UK Championship: Barry Hearn plans talks with Ronnie O’Sullivan for ‘damaging’ outbursts

Mark Allen during his victory over Stephen Maguire.
Mark Allen during his victory over Stephen Maguire.
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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 last Sunday.

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

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.

“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.

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.”

Today, O’Sullivan will play Leicester’s Tom Ford, who reached his first Triple Crown semi-final by beating Joe Perry 6-2.

In winning the title last year in York, O’Sullivan equalled Steve Davis’s record of six UK victories and Stephen Hendry’s mark of 18 Triple Crowns.

O’Sullivan was never in danger of losing to O’Donnell, after his opening 102 break, but was not at his fluent best.

“It was nip and tuck at the start, I felt fortunate to be 3-1 up at the interval,” admitted O’Sullivan. “I just tried to be patient. I’m playing for the fans because they have supported me so well over the years. I love to win and pick trophies up but that shouldn’t come at the expense of playing for the crowd.”

Mark Allen and Stuart Bingham will meet in tonight’s second semi-final following comfortable 6-1 quarter-final wins last night.

Masters champion Allen saw off Scotland’s Stephen Maguire, while former world champion Bingham cruised to victory over Kyren Wilson.