O’Sullivan turned the tables on Hearn and his board on the second day of the Betfred World Championship in Sheffield, stating he had been left distressed by a letter from disciplinary chiefs after he criticised referee Terry Camilleri and swore at a press photographer during January’s Masters.
However, Hearn refuted the claims, saying in a statement: “I personally take any accusation of ‘bullying and intimidation’ by me or World Snooker very seriously.
“Unfounded accusations such as these are damaging to World Snooker’s global reputation, as well as my own, and we will take whatever action is required to protect this reputation from such inaccurate comments. I hope all parties can move on from this.”
O’Sullivan raised the familiar red flag of a retirement threat after defeating Gary Wilson 10-7 in his first-round match in Sheffield.
“I like Barry but I’m not being intimidated or bullied any more.
“I’ve given 25 years of service to this game and I think I’ve given enough. Drop me out, I don’t need you, you probably don’t need me.
“This is something I do for love, but I’m not going to do it and have people trying to intimidate me and bully me.”
On the baize, Stuart Bingham became the fifth player to reach the second round with a 10-5 defeat of another former world champion – Peter Ebdon.