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Barry Hearn to talk with Ronnie O’Sullivan over ‘damaging’ comments

Barry Hearn to talk with Ronnie O’Sullivan over ‘damaging’ comments

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has told Ronnie O’Sullivan his public outbursts have got to stop.

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan infuriated Hearn when announcing the idea of a breakaway circuit at the UK Championship in York on Sunday.

O’Sullivan, 43, cruised through to the last four at the Barbican with a 6-1 win against Martin O’Donnell on Friday.

But while O’Sullivan was closing in on his 11th UK Championship semi-final, Hearn was telling a press conference that the sport’s most marketable player was harming snooker and had to abide by the rules.

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has warned Ronnie O’Sullivan over his recent comments (John Walton/PA)

“It is damaging to the game,” Hearn said. “When you’re talking to major broadcasters around the world, for them to read about ‘breakaway’ – it’s a word that tips you away from the sport because it’s controversy.

“So that is damaging and that must stop. The rules are very specific that it can’t take place and I’ll be talking to Ronnie about that.”

Hearn said that O’Sullivan had been invited to discuss his complaints with World Snooker’s players’ forum.

“Ronnie by nature does not like authority,” Hearn said. “A lot of geniuses don’t like authority – Alex Higgins was one that ignored authority a lot – but we live in a society where the rules are the rules and we must obey them, or get them changed.”

Hearn added: “I want to put an arm around Ronnie rather than hit him on the head with a rock because he needs to understand the way we work and we need to understand he may have some points that are worthy of consideration.

“It doesn’t mean we are going to do anything because we’re going to run the sport for the benefit of 128 players, not one.

“No one is bigger than the sport. Not me, not Ronnie O’Sullivan, not Steve Davis.”

O’Sullivan wants a playing schedule that is fairer on leading players, a different way of allocating ranking points and improved playing conditions at venues he considers remote.

Martin O’Donnell was unable to get the better of Ronnie O'Sullivan on Friday
Martin O’Donnell was unable to get the better of Ronnie O’Sullivan on Friday (Mike Egerton/PA)

He opened his quarter-final against O’Donnell with a century break and sealed victory with another, edging closer to a record 19 tournament wins in ‘Triple Crown’ events – the World and UK Championships, and Masters.

But he was not in a conciliatory mood afterwards. When asked if he would be meeting Hearn to discuss possible changes to the way World Snooker was being run, he said: “No, not really.

“There’s no point. I’ve said what I had to say. There’s a transcript out there. I’ve already printed up all the points I think need changing.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of players and they all agree with me about the changes and I don’t see what having a conversation would do.

“I get that some other players don’t really want to put their names to it. I understand they might be a bit worried about upsetting Barry.”

O’Sullivan was adamant that other players supported his ideas for change.

He added: “I can’t keep being singled out as just Ronnie that wants these changes, it’s just Ronnie that’s moaning.

“I’ve brought it out into the open and we need more players to put their name to it and put a bit of pressure on and see what happens.”

Meanwhile, Leicester’s Tom Ford reached his first UK Championship semi-final by beating Joe Perry 6-2.

Ford raced into a 4-0 lead thanks to breaks of 76 and 80 and did not allow Perry to gain momentum despite the latter scoring 121 to win frame five.

Masters champion Mark Allen will face Stuart Bingham in Saturday’s other semi-final after the pair eased through their quarter-final matches.

A superb break of 122 in the third frame helped Northern Irishman Allen overcome 2004 champion Stephen Maguire 6-1.

Former world champion Bingham, meanwhile, produced knocks of 120 and 84 as he beat Kyren Wilson by the same scoreline.

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