Ronnie O’Sullivan hits out at snooker chiefs at World Championship amid 'bullying' claims
Ronnie O'Sullivan speaks to Desmond Kane about why he is disappointed over his four-month wait for a replica of the Masters trophy after sealing a 10-7 win over Gary Wilson in the World Championship first round.
He has his eyes on the prize in Sheffield, but Ronnie O'Sullivan has more than the World Championship trophy in his sights.
The sport's headline act also wants better treatment from World Snooker. He seeks an overdue replica of his record seventh Masters trophy from the game's governing body amid appealing to them to stop “bullying” and “intimidating” him via disciplinary missives.
After sealing an enthralling 10-7 win over qualifier and world number 59 Gary Wilson in the first round at the Crucible Theatre, O’Sullivan admitted he was unhappy that he has yet to receive a replica of the trophy he picked up with a 10-7 win over Joe Perry in January.
He also told gathered media that he is no longer willing to be “bullied” after he received a disciplinary letter after berating a referee on television and swearing at a photographer in a media conference after a 6-4 win over Marco Fu in the Masters semi-finals at Alexandra Palace.
The five-times world champion was forced to produce some of his very best form to thwart the gathering storm of Wilson, a former taxi driver from Tyneside, who could have enjoyed the fare of his life only for his hopes to be driven off a cliff edge by O’Sullivan putting on his Sunday best.
O'Sullivan ran in breaks of 124, 83, 74 and 90 to go with 57, 58, 63, 58, 122 and 63 having resumed 5-4 ahead overnight. He secures a possible last-16 meeting with Shaun Murphy, who leads Chinese teenager Yan Bingtao 6-3 in their first-round match.
Wilson showed fierce resistance to claw his way back from 9-5 to 9-7 behind with a fine 103 before a closing 90 left O’Sullivan punching the air. He was well aware that he had edged a match of some quality.
O’Sullivan later insisted he is more interested in trophies than money. He is unhappy that a replica of the Waterford Crystal Masters trophy has not been delivered by the game’s authorities.
“I still haven’t received my trophy for the Masters,” he told Eurosport. “I’m waiting for it, I’ve been promised it, but it still hasn’t come yet.
“I think it is more important than prize money because when you grow up, you want to play for trophies.
“If I didn’t get a trophy when I won a tournament..I was so disappointed. And obviously for the family, kids and friends, they’ve all you got left.
“When you get a bit older, all you've got is your medals. Unless you need to pay some bills at the end of you career and some of the pros sometimes need to sell them off.
“You ask any sportsman. It is all about the gold medal. They get so emotional when they put that medal round their necks. It is great to get a trophy, and when you get one you want to keep it, not give it back after two weeks."
He added: “If you win at the Crucible over the past few years you get a little replica of the trophy, which is obviously great. You have to give the main one back, but it nice to get a replica, a small mini one.
"It doesn't matter, it is still nice to recognise that achievement.
Ronnie O'Sullivan of England in action during the first round match against Gary Wilson of England on day one of the World Championship.Getty Images
“But you don’t get to keep the Masters trophy. You get to hold it aloft then you have to give it back. It is not really right.
“I pride myself in my trophies. I’ve got a lovely trophy room, and something would be nice.”
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, responded to the comments saying he has assured O’Sullivan and all former Masters winners will receive a replica.
“Due to significant changes at Waterford Crystal, at one stage replica trophies were no longer available to previous winners,” said Ferguson. “We are however now in discussions with them to ensure that former winners are to receive replica trophies, and Ronnie has been advised that he will receive a replica trophy.
Ronnie O'Sullivan with his record seventh Masters title.Eurosport
“The WPBSA has already now produced replica trophies to provide to all World Championship winners, of which one will be available to the winner at the end of this 17 days. Further, the WPBSA is currently in negotiations with Waterford Crystal over a long-term trophy partnership.”
O’Sullivan had previously addressed the media to explain why he was refusing to speak to reporters in recent exchanges, giving short answers, even impersonating a robot and a singing an Oasis song in interviews.
He said he is unwilling to be “bullied” by World Snooker, telling chairman Barry Hearn he is “done” with him and the game’s authorities over the alleged threats. Despite his mood of discontent, he has not been fined by World Snooker from the fallout at Alexandra Palace.
“I get myself in hot water and I get a letter through saying that I need to respond in 14 days the day before a tournament and to be fair it kinda messed up my last three or four tournaments,” he said.
O’Sullivan and officialdom mix together as well as oil and water.
“I didn’t win a match really and I just thought it’s not fair on my fans," he said... "it’s not fair on the people who have invested in me and I don’t really think I have done a lot wrong so I think it is important now for the rest of my career that I stay.
“I just don’t want it to happen again, it has cost me three tournaments.
“I phoned Barry up four weeks ago and said 'look Barry I’m done mate, I’m done with you and your board of people, I’ve got a very good friend of mine who said let your lawyers deal with it and I won’t get involved with it no more because I’m not getting bullied - I’m not letting people do that to me ever again'.
“I’m just fortunate I’ve got a very good friend, who has got very good lawyers, and they’ve got my back and I just want to play and have fun. I like Barry, but I’m not being intimidated or bullied any more.
"I’m just not having it so whatever they throw at me, I am equipped to come back because I’m not living my life like that," he continued.
“I don’t want to play with disciplinary hearings over me all the time. The language can be quite threatening and intimidating and it can be unsettling for me and I feel happy, I’m a happy guy.
“I’ve got a lawyer on it and they realise that I’m not just going to be bullied about and then they back off. It takes that for them to think hold on we can’t bully him, but I’m just not prepared to be bullied anymore.”
Six-times World Championship finalist Jimmy White says O’Sullivan has been working hard as he attempts to equal the records of six-times champion Steve Davis and Ray Reardon, and move one behind seven-times champion Stephen Hendry.
O’Sullivan could face a match in the last 16 with Murphy aiming to repeat his 13-3 win over his fellow Englishman in the last eight three years ago.
“You get to the point where if you have a bit of time to get on the practice table, you like to put it to good use on the practice table,” said O’Sullivan.
“The plan now is to go home and chill out. And then come back on Wednesday because it is special to be amongst it in Sheffield.
“If you are a snooker player or a snooker fan, it is the best place to be.”
-- Desmond Kane at the Crucible Theatre