masters and the Champion of Champions amid a smorgasbord of runs to the latter stages of events.

If he cannot make it onto the shortlist, you can well and truly forget the biggest snooker story of the year: the rejuvenated world champion Mark Williams winning a third world title at the age of 43, 15 years after his second gong at the Crucible. This miracle on the Sheffield mound occurred a year after the Welshman was thinking of retiring for failing to qualify for the tournament.

How can such world-class individuals be overlooked when they have spades of personality, charisma, dedication and a winning mentality?

VIDEO – When Mark Williams went NAKED to celebrate his world title – Eurosport Advent Calendar

01:43

Snooker is a game that was huge in the 1980s when it was transported from darkened spaces in working men’s clubs to mainstream TV.

It made icons of men like Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, Steve Davis and Jimmy ‘The Whirlwind’ White, but it is interesting that snooker has been treated with more disdain at a time when standards have never been higher. At a time when the standard-bearer is an English bloke who performs such a tough, unremitting game like he is potting pool balls down the pub.

O’Sullivan brings a spiritual element to snooker that has never been seen before and is perhaps unlikely to be witnessed again. O’Sullivan has made it more of an art form than a game. Van Gogh of the green baize. Quite possibly.

Well, the working class roots of snooker are obviously sneered at, and a general ignorance about the talent levels involved in the game make a mockery of the SPOTY panel of judges. Once again.

The SPOTY judging panel have made a barmier call than the trio who thought Deontay Wilder drew with Tyson Fury in their heavyweight contest last weekend.

Like O’Sullivan, Fury does not fit into the politically correct crew who put false, manufactured persona above proper working class heroes.

Like O’Sullivan, he has suffered from a cliquish interpretation of what the man or woman in the street likes.

SPOTY will continue to be run by a cabal of misguided snobs, but it completely lacks any credibility when it decides to omit great personalities for being great. And more importantly, for being true to themselves.

Follow the link above to watch the actual videos.

Desmond’s article only expresses the sentiments that countless others shared on social media yesterday evening.

#SPOTYforRonnie – The Guardian’s view

This is the take of  “The Guardian” writers on the coming SPOTY

BBC Sports Personality of the Year: who should win five top awards?

Our writers offer their choices for the highest honours at the prestigious ceremony, from Ronnie O’Sullivan to Tracey Neville

Alastair Cook. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Tracey Neville, Ester Ledecka and the England football team all caught our scribes’ eyes.
Alastair Cook. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Tracey Neville, Ester Ledecka and the England football team all caught our scribes’ eyes. Composite: Tom Jenkins, PA and Getty Images

Main award: Ronnie O’Sullivan by Andy Bull

Ronnie O’Sullivan has been winning for 25 years now: five world championships, seven Masters and seven UK titles, the latest of them this month. His 19th major victory means he has overtaken Stephen Hendry and become the most successful player in snooker history.

Hendry had already reconciled himself to it. “Ronnie is the best player I’ve ever seen,” Hendry has said. And in all that time, O’Sullivan has never even been nominated for Spoty. Which suits him just fine. “I’m so happy I don’t get nominated,” he has said. “Standing around at some gathering – it’s not my scene.” Which is true, Spoty is a lot of nonsense, but it is also the sort of thing you might say when you have been snubbed 25 times.

O’Sullivan is the rare sort of genius you can actually relate to, one who is always carping about his job, his workplace and his boss. Just like us. And if he lost the popular vote in Crawley when he said their venue “smells of urine”, anyone who has spent any time in an average English leisure centre might suspect there was a grain of truth to it, too. O’Sullivan has always been pretty honest about how hard he finds life, his mental illness, his drink and his drug problems. And unlike some of the other nominees, he is not boring, he is not bigoted, and he is happy to pay his taxes. He is slogging through life just like the rest of us, doing the best he can, it’s just his best is that much better than everyone else’s.

Greatest sporting moment: Cook’s farewell century by Ali Martin

Ian Botham was often asked who wrote his scripts. But for one sunny September day in south London the great all-rounder’s playwright was seemingly seconded to Alastair Cook who, having stated the fifth Test against India at the Oval would be his last in the whites of England, signed off from the stage with a 33rd and final century.

At 33, Cook was calling time because of miles on the clock rather than age. He felt the extra drive that was required at the top level was missing and, in a summer dominated by the bowlers, a double-century against Australia the previous winter was starting to become an outlier. But, freed from any pressure or doubts, an innings of sweet timing followed, and not just by way of willow on leather.

By the time Cook walked off there were 147 runs to his name – bookending a record-breaking England career that had begun 12 years earlier with a century on his debut in Nagpur – and a capacity crowd that included his heavily pregnant wife, Alice, and two young children was rising for its umpteenth ovation. As the slightly embarrassed opener noted at the close: “Sometimes dreams do come true.”

World sports star: Ester Ledecka by Sean Ingle

A robust case can be made for all four world star of the year nominees. Francesco Molinari won the Open and took a maximum five out of five points at the Ryder Cup. Oleksandr Usyk became the undisputed world cruiserweight champion. And the incredible Simone Biles was the first gymnast in 30 years to win a medal in all six women’s events at the same world championships, a feat made all the more remarkable given she had a kidney stone 24 hours before her first discipline.

Yet what Ester Ledecka achieved in Pyeongchang was arguably even more mindblowing. Not only did the 23-year-old Czech become the first athlete in history to compete in skiing and snowboarding at the Winter Olympics – she also shocked the world by taking gold in both events. No one gave Ledecka a hope in the women’s Super-G skiing final, given she is primarily a snowboarder, was racing on skis rejected by the US superstar Mikaela Shiffrin and had been in severe pain beforehand. In fact, her victory was so unexpected that NBC declared Austria’s Anna Veith the winner before Ledecka came through to win by 0.01sec.

A few days later Ledecka crushed her rivals in the snowboard parallel giant slalom, a head-to-head in a series of knockout races, to make history. Her snowboarding coach, Justin Reiter, reckons Ledecka – who is also a brilliant windsurfer – is “one of the greatest living athletes”. Who are we to dare argue?

Gareth Southgate
Pinterest
Gareth Southgate after England’s victory against Sweden in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Team of the year: England’s footballers by Paul MacInnes

On the one hand it is too obvious. Men’s football dominates the sporting landscape in this country and sometimes the social and cultural equivalents, too. This England team do not need any more attention than they already have and – you know what? – they did not win anything either. But on the other, there is really no choice: Gareth Southgate’s side delivered the most significant performance of any British team this year. The World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet for a number of reasons and one of those is that competing (and even noncompeting) countries invest so much of themselves into it. A good performance lifts a nation, a bad one sends it spinning into introspection.

England’s underperformance at international level had become a psychodrama; their defeat at Euro 2016 by Iceland four days after the Brexit vote a national metaphor. To throw all that off as England did was a seismic feat. To go further: to play modern, intelligent football, to do so with camaraderie and a smile, was not so much a pleasant surprise as a delicious shock.

England (the nation) revelled in it, it made people happy. What more can you ask for from a sporting team than that? And a semi-final place was not bad either.

Coach of the year: Tracey Neville by Anna Kessel

How many people can say they changed their sport forever? Tracey Neville’s England netball win did just that. Beating Australia, the best in the world, in their own backyard to clinch Commonwealth gold. Only Australia and New Zealand had ever made the final before. Neville’s team changed English sporting history and broke a global hegemony.

She did it with coaching prowess, bringing Helen Housby – who scored the winner in the final seconds of the game – into the England squad, making the inspirational Ama Agbeze captain, and squeezing every ounce of professionalism out of semi‑professional players.

The victory gave netball an iconic moment. That glorious photo of the Red Roses piled into a happy heap – Housby’s blue tongue and delirious expression – was plastered across front pages. Its power moved mountains: bringing in TV deals, a glossy Nike campaign and 130,000 more players.

In victory, Neville lifted her own profile, a very rare thing for a female coach. The media attention suits her. She is laugh-out-loud funny, down to earth and hugely likable. A women’s sport and a female coach outshining male competitors? That truly is a new world order.

#SPOTYforRonnie

Snooker personality of the year is upon us and Eurosport, amongst others, have been starting a social media campaign to get Ronnie in it. 2019 has indeed been remarkable year for Ronnie, who won five titles in the course of it, the last being his records breaking seventh UK Championship only a week ago.  It uses the hashtag #SPOTYforRonnie

Here they tell you why Ronnie deserves to be nominated for SPOTY

There is of course also a case for Mark Williams as well, after his extraordinary win at the Crucible last May, not forgetting the press conference and  celebrations that follow.

But in terms on “recognizability” by average Joe, Ronnie is by far the most marketable figure in snooker, and the one more likely to attract votes even from those who follow our sport only casually.

The recognition is long overdue and Hector Nunns on twitter reminded us why. This article is already four years old but still very much “up-to-date”.

ANOTHER BBC SPOTY SHORTLIST WITHOUT O’SULLIVAN

ANOTHER BBC SPOTY SHORTLIST WITHOUT O'SULLIVAN

RONNIE O’Sullivan may or may not have deserved to make the shortlist for this particular year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Show, but the annual programme celebrating the sporting year this Sunday will be another reminder that he has never even been nominated and put forward to the public vote.

This year O’Sullivan has won the Masters, the Welsh Open making a 12th and all-time record 147 maximum break to win it, the Champion of Champions and the UK Championship in one of the best finals of recent years, chucking in another 147 in the event. And all done with the usual panache and style that has even fellow pros purring, drawing in TV viewers in the millions.

Let’s be generous to this year’s much-changed BBC panel and note some of those achievements occurred after the shortlist was announced, and also that he fell short in the big one, the World Championship final at the Crucible, losing 18-14 to Mark Selby in a match which he unusually let slip. If you believe that a world title should be some kind of pre-requisite to be nominated then there is at least a reason this year, although that is a decent campaign by most normal standards.

However the BBC have now given themselves a serious problem over O’Sullivan and wider sporting recognition for him on SPOTY – and it stems purely and simply from bewildering past oversights, and from not nominating him when they should have.

If not earlier, they should have had him on the shortlist in 2012, when his career was all but saved by sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, and O’Sullivan went from being 4-0 down in the first round in January at the German Masters to beating Andrew Higginson, winning his first ranking title for two and a half years in Berlin, and then winning a fourth world title and a first for four years.

And even more unforgivably, he should have been on the shortlist last year, incredibly waltzing to a fifth world title after finally doing what he had threatened for years and taking almost an entire season away from the game to recharge the batteries.

Having not taken these opportunities to give O’Sullivan the chance of at least a public vote for the recognition, either a) he never will be; b) the pressure reaches such a level he might get nominated in a year he shouldn’t be to make up for it; or hopefully c) he does win another world title, by no means guaranteed, and the chance is finally and belatedly taken to push his claims.

In recent casual conversations with sports editors they have expressed amazement that O’Sullivan has never been on the shortlist, since he transcends his own sport in the way great sportsmen do. And yet it is some of their colleagues who have in the past been in part responsible, making up the numbers on the panel who decides – alongside BBC senior management, and a selection of the great and the good of British sport.

There just seems to be a snobbery that persists about snooker, and a bias, agenda, call it what you like towards other sports. There is simply no other rational explanation as to why O’Sullivan has never been on the shortlist. This can’t be levelled at the public – they aren’t even getting the chance to vote – so it is the panel. A public vote would in my view in the years mentioned above have resulted in something akin to darts legend Phil Taylor’s second place in 2010.

Steve Davis, working for the BBC at the recent UK Championship, stated as diplomatically as he was able that O’Sullivan there was “more emphasis on sports where you sweat”, in fairness probably as far as he could go before in all likelihood earning some kind of rebuke from his employers. Davis, of course, finished in the top three five times in the 1980s in the days of a free vote.

His BBC co-presenter and commentator Stephen Hendry was stronger after last year’s baffling omission, raising the snobbery concern. O’Sullivan himself is pretty philosophical when asked about it, just accepting that he and his sport are not the cups of tea of those doing the judging.

In fairness there was a time in his career when O’Sullivan probably didn’t help himself, with the regular talk of retirement and hating his own sport – but the work with Peters has seen almost all of that disappear since 2011. And there is a valid reason he is called a genius to the point of monotony. That he is a genius.

The bottom line is that O’Sullivan would be far more recognised – and for good reason – than many of those shortlisted this or last year. He would be more recognised than most footballers. Probably six of this year’s crop could happily go down the street without being spotted. Fame isn’t everything, but O’Sullivan is widely known for his supreme talent and honours on the table and a certain notoriety, fascination and intrigue off it.

Personality, let’s call it. Let’s see if anything changes if he can equal Davis’s world title tally in Sheffield.

 

Photograph by Monique Limbos

It still valid, every word of it.

There were also plenty of players supporting the idea on social media. Such recognition would benefit snooker as  a sport and all its exponents. Asked the question in Glasgow this week, Mark Allen’s answer was unequivocal.

 

Snooker (not great) news and a lovely podcast

The Scottish Open 2018 starts today, and maybe not surprisingly, Ronnie has withdrawn from it. Surely winning the UK Championship yesterday has taken a lot out of him and he deserves a break. His next event will probably be the Masters in January.

Meanwhile, this podcast by Rhiannon Lambert and Ronnie is worth a listen, especially with the end-of-year celebrations, and over-eating coming soon!

FoodforThoughts

Regarding the sports itself, it was announced in the media last week that a ban will be enforced on adds for gambling and betting on TV during sports events. There were many articles in the press about it, and this is one of them, by the Guardian.

UK betting firms back live sports advertising ban

Online gambling firms such as Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes agree ban amid fears of impact on children

Online gambling companies have agreed in principle to a voluntary “whistle-to-whistle” ban on advertising during live sports, in an effort to address concerns about their impact on children.

Companies such as Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes would agree not to advertise during live sports, including after 9pm if the event started before the watershed.

While the proposals have yet to be approved, they are likely to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the five major gambling industry associations next week, with a view to implementing the ban within six months.

A senior gambling industry figure said he would be “surprised and disappointed” if the measures were not agreed and said that while not every online betting firm would support them, all were likely to comply.

“It would be a very brave company that would stick its head above the parapet in isolation,” he said.

The whistle-to-whistle ban, which excludes horse racing, would involve the industry falling into line with Labour party proposals.

The advertising proposals, first reported by the BBC, have been put forward by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which represents online betting firms.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said: “I’m delighted that gambling operators have adopted Labour’s proposal of a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling advertising during live sport.

“With over 430,000 problem gamblers in the country, many of them children, the number of adverts during live sports had clearly reached crisis levels.

“There was clear public support for these restrictions and I’m glad that for once the industry, led by [the RGA], has taken its responsibilities seriously and listened.”

Several chief executives in the gambling industry, including the bosses of William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair, have said they would support greater restrictions on advertising to protect children.

Concern about the normalisation of gambling has risen due to the sheer volume of ads during televised sport.

Research by the Guardian during the World Cup found that children were “bombarded” with 90 minutes of gambling adverts during the tournament.

Shares in gambling companies fell on reports of a plan that would restrict their ability to reach TV viewers, while broadcasters are also likely to take a significant hit on lost advertising revenue.

One senior executive at a media agency told the Guardian that gambling ads were worth £200m to broadcasters last year, with the majority going to Sky and, to a lesser extent, ITV.

Online gambling companies are thought to have learned a lesson from the resistance shown by the Association of British Bookmakers, which fought tooth and nail against the cut in maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals.

Their campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and caused considerable damage to the industry’s reputation over efforts to prevent curbs on machines that the government branded a “social blight”.

RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood is thought to be determined to get the measure approved by the gambling industry before he steps down in January.

It requires agreement from the National Casino Forum, Association of British Bookmakers, Bingo Association and the amusement arcade body Bacta, although their blessing is likely to be a formality as the online industry is by far the biggest TV advertiser.

The RGA has also put forward other proposals but is expected to stop short of adopting Labour’s stated policy of banning gambling companies from sponsoring football shirts.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for campaign group Fairer Gambling, said: “This is long overdue but to be truly effective it should have also included bans on shirt and league sponsorship and pitch-side rolling displays.”

This is indeed good news as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not just about children either. But for snooker, a sport that is relying so much on the gambling industry, at least outside China, this might be only the start of a massive issue, very similar to what happened with the tobacco ban. If the bookies see their TV adds cut off, they will be less likely to sponsor live sporting events because the whole point for them is to expose their “brand” and promote their “products”. This was coming, and it baffled me how much in denial so many fans were when I raised the point earlier. I very really hope that WS will act wisely and diversify their sponsoring sources. And it might not be that easy because the strong association with the gambling business has created an image already that many other businesses don’t want to be associated with, especially in mainland Europe.

Speaking of mainland Europe, Snookerstars have announced on Facebook that the Paul Hunter Classic 2019 will take place, but as an invitational event for 16 players only. I’m not sure at this stage what the status of the event will be, nor if it will still be a pro-am. My guess is that no amateurs will be involved in the main competition. This is both a good news and a bad news. Good because I really feared that he would disappear entirely, bad because this was the best pro-am you could play in, or watch, and it has been ruined. Making it a full ranking event, without the financial backing to attract top players has killed it. And getting financial backing from sponsors in mainland Europe is extremely difficult (see above!)

 

More on Ronnie’s “Breakaway” Ideas

This is the full interview that started it all

Ronnie told more to BBC about his “Breakaway” plans 

Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘ready to go’ with breakaway snooker tour

And here is another account, as reported by Hector Nunns

‘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

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 

 

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

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 . Obvioiusly a very different perspective, but then Judd is young, he doesn’t have children and he’s not been around in the ninethies which is the era Ronnie clearly is nostalgic about.

Trump says the conditions are good but that’s clearly not Mark Allen’s views

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

Screenshot 2018-12-02 at 19.04.45

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:

Screenshot 2018-12-03 at 01.00.27