I've not always seen eye to eye with Barry Hearn, but snooker would be dead without him

I've not always seen eye to eye with Barry Hearn, but snooker would be dead without him

28/01/2015 at 15:28Updated

In writing his latest blog from Crondon Park in Essex where he is competing in snooker's Championship League, Ronnie explains why he got it wrong over Barry Hearn's effect on snooker.

He also tells Eurosport's Desmond Kane why his recent loss to Neil Robertson in the Masters semi-finals at Alexandra Palace may be a blessing in disguise, why Shaun Murphy was a worthy winner of the game's biggest invitational tournament and what steps he is going to take to ensure he remains at the very top of snooker beyond 40.

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You always have to admit when you are wrong, and I will on this occasion. When Barry Hearn first took over the running of snooker in 2009, I was very critical of some of the changes he made to the sport. Not all of them, but some of them.

Lots of my reservations were for different reasons, and as people knew, I took almost a year out after winning the World Championship in 2012. I was unsure about the demands of having to play in lots and lots of events, but on the whole, I have to admit Barry has worked wonders for snooker.

There are so many playing opportunities for the guys to sharpen their skills. That can only be a good thing. Granted the prize money is not as great as it could be throughout the sport, and a lot of the lower players might struggle to make ends meet, but if you are a survivor you will come through.

Or if there is a will, there is a way. I believe that to be true in life. After all, it is a professional sport and Barry's belief is that if you are good enough, you will make money. Hopefully, more sponsors will be attracted to the sport because it certainly has enough supporters.

Before Barry came along snooker was struggling for competitions, probably only about seven in the season. This suited me because it allowed me to concentrate on my running, and allowed me to spend time at home.

Ronnie O'Sullivan chats to World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.

It was perfect for my lifestyle, but then Barry came along and added all these new competitions. It has been virtually every week.

This was a shock to the system to me as it meant I had to put extra shift work in to keep in touch with the other guys on tour. Although it was not good for me, it was good for snooker.

For the same reason Barry has helped to ensure darts is played at the highest levels, snooker is doing the same. More matches are making the top players perform to extremely high levels. By playing in the little competitions Barry has organised, there is less pressure when it comes to the big stage as you saw at the Masters earlier this month.

In some respects, you could say Barry has helped to motivate me.

People are finding their game more often. They then take this form into the bigger competitions. But what happens is, and this is only my theory, they end up treating the big competitions like the little events.

They are playing with much more freedom. They are playing the big tournaments as if it is a knock about down the club, which is great.

This is the best attitude to have whether it is in practice or the World Snooker Championship. Learning to play like you are down the club is not easy, but players are playing with this freedom more often than they used to. This can only happen by playing matches on a regular basis.

There is still some room for improvement. I still think some tournaments can double up on the overseas trips to China rather than playing just one competition, they could perhaps play two in successive weeks. Like the tennis or golf models. That way it cuts down the travelling.

Once that has been resolved, I would have to say the job has been a complete success, but so far so good.

The standard has risen dramatically because of the extra snooker on offer. That has to be a great thing for snooker, regardless of what I might think.

Ronnie struggled during his 6-1 loss to Neil Roberston in the Masters semi-final.

MY MASTERS COLLAPSE AGAINST NEIL ROBERTSON WAS ON THE CARDS

As for my own fortunes, I would have to say I'm glad the Masters is over. I knew that 6-1 loss to Neil Robertson was coming - it only took a great player on their game to do that to me. If it was not Neil, it would have been Shaun Murphy, and I'm kind of relieved the winning run has come to an end.

It was in the back of my mind that I had won a lot of matches on the bounce. In hindsight, it would have been good to have played in the PTC in Lisbon before Christmas, and lost then started on a new run. I'm a sort of law of averages person.

I think that you can't win forever, and if you are to lose it is probably better to lose in a PTC event then the Masters.

What it has done is highlight that my game is not where it was one year ago. I knew this from my play at the UK Championship. I felt slow in my thinking which is not a good thing.

'FOUR MORE YEARS AT THE VERY TOP'

More matches help to engage the mind. That is why I'm playing in Crondon Park this week. I really do believe I have to compete more if I want to play at the highest level for as long as possible.

I still think I have some more wins in me if I can do that. I might have another genuine two or four years competing at the highest levels if I get the right balance between playing and time out. I'm sure I can win more events if I put my mind to it.

Shanghai Nights: The five-times world champion loves playing in China.

Take for example, the games Shaun Murphy was involved in at the Masters: they were all top draw. Not just the way Shaun played. but the way his opponents played. And if having more events gives us matches of that quality, I'm all for it.

There are still only a few players who are consistent, but there are lots of players who take it in turns to produce good snooker,

This in itself makes it harder to win competitons these days. You are always going to come up against someone on form. Whether it is Mark Davis, Barry Hawkins, Stuart Bingham or Graeme Dott. On their day, they are a match for anyone.

Events like the Players Tour Championship ones and Crondon Park are what I call pure snooker. Three matches in one day, it doesn't get any better than that.

There is not so much pressure to perform. You can go in under the radar, have some fun, be adventurous, try out some things and if you lose it is no big deal. I really missed playing them this year.

Practice is boring. I find it such a chore these days, so it makes sense to use the PTC events as a substitute for practice. That way when I come home, I can rest up and enjoy my time with the family and the runs though the forest.

As I'm writing this, I've just come back from Crondon Park, and I've really enjoyed my day there.

I'm not so on it like I was one year ago. I've probably only played two decent matches since last year's Welsh Open. It really has been poor snooker from my point of view.

I know I've won a few competitions, but I've been nowhere near the player I was. I can only put that down to not playing enough competitions and matches. Like I said, it is only through errors that can you see where you may have gone wrong.

Shaun Murphy celebrates his 10-2 win over Neil Robertson in the Masters final.

MASTERS CHAMPION SHAUN MURPHY REMINDS ME OF JUDD TRUMP

Was I surprised how easily Shaun beat Neil in the Masters final (10-2)? Not really. I believe any player is capable of doing that if they get on a run. Like I said, players can win four-six frames on the bounce in a blink of an eye. Neil could have done the same to Shaun, and that would not have surprised me.

But Shaun is the type of player who can blow you away if he is on his game. He is a little bit like Judd Trump in that respect, but I suppose in reality you would have expected Neil to make a better game of it.

I know it sounds strange, but I do think Neil missing the pink in the first frame was probably the cause of the loss of the first five frames.

If Neil wins the opening frame then it maybe goes 4-4 instead of 6-2, but who knows what could have happened? It is all ifs and buts.

The reality is Shaun was the winner, and truly deserved the victory with his standard of play throughout the event.

Follow the latest results from the Championship League at Crondon Park.

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