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Can snooker afford to lose Ronnie?

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Ben Dirs | 22:27 UK time, Monday, 7 May 2012

The Crucible

The genius of Ronnie O'Sullivan is not what he can do with a snooker cue, a table and some balls. The genius of Ronnie O'Sullivan is his alchemist's knack of turning the cerebral into the visceral, while managing not to sacrifice any of the purity of a sport he plays as well as anyone has ever done.

People who do not watch snooker watch O'Sullivan, who claimed his fourth world title with victory over Ali Carter in Sheffield on Monday. Just as people who did not like tennis watched John McEnroe or people who did not like golf watched Seve Ballesteros. O'Sullivan is one of their breed.

People might smirk when seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry says his great rival is "like a rock star playing snooker", but the comparison holds true: O'Sullivan, like a rock star - and unlike most of his fellow snooker pros - has an emotional attachment with the fans. He elicits feelings of delight and pathos; of shock and awe. He demands a response in this most buttoned-up of games.

But the real joy of O'Sullivan comes from watching a man wrestling with an extravagant talent and all the mental turmoil that spawns. "He didn't lose the plot at all," said Neil Robertson after being beaten by O'Sullivan in the quarter-finals, with more than a hint of surprise. For his part, O'Sullivan said it had been a case of managing to temper his lofty, often unattainable, expectations.

For O'Sullivan's is a high-wire act, and you watch in the knowledge that the high-tariff tricks he performs and the demons within increase the likelihood of it all going horribly wrong. Which is why, when it goes right - as with his magnificent break of 92 in the seventh frame of this year's final - it feels doubly rewarding. Like watching a frayed McEnroe reel off a string of passes; or a coiled Ballesteros conjure a series of miraculous escapes.

In truth, it rarely looked like going wrong for O'Sullivan at the Crucible this year: as with his last Crucible triumph in 2008, it was a tournament in which he appeared to have his sport's number. "When he beat me in the semi-finals in 2008 [O'Sullivan won 17-6] it was as close to perfect snooker as I've ever seen," Hendry told BBC Sport. "Some of his play has been as good this year.

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"He's taken the game on to another level. I changed snooker to be a more aggressive game, but Ronnie plays the same game in a much more flash and fluent way. He's the most naturally talented player we've ever seen and at the moment he's the best player in the world by a distance."

Even when Carter, channelling the spirit of his mental guru and 2002 champion Peter Ebdon, sought to drag his rival into the trenches, O'Sullivan, 36, managed to float above the squalor. As well as that run of 92, there was also a clearance of 141 and a rapid-fire 101 in Monday's opening frame. As Hendry said: "When he's on fire he can make great, great players look very, very average."

All of which makes O'Sullivan's suggestion that he might hang up his cue should snooker chief Barry Hearn not yield to his demands a little bit sad and a little bit worrying. Hearn might protest that no single player is bigger than the sport but O'Sullivan represents a disproportionately large part of the whole.

One irony of this year's World Championship was that, while lesser players were creating minor stirs with ill-advised public statements, a sharply-focused O'Sullivan was quiet as a church mouse. But still you heard the telephone conversations between journalists and editors in the press room, which can be abbreviated as follows: "How much do you want on the snooker? "Give me 500 words on Ronnie, stick everything else in a paragraph at the bottom."

"It doesn't sound like Barry Hearn is going to be begging Ronnie to stay," said Hendry, who announced his own retirement from the sport following his quarter-final defeat by Stephen Maguire. "But I wouldn't like to try and sell big tournaments to fans and sponsors without having Ronnie involved."

Hearn, perhaps betraying his inner fears, quipped: "Whatever's going through his mind now, I hope he goes and sees his doctor and sorts things out."
O'Sullivan, whose mental and domestic troubles are well documented, has threatened to retire on numerous occasions and there will be many who will have rolled their eyes and sighed at his latest pronouncement. Even his highly influential mental coach, Dr Steve Peters, sounded frustrated.

"He does find the lifestyle difficult but I think that's universal for all elite athletes," Dr Peters, team psychiatrist to the British cycling team, told BBC Sport. "But I would rather he didn't open up so much because his mind can change from day to day."

O'Sullivan punches the air in delight after clinching his fourth world title. Photo: Getty

If Dr Peters doesn't know what's coming, then perhaps nobody does. But the extra workload that Hearn's revamped 50-week, 27-event tour entails might prove to be the straw bale that breaks this thoroughbred camel's back.

Whether O'Sullivan calls it quits this season or next, the day might come soon. As O'Sullivan put it, "I'm not going to hang around for another two years for things to become fair". And Hearn will be left as the biggest personality in snooker by some distance: great for his own ego, perhaps not as healthy for the sport he surveys.

Hearn will tell himself, and anyone who cares to listen, that every revolution has its high-profile victims. And, rightly, he will point out that O'Sullivan has been threatening to bow out since he was a teenager, long before Hearn came riding to the sport's rescue in 2010 and implemented his exacting new plan.

Still, Hearn may well find himself watching O'Sullivan doing the cha-cha-cha on Strictly one day and think to himself: "What poise; what personality; what class. It was a dark day in snooker when we lost him from the baize."

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Would be sorry to see Ronnie go permanently. We've already lost one genius to Hearn's changes, let's not make it two.

  • Comment number 2.

    As usual, all about the money. I don't pretend to understand the ranking system, but if the aim is to drive away the pros, in place of the asian market, then Hearns your man.

    Great final between two nice guys. I don't see Ali as a loose, just that on the night(S) Ronnie was the man.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thank you, Ronnie, for giving me such joy when I watch you play.
    I must add, that I am much older, and still love Cliff and Kirk and
    Bill (I'm Canadian) and Steven and Jimmy and 'The Hurricane'.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great talent but too much ego. Wish carter had won

  • Comment number 5.

    Ben Dirs, here is your typical man- a person who doesn't watch much snooker but is an avid pool player who hardly ever watches snooker- but when Ronnie plays, I tune in and just marvel at his genius..... great loss if Ronnie were to go

  • Comment number 6.

    Whatever he decides to do I wish him well. I am not a die-hard fan of the game but I do enjoy watching him and have done for years now. He makes a incredibly difficult game look like a walk in the park at times. He can be a pain with his public statements but when he has all his emotions in check he is magical to watch.

    The 92 break was every bit as good as some 147's you will see. I felt for Carter, he looked like he didn't quite know what to do for the best.

    Hearn is asking a lot for guys who are in their 30s with wives, children etc. I know if you are starting out the commitment may not seem so severe but these guys don't earn golf, tennis players salaries for doing this jet-set life. They know that even a good year won't bring mega riches and this means the cycle goes on and on. Maybe a money list would be a better idea, kind of 4 Grand Slam events which attract up to 50% of the years total prize money to keep everyone interested and not drag players all over the globe for 50 weeks of the year. Also a minimum tournament appearance criteria, again a bit like tennis and golf.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hearn doesn't seem to understand that not every player's first priority is a fat wallet. Some of his comments to Mark Allen at last year's world championship shocked me - he said it's the "best time to be a snooker player" and if Allen played by the rules, he could end up very rich indeed.

    Hendry said it, O'Sullivan has said it, and several others - they don't want to play that much in the year, and if they don't want to they won't do it. Hearn says it will become a young, single man's game. That's a travesty, not the fresh interest in the sport - that's great, but that the previous generation of successful players will bow out early because they're being blackmailed (Ronnie got his words right there).

    What will Hearn do when he's forced O'Sullivan, Williams, Higgins, Carter, even people like Robertson or Selby, to retire early because they have a family that they'd like to see more than once a year? It might bring money into the game, but it will lose its soul, and the players that are currently sitting astride the top.

    Hearn needs to start listening to his players, not laughing off their statements as childish or short-sighted. They are the success of snooker. Remove them and you have no sport to market in China, or indeed anywhere else in the world.

  • Comment number 8.

    O'Sullivan was just great this year and fully deserved his fourth world title. The most talented snooker player of the modern era, perhaps all time. When his emotions are under control and his mental state is strong, he is virtually unbeatable. He made a 90 odd break in this final with the balls in dreadful positions. I cannot think of another player that could have cleared up with such imagination and style.

    If he walked away from snooker now, I couldn't complain. He has completely entertained me over the years and I don't think I've seen another sportsman with that level of pure talent. Sometimes he has annoyed and frustrated everyone but the highs have been even better because of those lows.

    Genius is a hugely overused word in the modern world but Ronnie O'Sullivan really is just that. He can do things that other players simply cannot. How someone can make a 147 break in under six minutes, I'll never comprehend. Sporting theatre at its finest.

    I always look to the views of a sportsman's peers to gauge just how good they really are. Stephen Hendry said Ronnie is the best player he ever faced. Jimmy White said he is the most brilliant snooker player he's ever seen and Steve Davis said Ronnie has the most natural talent of any player he has watched or played against.

    They put it better than anyone else could. A snooker great who will be sadly missed if and when he puts the cue away.....

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice blog as ever, Ben.

    To answer the question to your blog; Snooker will not stop should Ronnie decide to retire. Davis, Hendry, O'Sullivan...the greats come and go, inevitably replaced by the next genius. But, should he retire, the sport will be lessened by the loss of the most talented player to ever pick up a cue.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ronnie has demons and is fragile but this year he won and reacted with a new found inner peace so well done and good luck
    Hendry was and always will be the very best, respecting the game, respecting the officials, respecting opponnents, and the fans............who remembers him calling a foul on him self at a crucial stage in a final
    Alex Higgins was a genuis but after reading his book he was tormented and not a nice person
    White was a great player but will never feature in an all time world ten
    Davis was a machine and respectful of the game
    nobody else gets in to the argument except Fred or Ray..........and it was a different game then

    Well done Ronnie enjoy your children growing up you clearly know what is most important

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't care what anyone says, Ronnie is the greatest player to play the game. He is loved because he dares to take risks where his colleagues play the textbook shot, while appearing human amongst the sport's other more robotic competitors. This guy is a national treasure and should be given everything in order to keep him where he is, namely amongst the world's elite and doing a spectacular job to transcend the sport. One of the finest sportsmen to ever come out of this country and a hero, especially considering where he has come from. Congratulations Ronnie, truly awe inspiring stuff

  • Comment number 12.

    I'd probably stop watching the sport if Ronnie retired. Snookers moved on since the days of Jimmy White, Steve Davis and Hendry. Abit characterless now, and unprofessional comments from players like Mark Allen don't help the sport his talent is unquestionable but his comments are just wrong. And Barry Hearn is just ruining the sport the calender will be too long for players, who'd be expected to play in tournaments in the Far East spending way too much time away from family. Amazing display from the Rocket throughout the tournament!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    When Ronnie did that 147 in '97', i went into school the next day and talked about it with people i didnt even like, thats the power genius' have in sport. Just like when Gazza scored that goal against the Scots and when Eric Kung Foo'd the Palace fan. All of them absolute lunatics however free spirits and there the reason why we go back for more.

    If Ronnies not on then i aint switching on!! I love snooker however the thought of switching on and having the 'jester from leicester' (yawn) or Ding Junhui entertaining me on a sundays final just doesn't have the same appeal.

    Sport has lost its personalities over the past decade and it does't need to loose Ronnie thats for sure. He only says half the stuff on TV as it gets a reaction, gets people talking, he's very clever, hes created a situation where not only do people talk about his snooker but also about himself, his mental state even his running, he is snooker and it needs him alot more than he needs it.

    In the words of the lobster 'absolute genius'

  • Comment number 14.

    No, it will be too sad and emotional to see both Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan retire in the same tournament. Both of them are the best ever snooker players to ever play the game. Ronnie O'Sullivan has been playing excellent throughout this tournament and fully deserves to win it.

  • Comment number 15.

    What is so great about Barry Hearn? Has he really saved snooker? I dont think so. Lets be realistic.

    On the good side, he has added pazzaz, which has made it more fun.

    But on the negative side, he wants to introduce loads of events to make as much money as possible. This is so bad and wrong on every level.

    Its exactly what he did to darts. The PDC world championship was a great idea, but then he created so many events, that watching Barney Vs Taylor lost all meaning, and actually damaged darts even if it created more money.

    I just hope snooker doesnt go down the same route. .

    As for Ronnie, he does make snooker look so easy when he is on song, and is a league above other players, but what I like about him is his humbleness, not his genius.

    Its just a shame we live in a world where u only get recognition for being amazing at something. But i guess thats just the way it is, and it is a true joy watching Ronnie play so well.

  • Comment number 16.

    The combination of such a precise game as snooker and a fragile player like Ronnie is just fantastic. Carter I'm sure is a nice guy and has played very well this year, but carrot juice and taking advice from grinders like Ebdon is not going to make people press the red button too often once Ronnie retires.

  • Comment number 17.

    Ronnie is the true saviour of snooker! Without him a large proportion of viewers would stop watching (myself included)!

    I would be interested to see the BBC viewing figures during the matches that Ronnie played in compared to matches that he wasn't involved in. That's all the Barry Hearn needs to look at to realise what a mistake he'd be making to force the top players out of the game early! Why he is credited for rejuvenating the game I just don't understand...darts style entrance music and snazzy player introductions are hardly a stroke of genius and is definitely not a reason for people to start tuning in - unless they only watch the opening 2 minutes of a snooker match!

    If snooker has to rely on one man to bring back the viewers then Ronnie trumps Barry Hearn hands down!

  • Comment number 18.

    It's true, no man is bigger than the sport. Except for the fact that Ronnie is so different to all the other players out there, if he leaves, the hole left will be nigh on impossible to fill. The other drones of snooker, despite being immensely talented do not possess the same things that Ronnie does. I for one will be thoroughly put off watching the sport anymore if he does choose to retire, which i don't think he will now, for a few years at least. That is until someone new comes across that shows signs of the same genius, or the same ingenuity... but the chance of finding someone who mirrors those same qualities will be very low indeed, i won't be holding my breath.
    Dominant performance from O'Sullivan, too good if he ever has the desire to apply his skill to the big occasion. Hearn, do something to get the guy on side or watch your sport wither.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    I ONLY watch snooker when Ronnie O'Sullivan plays.

  • Comment number 21.

    I like Barry and I enjoyed the documentary the other night, but one of the things he said concerning the increase in events really didn't have any merit. Essentially he said "I have no sympathy for making professionals work for their living." That's fair enough - except for the fact that most professionals get to go home at the end of their working day. Snooker players travelling around the world for 50 weeks a year don't have that luxury. The way the PTC order of merit worked the first year was ok - you were obliged to play six events out of the 12 (three in Europe) to qualify for the finals. However, I've no doubt that the rules will get stricter before long, even in spite of the added major events - further alienating the 'old guard' who have more important things to worry about.

    I also have to question the logic in hosting more and more tournaments in China. Yes, that's where the biggest market is, but doesn't it therefore make more sense to strengthen the game elsewhere? Or is it really just about making as much money as possible as quickly as possible? It just seems short-sighted to risk burning your players out like this, especially if it ends up leading to a mass exodus of established professionals - the same professionals that the Chinese idolise, hence decreasing the value of the professional game to that market.

    It's ironic, because Barry himself has used this tactic to his advantage in the darts. After Martin Adams refused to join the PDC having reached the World Matchplay semis and winning a floor tournament, Hearn (who came in around the same time) made it impossible for BDO players to participate in these events. However, he then exploited the Tomlin Order to allow PDC players to play in two of the BDO's major tournaments, the International Darts League and the World Darts Trophy, which were both held in Holland due to the immense popularity of Raymond van Barneveld. Eventually, Barneveld decided to switch to the PDC, and a year later - after three more established Dutch players made the switch simultaneously - Hearn pulled all PDC players from the two tournaments and they lost their sponsorships as a result, dying in the process. The BDO has never recovered as a result, and the PDC is undoubtedly the superior product now.

    It's clear, then, that Hearn knows how damaging a mass clear-out of stars can be to a large market - which is why it's baffling that he'd take this risk with snooker.

    Anyway, a quick word on the match itself - I wanted Carter to win, he's never beaten Ronnie and it would have been a wonderful feel-good story, but if he was going to lose I'm glad it was to Ronnie. We take for granted how good he is sometimes, because he makes the game look ridiculously easy. Have a look on Youtube for his 128 total clearance in less than five minutes against Nigel Bond in 1996 - it's even more breathtaking than his 5.20 maximum.

    A great tournament, a great winner, and plenty still to talk about afterwards. Couldn't ask for more.

  • Comment number 22.

    Snooker can't afford to lose players like Ronnie. When I was a kid, back in the eighties, the game was full of distinct, identifiable personalities. Steve Davis in those days only seemed boring when compared to the likes of Higgins (Alex), White, Werbenuik, Stevens, Taylor (Dennis), Thorne, Virgo, Reardon etc. I remember when dear old Fred Taylor managed to qualify for the Crucible at the age of 70! There's lasting quality for you.

    The technical ability of today's players may be superior overall, but, whilst trying to avoid the temptation to say "things were better back in the day"... in the case of snooker, it's true.

    I watched a lot of this years' championship, for the first time in years, but only when Ronnie was playing. Most of the rest of them bore me to tears, for all their undoubted skill.

  • Comment number 23.

    It will be a very sad day when Ronnie retires, and I will almost certainly lose interest in the game, he is irreplaceable in that he is such a character. Whereas although players like Ding Junghui are undoubtedly talented, where have you ever seen any emotion from him? The game will become boring and tiresome to watch. I believe that Hearn's new event calendar will do far more damage than good

  • Comment number 24.

    personalities of hearn and o'sullivan aside (and their supporters/detractors) there is a real point here, that some other sports do manage their biggest attractions far better- think of the veneration and opportunity they receive in golf. I can't help thinking Barry is missing a trick here by not giving the public what they want, the snooker tour has come on leaps and bounds but is still lopsided, and the ranking (while better than before) are also a little laughable- Carter and O'Sullivan 13th and 16th in the world? please!!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Ronnie is the greatest, and it's brilliant that he brings a lot of the old 80s fans back into the sport... but I'm just thinking now about another major talent who never had the opportunity to find out just how good he could have been... imagine if we'd just been watching a World Championship final between Ronnie and Paul Hunter?

    Snooker tragically lost its second potential superstar of the 2010s.

  • Comment number 26.

    Tbh I think that snooker is in great shape if Ronnie goes. He does nothing but set a bad example to youngsters, such as his explicit behaviour in China, failing a drugs test, walkout v Hendry, etc. I think its an embarassment, and his threatening to leave is out of jealousy of hendry getting his hype from retiring. The BBC only last year were saying, Davis especially, that Higgins was the greatest for getting to 4, and now the say Ronnie just because he won tonight. It is ludicrous, and makes no sense. Ronnie is one of the best, absolutely, but no game is indebted to one player. If he threatens to retire, then perhaps he should, rather than waiting for people to beg him to stay, all so he gets his ego stroked.

    And snooker being boring if Ronnie isn't playing? I think those people who think that should stop watching snooker if they feel that way. i think there is far more to snooker than that - the safety play of the top play is stunning to watch, and the breakbuilding these days is superb. There are no boring matches at all if you take the time to appreciate what the players are doing out there, and it is an injustice to them for them to be overlooked, when they are what keeps the game ticking. Snooker is not just about speed on the table, and then petulence off of it by one player, but by the overall game of players and true gentemanly sportsmanship by the vast majority of pros. What is says that some people are only attracted to the game by the former is something that I would not like to share my own true feelings about (in a negative way!)

  • Comment number 27.

    Well done Ronnie O'Sullivan on a great win, just a shame that Ali listened to anything Ebdon said to him because by not playing his natural game he lost any chance of beating Ronnie, as well as making the final a much duller spectacle for the viewer. Maybe that will be a lesson to him, let's hope so.

  • Comment number 28.

    In reply to Racing Stones, with Paul Hunter, now there is someone who was a gentleman unlike O'Sullivan, and had a genuine sportsmanship about him. He did deserve his praise, and it is a shame we lost him to cancer. A model pro, and exactly what O'Sullivan should be if he were to deserve his following

  • Comment number 29.

    it's about getting a balance, again i think the comparison with golf is a fair one- there is a "travelling circus" but it doesn't prevent the best/established players from staying in the game- can you imagine McIlory or Woods being forced to compete every week- it would just dilute the quality of the bigger events that they did patronise. On balance I am a fan of Hearn (consider the alternative!) but on occasion his ego can get in the way and this might be one- a big part of sports marketability is dishing up a show with established favourites that the audience have had time to get to know and love. It's like in horse racing, on the flat a new cohort come of the breeding production line every year and if they're any good then they'll go straight to stud, whereas over the jumps the same horses come back year after year to compete for the sport's crown jewels (think of Kauto Star), no prizes for guessing which puts more bums on seats!

  • Comment number 30.

    Good to see a snooker player go out in this fashion, it leaves all the what if's intact. Too many have gone on far too long, and albeit I'd have never seen Hendry's 147 in this years tournament, I'd still have liked to have seen him retire at a similar age.

  • Comment number 31.

    @Admiral Crispy, people talk about Federer and Nadal, well O'Sullivan and Hunter could've been equally talked about as a sporting rivalry, two instantly recognizable figures, amazing talents, their 2004 Masters final is there for everyone to see on YT - if only it had been the start of a series of epic battles that would still be going on. I think it would by now have taken the popularity of snooker back to 1980s levels.

  • Comment number 32.

    If we are talking about the most gifted or naturally talented player to ever play the game and one who can do so in majors then ronnie is greatest ever.

    However if we are talking about overall greatness i terms of performance,mental strength and the ability to win time and time again when the pressure was on then stephen hendry at his peak is still the greatest snooker player of them all closely followed by steve davis and even ronnie says that himself.

    I do agree that it will be major loss for gam eif he retires while still at his peak as i think he has a couple more world titles in him and i think barry hearn really does need to look at his plans again and come up with a better ranking system like counting say the money player has won in a year like they do in PDC darts.

  • Comment number 33.

    Admiral Crispy, you seem to be an ardent snooker fan but you can't speak for the majority of armchair sports fans. Who are you to tell people they should 'stop watching snooker' just because they don't like watching some, or even most players? And where would snooker be if they did? Even lower viewing figures and a spiral of decline. The way the BBC presenters (especially Hazel Irvine, don't get me started on the sycophantic ignoramus) talk about snooker makes it clear its appeal is very limited. They are at pains to talk about how people love this and that about the game (the amount of times I've heard 'everyone loves big breaks but people love safety exchanges as well'), and that there are 'still personalities in the game.' It smacks of desperation. If it were true, it wouldn't need saying. With genuinely popular sports these kind of things don't need saying - the product is good enough. When they have a personality they castigate and censor them. The viewing figures etc show that snooker doesn't appeal enough except when played by a very select few of the world's elite and particularly Ronnie.

  • Comment number 34.

    I have to admit Hendry is the greatest ever, but the modern game is different, lots of players get centuries with ease, this was not the case 20 years ago.

    I have never seen anyone win every match and the World Championship as effortlessly as O Sullivan has done this year, against top quality opposition, such as Robertson, Williams, Stevens and Carter, who all would've given a Hendry a run for his money. O Sullivan dispatched of all of them with such ease.

    In many ways this was my best Crucible ever.

  • Comment number 35.

    Admiral Crispy

    You have to admit, that Ronnie adds another dimension that you don't see in other players. He plays at a different pace, he is capable of the spectacular, the jaw-dropping shot that will leave the audience gasping in disbelief, whether it's a magnificent safety or a great pot. I am sorry, but he will be a loss to the sport..... even if he loves to get his ego stroked and can behave a bit like a spoilt child throwing his toys out of the pram- but he hasn't done so much of that lately to be fair to him. His threat of retiring I believe, is to provoke a reaction from the sports world to see how much he will be missed. Deep down I think he wants to be appreciated and wants to be loved, and I am not ashamed to say that I do, for the sportsman that he is....

  • Comment number 36.

    For me, snooker has always centred around two names: Hendry and O'Sullivan. The first has now retired, if the second goes too, snooker will lose a lot of appeal for years to come. Both are legends who shaped the modern game and I just don't see any young players emerging with even a glimmer of the talent of those two snooker giants.

  • Comment number 37.

    snooker can't afford to loose Ronnie, but he wont quit yet. he is just attention seeking like usual, its become predictable , as soon as somebody other than him grabes the headlines (hendry) cue ronnie to say or do something to steal them back.

  • Comment number 38.

    Its extremely seldom I ever praise Ronnie O’Sullivan. More for his antics and crass talk, but this past fortnight he has been a breath of fresh air for me. He has won this world championship at a total canter. Never broke sweat once. The only man capable of stopping Ronnie in this form is Mr John Higgins and he just didn’t even get his bag unpacked this year. The only other man is Ronnie himself, I wonder how long his good mood last for this time? Chops and changes like the weather. This championship, total different class !

    My only complaint is he should have gave Ali Carter the respect to listen to what he had to say when being interviewed after the game instead of koochy cooing with his lad. He’d the rest of the night / week etc to do that.

  • Comment number 39.

    Beautiful, sublime, spellbinding snooker from undoubtedly the best ever player.

    When Ronnie retires, I won't necessarily stop watching snooker, but I won't drop everything and run to the screen like I do now.

    If the ageing greats of the game go, it will tarnish the successes of the next generation. There'll still be champions, but also lots of 'what ifs?'

  • Comment number 40.

    Does anyone else find it incredible that Britain's greatest, most gifted sports star, Ronnie O'Sullivan, never gets on the shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year, let alone win it? He can play with both hands. Corporate goody-two-shoes Beckham may be Britain's richest sports star, but he doesn't have half of Ronnie's talent, wit and charisma. It's not about whether snooker can afford to lose Ronnie. It's about how we can learn to appreciate and learn from the best

  • Comment number 41.

    It will be a very sad day if he does choose to go out like this, and honestly have no idea how much it will affect the sport - the quality of the young players coming through is staggering, and there doesn't seem to be any shortage of great players coming through, which will always keep fans of the game watching, but most people i know who watch it are casual fans and only watch because of Ronnie. He's the most talented player I've ever seen in 20 years of following the sport and will sorely miss him when he does finish, but i think the sport will be ok - just a couple of years back people said MotoGP couldn't survive without Valentino Rossi, but the likes of Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo have proved he wasn't bigger than the sport itself. Look at the amount of quality riders coming through the junior classes and it's clear the sport has no need to worry

  • Comment number 42.

    Coach_John - Re: Sports Personality

    Somehow I have never once noticed that, but to never be shortlisted after all his achievements is pretty shocking... though not really surprising. He would be a popular choice for it with the general public too. I know people who don't follow snooker at all, but still admire him somewhat - purely because they see what an interesting character he is, and can still respect that he's done so much for the sport and can see the admiration he gets from so many fans of the game.

    Plus the article hit the nail on the head with " O'Sullivan is one of their breed." So many of us Brits (myself included) identify with characters like Ronnie easily and can't help but root for them - I have no idea why, but everyone I know is like this.

  • Comment number 43.

    read the first para of the article. this dude has clearly never played snooker. ronnie is a genius because he is fing brilliant at what he does with a snooker cue. its got nothing t do with cerebra or viscera; FM. hx on h8rz.

    ps - it does not bother me in the slightest that he does not get nominated for arbitrary waste of license fee. he just won the world frakkin championship!

  • Comment number 44.

    in a post above someone said motor GP survives without Valantino Rossi because now we have Stoner and Lorenzo but they are just great riders they will never be Rossi he had that little bit more that makes him a genius and the crowd loves people like that, thats what you would miss if Ronnie packed up the game. you would be left with great players but nobody with that bit extra that the crowds love.

  • Comment number 45.

    Interesting points made about the Sports Personality of the Year Award. To be honest I think that award is almost completely devoid of meaning, or at least the meaning is not what we would normally mean by 'personality.' Its much more important to have had a successful year in your chosen sport than to have any charisma to win that award. While I'm here again (I commented earlier) I want to take the chance to voice my opinion on the BBC coverage of the snooker. I mentioned earlier hating Hazel Irvine's inane comments on first hearing, let alone after they've been repeated ad nauseam, which they invariably are (how many times did she ask about Crohn's disease or Ronnie's psychiatrist?). Am I alone here or would other people like to see her relieved of her duties (in all sports?) I also mentioned the presenters always banging on about 'snooker personalities' and then censoring any personalities snooker does have. 'Censoring' might have been a bit strong but ridiculous over-criticism is common. So what if Williams dislikes the crucible? The BBC got so defensive about it. I can imagine someone criticising the Nou Camp 'The pitch is too big and makes the game too much about fitness and not enough about footballing skill.' How would Barcelona respond? They probably wouldn't even bother - they know the stadium is great; they don't even need to defend it - they're secure enough. Like I said earlier, the BBC's defensive stance on this and the 'personalities still in the game,' the 'we all love the safety as much as the big breaks' protestations and on the game in general smacks of desperation. If it was true they wouldn't have to keep saying it. I'm put in mind of the expression 'me thinks the lady doth protest too much.'

  • Comment number 46.

    Ronnie is a genius and a credit to snooker, demons or no demons.
    Long may he grace our screens, even on a 'part time' or 'BBC event only' basis -

    I think Stephen Hendry's retirement is more attributable to his desire to quit at the top of the game and he has said as much in the past. That and the loss of top 16 status, which then means having to qualify for TV stages of all events.

    I'm not sure where some of the Bazza hating is coming from!
    As a snooker fan (all season, not just Sheffield) since the early 80s I'm delighted with the shot in the arm he's giving the game, which was pretty stagnant a couple of seasons ago.
    It's a gradual process and a fair amount needs tweaking/improvement, but I'd much rather his attempt to make the game global, with dynamic ranking system, than the stagnant, closed shop it had become a few years ago.

  • Comment number 47.

    Barry Hearn is an English accountant, sporting events promoter, and the founder and chairman of promotions company Matchroom Sport. I had to google to find the info, of course, because I don't know the guy.

    Ronnie O'Sullivan on the other hand is the snooker legend that makes me watch snooker. Just as Lara was a batsman that made me watch cricket. Just like when Phil Taylor is on, I have to watch darts.

    --Hearn, perhaps betraying his inner fears, quipped: "Whatever's going through his mind now, I hope he goes and sees his doctor and sorts things out." --

    You don't make such statements if you want to help the game of snooker, Mr Hearn. Ronnie is what Messi is to football, what Tiger Woods is to golf, what Phil Taylor is to darts: a great flagship of the game. On the other hand, you're a middle man, a games bureaucrat (and a qualified accountant of course). Snooker needs Ronnie because he's a genius of the game and he's only one. There are countless of middle men like you though to help the game of snooker move forward.

  • Comment number 48.

    Maybe they can implement a system similar to what the ATP has, where senior players (600+ matches I think?) can sit out a few tournaments, without being penalised.

  • Comment number 49.

    Barry Hearn;s job is to promote Barry Hearn ! As a very high profile sports promotor he has always made sure he hits the headlines with whatever sport he is involved with and whichever sports star he has signed up (remember he was steve davis manager). He is fantastic at what he does and at the end of the day he is a accountant motivated by profit margins and his own personal wealth.
    His re-invention of snooker is in all probability healthy for the sport,however, it will not be good for the game in this country or the professionals who are uk based. With the far east becomming addicted ti the sport and the number of people playing the game in China alone being more than the rest of the world put together I dont see the sports survival in the uk being more than 5/10 years. By then all the top players will come from asia (india being the next untapped market) , and Uk professionals will either break away and someone form a european based snooker circuit whilst hearn takes the game to the far east including the world championship where it will be more lucrative to him.

  • Comment number 50.

    Sadly, as ever, the tail is wagging the dog. Mr Hearn undoubtedly wants to make as much money as possible. Should snooker come back to it position of a few years ago then that will be a nice bonus but please don't think that that is the prime reason for his involvement. Treating the players like children seems to be his only man-management tool.
    There are 27 events on the calendar, occupying 50 weeks! Perhaps it could be written into contracts that each of the worlds top 16 MUST play in 10 selected by Mr Hearn, MUST play in 6 others of their choice, and other than that CAN play in as many more as they wish. If they have a cut of date for entries of three weeks in advance then all the publicity can be arranged. That way Mr Hearn can leave the "major" events out of his 10 to ensure a good attendance at some of the lesser events.
    Failing that how about a breakaway tour consisting of those who don't really want to work for someone else? It's happened in Darts after all. Similar type of sport, individual, so doesn't need lots of logistic costs, knockout format, so over fairly quickly. Just a thought

  • Comment number 51.

    So Hearn fines his players when they dont turn up for tournaments? Funny how he didnt fine Taylor or Lewis for missing the Austrian Open the other week. The man is a joke who only cares about profit, not the welfare of his players. He is blackmailing the snooker players based in the UK to further line his pockets by using their image and reputations to sell the game in China. He has already ruined darts by turning into it into an unregulated farce with disgusting crowd behaviour. How long before he starts increasing the pocket size just like he has done with the darts trebles size? Hearn is a disgrace and should resign.

  • Comment number 52.

    Legends come and go but never forgotten. However, will the same be said of the promoter whom has done wondrous things in their own career or will they be saying that he has lost the plot in search of his own ego? "No player is ever bigger than any sport but the same can be said of a promoter too."
    Let's not forget one of the main reasons we watch a particular sport, "entertainment" and let's not forget or dismiss those that "provide it."
    Disgruntled employees are less likely to perform or provide 100% and in a service industry anything less never goes unnoticed especially in the present media. Whether they are employees in a service industry or not, or sports personality, they are part of a chain in the business and a successful chain communicates effectively to reap the rewards for all concerned.
    How many more legends or great players do you lose before reality kicks in or will it be too late, only time will tell. Everyone is responsible for the decisions and actions made, and these can have a negative or positive effect on the whole chain.
    Will Ronnie soon be a legend and how many more of those present great players that entertained us at the Crucible will soon disappear citing similar reasons.

  • Comment number 53.

    All Mr Hearn has achieved is to have a system based on money and not talent. The best players tend to be those who are experienced, probably a touch older, mature and family men.

    As a casual watcher I want to see the best players in the big competitions on tv and not those who have arrived there simply by "doing their time" on the circuit.

    Mr Hendry will not publicly admit it but I suspect the new Hearn schedule has helped to make his decision to retire. AND sadly Ronnie will be next.

  • Comment number 54.

    Ronnie has another three titles to win yet!

  • Comment number 55.

    Hearn seems to have forgotten the one thing that matters: it is the players who comprise the sport and who the audiences come to see, not him. He needs to carry the players with him, not alienate them. He may have business acumen but he is woefully short of man management skills.

  • Comment number 56.

    Well, as many have already said, I too only watch snooker from start to finish when Ronnie plays, so it will be a huge loss and that's that.

  • Comment number 57.

    The players are partially responsible for this mess of course, they voted him in.
    I think in time, we will not have any decent players in the top 10 as China and Asia will explode with snooker players in the next few years.
    But for now, losing Hendry is bad enough, to lose the best ever player too would be a loss that would hit the sport for a long time.
    I never liked Hendry that much, he knocked my fav players, Davis and White off their perch, and i disliked him intensely for it. But i like him around to dislike him if you know what i mean. Hendry was a machine, in his prime he was amazing, just wears players down, need proof? Ask poor Jimmy !!

    Hearn is doing good things for the sport in general, more money, more tournaments. But he needs to remember, collectively the players are bigger than him, and without them, he has nothing at all. Remove the top 20 players in the world, what do you have left? Nothing.

  • Comment number 58.

    Let's just leave all the politics of this weird and wonderful sport to one side for one moment and just congratulate Ronnie, the rest of the players and the BBC for 17 days of a great sporting event. It was a fantastic tournament won by the best player who played to his peak and enjoyed by millions. Thanks.

  • Comment number 59.

    First things first, Ronnie is a truly exceptional snooker player. An absolute joy to watch and four world titles do not do his talents justice. I will miss watching him immensely whenever he finally decides to hand up his cue. But all this talk about viewing figures plummeting if he retires is nonsense. Viewing figures in Britain will suffer horrendously (so it would be painful for the BBC) but you can't seriously think that Ronnie vs Ali Carter this year would draw a bigger global TV audience than Ding vs Marco Fu in a World Championships Final. As British snooker fans, we're incredibly fortunate that the World Championships is played in this country every single year. Even more fortunate that only twice in the last 32 years that the World Champion has not been British. While I am not a Hearn fan, British people need to stop believing they have a divine right to all things snooker.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hearn's comment - "Whatever's going through his mind now, I hope he goes and sees his doctor and sorts things out." - is disgraceful, and betrays his cynical attitude to the great players that make snooker the thrilling spectacle it is.
    The ranking method needs to be sorted out, to allow these great players to work a reasonable amount of time, yet still retain their place at the top.

  • Comment number 61.

    Ronnie O'Sullivan is an authentic snooker genuis and he's far and away my favourite player to watch. Same goes for very many people - that's why the game needs him.

    Assuming he also needs the game (and I suspect he still does) they should be able to reach an agreement whereby there's a bigger schedule but it remains possible to play less often and (assuming good performance) stay high enough ranked to qualify for the marque events.

    Hearn shouldn't cave in completely though: Ronnie won't be around for too many more years anyway and, longer term, it's essential that new young stars come through.

  • Comment number 62.

    Now that Stephen Hendry has quit it will be truly damaging to see Ronnie O'Sullivan leave the game. Snooker does need him, his flair is like no other player that has played the game.
    Yet, nobody can be forced to play http://playwithflair.com/2012/04/21/ronnie-osullivan-or-stephen-hendry/

  • Comment number 63.

    "Even his highly influential mental coach, Dr Steve Peters, sounded frustrated."

    NO HE DIDN'T. I saw the Dr Steve interview on Sunday when he made these comments. He sounded supportive and reasonable.

    Please don't make rubbish up to liven up your article, Ben.

    ---------------------------

    Losing Ronnie would be tragic. He puts bums on seats and gets tellies turned on.

    Snooker looked like it was dying. I supported Hearn's opinion that players should work hard and be grateful for the chances he gives them. But that doesn't mean he can go as far as is possible in that direction.

    Is any player bigger than the game? No.

    Are certain players essential to the game at certain times? Yes. Without Alex Higgins, Reardon, Hendry or others at their moments, the game may have gone down a blind alley or just dragged. Look at the 50's/60's. One could argue that others would have come along in their place but...they didn't really, did they.

    (And before someone says it, no, I haven't forgotten Joe bleedin' Davis and his immeasurable dah-de-dah, made the the game, better than Hendry cos he had to do it in black and white etc zzzzzz :-) )

  • Comment number 64.

    Ronnie O'Sullivan = 4 Time World Champion. Deserved every praise possible after some breath taking performances in this years championship.If Ronnie does quit he will leave a massive hole to fill. Yes snooker will continue and yes i will still continue to watch it, but the excitment and entertainment value will have been lost.

    Ronnie simply is the most gifted player that has ever graced the game. Yes there are lots of legends in snooker such as Davies, Hendry, Higgins etc..but none better than a player that can play with either hand and has the ability to turn on his game whenever he wants to.

    Lets give him the praise he deserves and thank him for the memories. He is already a snooker legend!!! Come on the Rocket!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    To me, Ronnie makes a generally dull game quite watchable at times and if he does quit it will be a sad day for snooker. Snooker needs personalities, ones that wear their emotions on their sleeves and make the game interesting to watch. I for one would watch a lot less snooker were it not for the likes of O'Sullivan, Trump and Hendry.

    As far as Hearn is concerned I think he has been generally very good for the game but i fear his intention to follow the formula of success that he has created in Darts will not work well for Snooker. Whereas the main focus in Darts continues to be the UK and Europe, Snooker's new success can be seen in the Far East even though the majority of the top 128 players are still UK based. I am sure this will cut the longevity of a number of players (just like O'sullivan) who with young families would not want to be flying out to China 4 or 5 times a year.

  • Comment number 66.

    BBC coverage this year was all over the place and I bet viewing figures suffered.

    Sports fans (Non-snooker fans) watch Ronnie...

    Losing a performer who is at the top of his game will also knock the box-office Hearn craves...

  • Comment number 67.

    I'm not a snooker aficionado, I simply watch some of the great tournaments every now and then. Especially if Ronnie's in them. Therefore, I don't know who this man Hearn is. I've never heard of him. I have heard of O'Sullivan, Hendry, Higgins, Davis, etc. They ARE the sport. So who is this man with such great power, and how is it to be justified that he has it? He claims that the older players are spoiled, that they've gone soft, and so on (and he seems to care a great deal about money too). That's his opinion. Why is it even important? In my view, any sports director should always play a subordinate role relative to the sportsmen. He's on their payroll, not vice versa.

  • Comment number 68.

    I have to say, to those who say that they only watch snooker because of Ronnie O'Sullivan, you are part of the problem. I would never deny his natural talent, and this tournament he was practically unstoppable.

    But there are other classic players currently on the circuit, all with their flashes of brilliance that thoroughly vindicates their right to be professional, all of which are just as entertaining but in different ways. I don't see how people can say that the excitement will end if he retires. The Ali Carter - Judd Trump match was the most exciting match of the tournament in my opinion. Think of all the other tournaments Ronnie has been knocked out of. Most of those have been entertaining too. If you are turning the snooker off just because Ronnie isn't on the screen you are not really snooker fans.

  • Comment number 69.

    O'Sullivan seems to get as many headlines about his indecision to carry on in the game, as his play does. Of course, the game will be fine without him.

    The game is at something of a turning point though. The east seems to be taking over the the game whilst the game is struggling in the west. But, like other sports (e.g. South American footballers coming to play in Europe) if you want to play, you go where the game is played.

    It is something of a test of course. Are snooker players playing simply for money since people that comment seem to lack the imagination to look beyond simply money as the answer to everything.

  • Comment number 70.

    What a lot of people are saying here, quite rightly, is that it is not just about Ronnie. There are many other players complaining about the system and their dislike of it. However, when you get the Champion of the World (4 times at that) making comments, people listen a little more.
    Ronnie's mental attitude this week was awesome - he overcame personal demons, 3 former World Champions (the other two players have 4 runner-up awards between them) and Barry Hearn thinks he needs to see a doctor......mmmm, kettle or pot, which do you think Mr Hearn would prefer.
    True BH has made a great impact on the game, but it is on a knife edge and he is in danger of making the wrong call here.

  • Comment number 71.

    A further point regarding the globalization of snooker: China had already embraced snooker long before Barry Hearn took over...
    Also, i liked the suggestion someone made about allowing players to attend a core number of events and play more if they wish: something i've been mulling over since the full calendar came into being. Making it similar to the golf or tennis model.
    I honestly think it will develop this way and that some of the PTC events are place holders to be bolstered, built on, or replaced, as they currently stand. First stage is to fill the calendar and then work on getting improved events.
    I think casual viewers may be lost when Ronnie retires, but at the same time, i don't see that as the death knell for snooker.
    Long may he play though, as I've already said!

  • Comment number 72.

    #70 enanjay

    What I find with Hearn is that he is all for promotion and making money but rarely seems to display any interest in the quality of the 'product', the game, itself.

    In my opinion, boxing is in a right mess at the moment and maybe if Hearn has his way with snooker, then we might end up in a situation where people are turning up for money and not for the chance to excel at their sport.

  • Comment number 73.

    Ronnie's the only player I'd pay to see live. In the same way that I'd pay to watch Barcelona, Nadal, Federer, Bolt, i.e. the greats. Maybe that's not being fair to the other players/teams/athletes, but these are the type of sportsmen/teams that don't come around all too often. Be a sad day for snooker fans when Ronnie retires, I only hope he does it later rather than sooner.

  • Comment number 74.

    @ 68 (09:51 8th May 2012, Oceanzone)

    "But there are other classic players currently on the circuit, all with their flashes of brilliance that thoroughly vindicates their right to be professional, all of which are just as entertaining but in different ways. I don't see how people can say that the excitement will end if he retires."

    Great news...but who exactly are these just-as-entertaining players? :-) The only other stylish player is Judd Trump, screwing the ball around then getting knocked out of tournaments. Mark Allen's fanatastic but doesn't even come close to RoS.

    I'm afraid Ronnie is in clearly in a league of his own. I've seen him play live about five times and the cut-above-the-rest quality doesn't half show. Other players are still brilliant and great to watch but there's far more Dave Harolds and Graham Dotts than Ronnie knock-offs.

  • Comment number 75.

    He is without doubt the most gifted snooker player to grace the green baize, ever and yet he can be exasperating in his apparent dislike of the sport which has brought him the fame and fortune mere mortals can only dream about.
    Barry Hearn is in effect powerless and unable to control Ronnie, so all he can do is make as much money as possible from this prodigous talent for as long as possible.

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm a snooker fan, but only ever watch the BBC tournaments. I watch a game whenever there's one on and I'm in, however I will actively seek out watching Ronnie. For me his games have always produced the most interest and although I still follow the tournaments afterwards there is a definite disappointment when he goes out.

    The past 17 days he's been incredible. The 6 frames in a row against Williams, I don't care who was in that chair they weren't spending much time out of it! Then he did something similar against Robertson, who basically stood no chance. As for the 92 clearance, I was agreeing with Willie Thorn (I think it was him), anyone else would have done well to get 20. He played so consistently well and fully deserved his fourth title.

    It will be a very sad day for the sport when he puts away his cue, just like Stephan Hendry retiring was a very sad day. However the sport as a whole looks pretty strong, the likes of Judd Trump are starting to grow a sizeable fan base as well. People may have been critical of him earlier in the comments section but Ding Junghui is huge in China - he is also a really great player and can be good to watch.

    I do think though that making it a young man's game is bad for the sport. Would you really expect any professional athlete to be travelling 50 weeks of the year? I certainly wouldn't do it - it must be even harder for those with young families, you don't want to miss them growing up. Even if they only have to play in 16 of the 27 tournaments it's still a massive strain. Despite the potential large rewards, they aren't exactly as high as in golf - and even that's got different tours so less travelling than could otherwise be.

  • Comment number 77.

    There is a price to pay if you get involved with a Big Promoter. Snooker players love Snooker, promoters love Money and Power.

  • Comment number 78.

    China boasts some of the worst Human Rights atrocities in the world, no wonder players do not want to play 10 tournaments a year out there, in favour of spending time with their family. Hendry has retired, but if Ronnie is pushed out of the sport by the Barry Hearn regime then I personally will lose interest in this sport. Is it not about time Barry Hearn listened to the opinion of the players, rather than dishing out the I know best treatment.

  • Comment number 79.

    Been saying for a long time if Ronnie just plays sensibly and doesn't beat himself, he's unplayable, Carter did well to at least make the score semi respectable.

    With BH taking over, I was all for more tournaments throughout the year, but I don't think i'd have gone as far as nearly 1 every 2 weeks.
    Yes, by all means expand the sport into new markets but don't do that to the neglect of the original base here in Britain.

    The didn't need so many new tournaments, just a few more televised 'majors' to go alongside the premier league and the PTC events.

    Possibly gone too big too quick?

  • Comment number 80.

    I think some one needs to point out to Barry Hearn that He may have bullied dart players to conform by his my way or take the highway tactics but darts differs from snooker. Darts skills don't readily transfer to other sports lucrative sports, snooker however is different If you try and blackmail the snooker stars they dont only have your way or no way they also have the option to transfer their skills to pool either 8 ball or 9 ball pool both have lucrative professional circuts and many snooker players have shown how easy the skill set transfer to pool so I urge barry hearn listen to your players or you will go down as the man who killed snooker it is a crime that your actions made hendry want to retire before his time if Ronnie goes the same way then heaven help snooker.

  • Comment number 81.

    Massive congratulations to Ronnie and his beautiful family. Ronnie you were sublime every time you stepped out at the Crucible throughout the whole tournament. You were by far the best player and are a truly worthy champion. You’ve entertained and given us all so much pleasure, not only seeing someone so gifted playing at the absolute top of your game, but also with such passion and emotion and allowing us to share a little of the beauty of your truly lovely family to top the performance off.

    Although I am a Ronnie fan I want to pay a huge tribute to Ali Carter as well. I hope you won’t beat yourself up too much over the final. You’ve battled so hard to achieve what you have and you were simply unlucky to run into someone like Ronnie. I hope you can look back and feel so proud of how you were able to battle past all the other players, after everything you’ve been through, to reach the world final.

    This is what truly great and beautiful sport is about for me. Seeing players who are able to perform at the very best of their ability and yet still be able to go home and enjoy being around to raise and watch their children growing up. The likes of O’Sullivan and Hendry are the crown jewels of the sport and what a travesty it would be to try to replace them with a money spinning gravy train.

    I want to echo the comment Dave made about tearing the soul out of snooker. I don’t want to totally rubbish Hearn because he has done some good things to keep the sport from heading into the doldrums. However, he has to be accountable - to the players, to the fans and to the WPBSA who need to get a firm grip of this situation. At the moment Hearn doesn’t seem to be listening to anybody and unless he does the legacy of his tenure will and up being one of greed and of failing snooker.

    Hearn seems to be insinuating that the players don’t work hard enough. They do Barry. They just don’t do it the way you’d like, chasing around the globe putting money into your pocket. The players have been trying to say it and the fans are saying it. We don’t want to see snooker being turned into a model where we end up with tired players who’ve been dragged all around the globe for 50 weeks of the year and then to lose all the players who’ve made this game great. Hearn only seems to measure success in terms of the thickness of his wallet and how much he’s able to run around showing off his wealth and his ego.

  • Comment number 82.

    Snooker is about to go through the greatest revolution in its history next season with all the major ranking tournamants in China and this will mean that many of the european players will spend large amounts of time away from their families. O'Sullivan has a great many personal problems and I fear for his personal well being if he has to try and face them thousands of miles away from those who he needs. O'Sullivan's advisors need to urge to retire to avoid a potentially fatal meltdown and allow him to be there for his son when his own father hasn't been.

    Snooker will miss him just like it will miss Hendry but the new generation like Trump will mean that the sport will be just as exciting as ever.

  • Comment number 83.

    Have been watching Ronnie play since my student days in the mid-to late 90s. Can't say I'd bother watching anyone else. For most non-diehards, Ronnie IS snooker, so it would be incredibly bad business for Hearn, a clever and astute businessman normally, to lose that British interest just to try and attract the Far-Eastern money.

  • Comment number 84.

    I'm not a sports fan but I think that Ronnie O'Sullivan is magic and lots of people I know (elderly, women, non-snooker fans....) tune in just to see the fireworks when he's playing. It is the only time everyone is talking about snooker.

    The ranking system seems really odd not to recognise the best players properly. In tennis the rankings are made according to performance in a set number of tournaments - players don't have to play in ALL of them. This isn't just about Ronnie, experienced/family men are always going to be disadvantaged under this system. Perhaps Barry Hearne should get a life then he would know why (grown up) players need to do other things as well as play/work - or maybe his rules are against the Equality Act and someone could sue him!!

  • Comment number 85.

    Thought the BBC coverage was pretty poor this year. Last night's final, with constant coverage of Ronnie's son and his pathetic 'Good Shot' poster were nauseating, as was Ronnie with his son during the presentations afterwards.

  • Comment number 86.

    @84
    My money would be on Mark Allen sueing him!

  • Comment number 87.

    #85 NetleyNed

    The BBC coverage did seem a little lacking in focus this year, though I can't quite put my finger on why.

    And yes, the family bit is a bit wincing. A bit like when footballers take their children up the steps at Wembley to collect a trophy which, fortunately, I don't think happened this year.

    Maybe it's part of the BBC's effort to have synergy with how Hearn believes the sport should be more personalised as it might make it a few more quid.

  • Comment number 88.

    Ronnie. As much as I hope you don't leave the game of snooker thank you for keeping it interesting, for giving it some character, for making my jaw hit the floor more times than it should and for being entertaining. A tournament such as the World Championship without a Ronnie O'Sullivan would be a very boring tournament indeed.

  • Comment number 89.

    @59 - Thorburn, Docherty, Robertson - I make that 3.

    Ronnie should not be held to ransom, Hearn needs to learn that snooker needs Ronnie far more than Ronnie needs snooker

  • Comment number 90.

    Ronnie is one of a few in all sports that have been able to strike awe and disbelieving admiration in those that watch them at the sport in which they excel. There are very few others: Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Jim Clark amongst them - people who have such a natural gift for their sport that they are a privilege to both watch and compete against.

    I think, for all the good that Barry Hearn has brought to the game, he should give the leading players some leeway. Having a 50-week tournament year, with a points system that makes it difficult for leading players to take a rest, just means they're going to burn out.

    Yes, we'll have more young dynamic players coming into the game, but we'll be deprived of players like Ronnie who have taken (and are still taking) the game to new levels and are such a joy to watch. Barry, should you read this, please think about how best to solve the issue...the sport needs Ronnie more than he needs the sport right now, and it's largely because it's been made such a grind for the top players.

  • Comment number 91.

    The thing about O'Sullivan is that he has suffered from clinical depression ( and hinted at bipolar disorder) and that is the cause for a lot of his erratic behaviour and controversies. Therefore I think it's a bit in poor taste to say that he is 'not a gentleman' when obviously he has had a lot of personal issues which are non-snooker related.

  • Comment number 92.

    It's simple,

    Change the ranking system so that the rankings reflect the best 12 results of the previous calendar year, or best 24 of the previous 2 years. That would mean you could play in however many tournaments you want but only your best 12 (per season) would count.

    For older players this would mean committing to far fewer events, whilst younger players would still be able to 'play to earn'.

    Another idea would be to give world champions a 5 year exemption to the last 32 of the World Championship.

    Barry Hearn, are you reading this?

  • Comment number 93.

    Nice blog Ben - they are improving week by week.

    Ronnie is and was a genius on the snooker table - he did in this tournament what Hendry did in his prime - but the killer is he does it a quarter of the time.

    You miss a shot or leave a red - and 5 minutes later you are 60/70 points down - that is why he would be so hard to play against.

    As for him retiring - his love for the game means he won't yet, but the problem is if he has to start qualifying for bug tournaments he wont enjoy it - as Hendry did not.

    Hearn has to be appluaded for raising the profile of the game and increasing purse money etc - but when you consider the biggest trophy in the game only pays £250,000 compared to other sports it is fairly poultry - especially after paying 50% tax on it!!

    So Hearns has the the tight number of tournaments I think but he should take a look at golf and how ranking points are awarded differently so players can pick and choose a schedule that suits them and their family.

    Will the game suffer if Ronnie doesn't play - in terms of viewing figures and thus sponsorship deals possibly

    Is there an up and coming player of Ronnie's calibre AND personality - not yet

  • Comment number 94.

    Post 84 - the BBC didn't really show that O'Sullivan was a dad who loves his family and children? Oh, how nauseating. How truly awful to celebrate fatherhood rather than portray a stiff upper lip and hide the kids in the corner.

    As a dad, I'm fed up with the British war on kids and the young. Ronnie loves his kids and wanted them near him at his moment of triumph. What is so wrong with that?

  • Comment number 95.

    Just reading through some of the comments and also regarding my thoughts on the rankings system - in no way a defence of Barry Hearn but perhaps the reason why he has to give every tournament the same rating is because he has had to go overseas and ask places to host tournaments, and to do that and then say "thanks but its going to be a class II tournament and none of top 16 are going to come" would probably deter sponsors and hosts of said tournament......?

  • Comment number 96.

    @68 Oceanzone: "I have to say, to those who say that they only watch snooker because of Ronnie O'Sullivan, you are part of the problem."

    Excuse me??? I am a problem because I have the temerity to choose which matches I watch because of the entertainment and sheer awe-inspiring ability (or otherwise) of the participants?

    If people such as myself are perceived as 'part of the problem with snooker' then snooker has a very big problem indeed...

  • Comment number 97.

    Hearn appears to be a greedy man who, ' knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing '. All that we seem to hear from him now is China = money . But what about it's well documented lack of human rights and human rights abuses ? Hearn is not alone of course in seeing the Yen flash before his eyes. And Ronnie ? He is snooker. Most of these other players merely provide the theatrical ensemble cast for Ronnie's Hamlet to perform. And within this cast, most are merely extras. But then what theatre goer went to see hamlet to see the extras ? Of course no one player is bigger than the game but without Ronnie there is no game. It become boring and drab. Without the excitement and expectation of watching a genius at work and witnessing something great. And being able to say I saw it. Hearn may well be the ringmaster but he would be without a circus if he didn't have it's star, it's high wire performer. Barry Hearn is a wheeler dealer who seems unable to recognise the difference between a precious stone and paste.

  • Comment number 98.

    @93
    I don't think you pay tax on the winnings, don't pay tax on a lottery win do you?

  • Comment number 99.

    I just thought Id add to my last post that I am not opposed to the updating of snooker I just think its important to listen to the players while you do it from what the players are saying and indeed from what came over in the BBC documentary on hearn it seemed clear he though he could force his views on the game. my last post points out the players have a lucrative exit door which he cant afford to push player through. I am not even a ronnie fan but as a snooker an i can appreciate the skill he bring to the game is one that snooker cant afford to loose.

  • Comment number 100.

    #98 Typical_English_No8

    As professional's, I believe tax will be payable.

 

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