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An irate Ronnie O’Sullivan has ripped into the current state of snooker in one of his most explosive ever interviews. The Rocket believes his cherished sport is in “the worst place it has ever been” and even called on players to go on strike just weeks before the iconic World Championship begins at the Crucible.
The world No 1 is exasperated by the tainted current public image of snooker amidst its match-fixing scandal. The corruption crisis has seen 10 Chinese players suspended and charged with “manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes”.
The seven-time world champion O’Sullivan is also disappointed at the level of prize money compared to other sports such as tennis and golf. Tournament offerings still remain lower than they were pre-Covid and that is partly because China has not staged a major event since November 2019.
O’Sullivan is so irritated that he believes snooker is currently “beyond a crisis” and has suggested the only fix may be for players to go on strike to force changes from governing bodies. He said: “Listen, snooker is in a bad place. It’s in trouble.
“Forget Turkey [the Turkish Masters was recently cancelled]. This needs at least another £50million a year just to make it a proper tour. When you look at the number, it’s bad.
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“When you look at £10m prize money for 25 events across the year for 128 players, it’s never going to be good. It needs at least to triple that to make it work. Maybe you do need some proper people like Liberty [in Formula One] or someone with the vision to bring it up to date.
“You look at the people actually managing the game, they are not the brightest sparks either. So you can’t see them digging themselves out of it. But you don’t have to be Einstein. It is probably in the worst place it has ever been. The image of the sport, it’s a bit like a pub sport now.
“Look at some of the tournaments. The Shootout. Some of the venues we play at. It’s lost its charm of what it used to be. It’s cheap. If they can be honest enough with themselves, maybe the people that run the game need to say: We have taken it as far as we can.
“If they really have the love of the sport they would hand it over to somebody else that had higher ambitions. It is probably as bad as it has ever been also because of the betting scandal.”
O’Sullivan claimed that he is not the only one on tour who is frustrated with the state of snooker, as he called upon players to come together and take strike action. The outspoken 47-year-old continued: “There are a lot of players I know who are really unhappy and frightened to speak out because they will get fined. They are told that.
“The game is struggling, if you look at the numbers it is in a bad way. But we all want good for the game. I can’t do more. I have carried the sport pretty much for the last 20-30 years. It’s not one player.
“It’s the sport, it’s not a massive sport. At Wimbledon it is probably £50m for the one event. You look at golf, minimum first prize of £1.2m and the top players don’t even turn up for that. We are playing for the winner gets £80,000 most weeks and the runner-up gets £35,000.
“It’s bang in trouble. Mark Allen has done well this year, Judd Trump did well a couple of years before that. A few others do alright. But for the rest, there is nothing there.
“A lot of these players are tempted by crumbs. If you give them a few crumbs, and they say, I will play, keep them quiet, keep them on board. But the only way to get change is for the players to say, we are not playing until you listen to us.
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“If you want us to play in this tournament for six days then this is what we expect. This amount of prize money. Two weeks for this amount of prize money. Nothing will change until the majority of the players go, you know what, we are not playing.”
In response, a spokesperson from World Snooker said: “Last week we held a constructive meeting with the players, unfortunately Ronnie chose not to attend, where we set out our vision for the future of snooker and addressed issues which are important to the players.
“The outcomes were positive, and players were encouraged by the progressive strategy set out by WST. WST is working diligently across many of the areas Ronnie has raised and is achieving considerable success as a result. We have smashed records on ticket sales for the majority of our events this season, and our global TV and digital audience is bigger than ever.
“Prize money for our UK events has increased since the start of the pandemic. Post-Covid we are committed to returning to China in 2023 and optimistic about that prospect, which would put our tour in the strongest position it has ever been.
“We are working with the leading agencies in sports, whose clients include the Premier League, FIFA, Ryder Cup and The Masters. Our long-term strategy is based upon best-in-class analysis and driven by data. We would always welcome Ronnie to share his ideas and discuss our plans and strategy directly with WST.”
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