Barry Hearn has told Ronnie O’Sullivan he “should know better” after snooker’s biggest star compared the sport to a car boot sale.
World Snooker chairman Hearn also rebuked the five-time world champion for suggesting the sport had lost respect in the public eye.
And he told the 40-year-old to focus on entertaining crowds, rather than aiming barbs that could offend snooker’s valuable stakeholders.
Speaking after reaching the fourth round of the Betway UK Championship, O’Sullivan said on Monday: “Snooker is becoming a nothing-type sport - it’s kind of like a car boot sale but with the other sports it’s like shopping at Harrods.”
He labelled it “cheap TV” and questioned its image, saying: “You look at Formula One and see beautiful-looking people and you look at snooker and think, ‘God’.”
The tournament is being televised in the UK by the BBC and Eurosport, with O’Sullivan a regular pundit on the latter channel.
Hearn said: “We mustn’t be disrespectful to those people who are involved, sponsors and television companies, and the paying fans, to say ‘this is a car boot sale of sport’.
“I deal with lots and lots of different sports because there are lots of different sports who’d cut their arm off to be in the position snooker is in.”
When asked about O’Sullivan comparing the sport to Formula One, Hearn said: “As a famous man once said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
“I like normal people, I like working-class people who want to get value for money and want to be entertained by sportsmen who know their job is to entertain.
“Ronnie’s an entertainer and he should know better than that.”
Veteran promoter Hearn accepts snooker cannot compete with sports such as tennis, golf and Formula One when it comes to financial rewards, but pointed to the trebling of prize-money available on tour under his chairmanship as proof of its growth.
He said it was “a total nonsense” to suggest snooker had lost respect, and pointed to “an awful lot of ticks” in the sport’s favour.
“It doesn’t mean we’ve finished the journey,” Hearn added. “But we need people to be a bit more positive and a bit more helpful to make sure we achieve that journey.
“Because if you talk yourself down in this world you’ll never get respect in the first place.”