Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘could face SANCTIONS’ as World Snooker chief Barry Hearn hits out

And in a war of words the Rocket has hit back by branding supremo Barry Hearn “a cross between Del Boy and Arthur Daley” over his 147 maximum break prize plans.

Five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, 43, created a storm earlier this season by hinting at setting up big-money independent events in Asia and elsewhere.

But the outburst infuriated snooker bosses looking to protect the sport and enforce the players’ contract, and Hearn admitted O’Sullivan still faces the possibility of disciplinary action.

The row has gone legal, and Hearn said: “We have served the papers on Ronnie to make sure he understands what the players’ contract says and there is no dispute.

“He has been referred to disciplinary council, it’s ongoing. The simple reason is when you are in the international, global sports market, you cannot have any grey areas.

“We are in a position of strength. You don’t abuse that, but at the same time it does give us collective powers as a group of players to do really significant deal.

“You can’t have weakness…it’s a bit like Man Utd or Liverpool saying ‘we can do our own TV deal’. That would weaken the brand of the PL, and similarly with us.

“Every player benefits from that collective bargaining position. So we don’t want that undermined by any silly remarks about potential alternative way of watching snooker.

“That is covered in the players’ contracts. Ronnie’s remarks went beyond that and has to be answerable for those remarks and reminded that it is a breach of contract.

“Other players said ‘You must be mad and we are staying where we are’. It diffused the situation, but It was a stern warning shot for Ronnie.

“He could face sanctions, it has been forwarded to the appropriate body and is now out of my hands. The sport needs great players, Ronnie is like Tiger Woods in golf.

“But even without Ronnie and Tiger, those sports are in a good place.”

Meanwhile Hearn announced this week that the rolling 147 prize – going up by £5,000 per event until one was made – will be scrapped because they happen too often.

Instead he has brought in a £1million pot to be shared by all those making one each season – but only if 20 are made.

This season there were 12, and 13 in 2016-17 – but never 20, even though Hearn insisted there could still be a separate prize put up for the World Championship.

O’Sullivan, who has made a record 15 maximums, says the target is unrealistic and the move purely to save money.

He raged: “Barry has always been a cross between Del Boy and Arthur Daley – he is always looking for a cheap soundbite.

“It’s a good way to say that 20 maximums would mean £1million is on offer. It sounds good but it won’t happen.

“It’s a carrot that you will never get. It will incentivise some players but then it could demotivate other players.

“Other players will struggle to get 147s, whenever you go for a 147 you are a taking a risk with your shots. It’s a fine line to cross.”

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