Snooker supremo Steve Dawson has slammed Ronnie O’Sullivan for slating the state of the game earlier this week.
World Snooker chairman Dawson took the reins from Barry Hearn two years ago during the Covid period that hit the sport hard.
But senior management were enraged by world No1 and seven-times world champion O’Sullivan’s attack on the way the game is being run.
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O’Sullivan claimed snooker was “in the worst state ever” and the situation was “beyond a crisis”, telling the players to go on strike and calling for at least another £20million in prize money.
And three weeks away from the World Championship at the Crucible that has seen Dawson brand O’Sullivan “disrespectful” to management and players, and failing to be a good ambassador.
Dawson, who also insisted O’Sullivan’s explosive comments were “misguided”, also jibed that O’Sullivan would have won even more than £7m under the current regime if he had played more.
He said: “Ronnie is a fantastic player and a legend of our sport. But sometimes his misguided comments go too far. I feel it’s necessary to respond to some of the damaging remarks he made to the press this week.
“Firstly, Ronnie has never attended a players’ meeting or engaged with us to discuss his opinions.
“There are three formal levels where he can provide feedback: through the WST Board, through the WPBSA Players’ board or through players’ meetings, and he has not engaged through any of these channels. He also has my number and is welcome to speak with me directly.
“He often compares snooker to golf and tennis, but I would challenge him as to whether for his part he elevates the sport and acts as a role model like a Rory McIlroy or Roger Federer.
“We are striving to take snooker to a higher level, but we need the players to be ambassadors in public, and to communicate any concerns they have through the right channels.
“Comments like those from Ronnie this week are damaging to us as a sport - and they’re unfounded.
“In 2010, the commercial rights of snooker were awarded to Matchroom Sport. In that time, snooker has grown exponentially around the world. At the time there were six tournaments and total prize money of £3.5 million.
“This season there are 21 events. Prize money reached £15 million before the pandemic and is currently at £11 million.
“The dip since 2019 has been principally caused by the inability to stage tournaments in China whilst the country was in an unprecedented lockdown.
“During the time that we have run the tour, Ronnie has earned £7 million in prize money, including the £500,000 top prize at the World Championship last year.
“No doubt, with his talent, it would have been a lot more had he chosen to play in more events.
“There are many individual sports, including popular Olympic sports, where the levels of prize money are significantly lower than snooker.
“His comments too often are disrespectful to snooker’s dedicated management, the sport’s commercial and venue partners, and to his fellow players.
“In the past he has described lower-ranked players as ‘numpties’ but they love the sport just as much as he does and our role is to give them opportunities to compete.
“He suggested that players should go on strike – but why? That certainly won’t drive new revenues.
“He also claims that players are frightened of being fined for giving their opinions. The number of players fined for comments made in the media is tiny.
“Generally they are given much more freedom than athletes in other sports because we want them to engage more with the media and the fans.”
Meanwhile Neil Robertson reckons many of snooker’s budget venues are “soulless” – and do not inspire players to produce their best.
O’Sullivan angered the top brass this week by among other strong criticisms claiming that the sport is “cheap”.
And while former world champion Robertson reckoned some of the Rocket’s barbs were harsh, he believes O’Sullivan has a point about venues.
Alongside the great arenas at the Crucible, Alexandra Palace, the Barbican and Berlin’s Tempodrom snooker has used leisure centre venues in Leicester, Crawley, Brentwood, Wigan, Cannock, Wolverhampton and Barnsley.
And world No4 Robertson said: “It can seem quite harsh what Ronnie is saying but there is a lot of frustrations with many of the players there.
“I think World Snooker are doing a good job but like everyone, they can do a better job.
“You know, what he said is that the game has lost a lot of its kind of glamour and I think he is referring to the venues that we are playing at.
“Because apart from the UK Championship and the Masters, okay the German Masters at the Tempodrom is amazing…but all of the other venues feel like in some ways soulless.
“Really, really poor crowds because we keep chopping and changing all of the time. That must probably be a cost thing involved where we are trying to play the events at the cheapest possible venues.
“You don’t really get the best snooker when you do that when the players don’t enjoy it. I think the standard of snooker has been the worst I have seen as a pro from everyone, from all of the top players.
“It has been awful. I don’t think the players have enjoyed playing. The scheduling has been really poor as well.
“The UK Championship were played (in November) and then we played four other events leading up to Christmas.
“The UK is usually the second from last one before Christmas. There seems to be a lot of chopping and changing to the calendar, which definitely needs improving.
“So I think Ronnie had a lot of good points, they were quite strong points, and World Snooker will take them on board for sure and try to do better.”
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