Ronnie O'Sullivan: Free speech is being stifled in snooker, I'm no longer willing to meet the cost
Ronnie O'Sullivan explains why he can no longer accept being fined arbitrary sums for speaking to the media. In his latest exclusive blog, the five-times world champion tells Desmond Kane why he was left with a sour taste in the mouth after winning a record seventh Masters in London.
Ronnie O'Sullivan with his record seventh Masters title.
I was thrilled to win the Masters for a seventh time before another fantastic crowd at Alexandra Palace.
It meant so much to me considering all the ups and downs at the event. As always, I enjoyed the support of the fans so much.
One thing that has slightly taken the shine off my win was receiving another disciplinary letter from the governing body World Snooker about two situations affecting me at the tournament. I’ll try to explain my thoughts here.
Perhaps he was having a bad day at the office, but I felt the referee, Terry Camilleri, was not up to scratch during my semi-final match with Marco Fu at one of our sport's major events.
And neither was a photographer, who was snapping pictures while I was on the shot.
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When asked a question about my match with Marco, all I was giving was my opinion based on 25 years of playing the game. The referee and the photographer affected me so I gave an honest answer to the assembled media about why I wasn't content with the situation.
What hasn't been reported was that after the Masters, I made an offer to spend some of my own personal time with Terry to discuss the issue, or in a room with all the referees, to try to help them understand why situations like this occur during matches, and how we can work together to get it right so everybody is happy.
'IMPORTANCE OF ETIQUETTE IN SPORT'
When I was leading 5-4 against Marco, a pivotal moment of the match, I was going for a very important pot at the start of the 10th frame.
As I'm down on the shot, the guy started moving his camera in my eyeline to get the picture he wanted. I got up off the shot to ask him to keep still while he was in my vision.
I had to ask him at least three times to stop moving while he was in my eyeline. In the end, I had to change the pot I was going for because he wasn't listening. Is that fair?
He obviously didn't know the etiquette of not moving in a snooker player's eyeline while the player is on the shot. It happens a lot in golf, and golf is constantly stressing the need for photographers to respect players before they hit the ball. It should be the same in snooker.
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I understand the demands on me to help project a positive image for snooker, but in a sport where we are told all players must be treated equally, the top 16 players the same as the world number 128, is it really fair that cameras are clicking on shots while other players are left alone to play without this distraction?
It is almost feels like you pay the price for getting further in tournaments when there is inevitably more interest.
I'm not excusing the swearing, and I apologise for that. I'm not trying to upset anyone, all I'm asking for is a sense of decorum during the match. We are all there trying to do our best to entertain, and I know photographers have an important role to play, but we have all have to respect each other.
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I didn't swear on TV, only to 10 or 15 journalists who record comments after the game. Nobody has even heard what I said because it was edited out by the BBC.
I'm not saying I was right to swear, but the photographer could have cost me the match. It was such a tight contest that could have gone either way.
It is appalling to think I could have played a shot that was prompted by a photographer not respecting the etiquette.
It would be good to know what steps World Snooker take to make sure new photographers know the etiquette before letting them snap away when they are only six feet from the table.
'FINED FOR ANSWERING QUESTIONS HONESTLY'
I don't know what the outcome is going to be of these two situations, but I will no longer be talking in depth in press conferences or interviews because when I share my thoughts, I risk being fined.
This is not the first time this has happened. There have been several fines I've had to pay in the past, and they are not small fines.
For some reason, I appear to get fined more than all the fines the other players get for similar offences.
I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions from that.
In fact, some other players don't get reported for similar things they have done. Sadly, I feel some of it is a bit personal. Why? Because it has been going on for years.
From now on, when I don't say much in my interviews regarding snooker, you know why. I will no longer put my head on the chopping block. I don't need the PR good or bad.
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I feel that I'm good to be used for headlines and promotion when it suits, and I think I do more than most in giving my time for interviews.
But then I'm quickly jumped upon the minute my opinions don’t suit them.
It feels like they want to give you it in one hand when you are winning prize money then take it away with the other with their arbitrary fines.
Ronnie O'Sullivan is all smiles after win.
Image credit: Eurosport
Are the fines worked out by a means testing system? If so, that is simply unfair.
I'm left with two options:
a) find a new tour to play on because I still love playing, but not with this constant silliness going on, or
b) not speak or give full answers when being questioned about snooker
This is a very sad place to be when you have to resort to that.
If I get fined for implementing the second option then I will no longer be prepared to perform all the contractual obligations we are asked to do for World Snooker.
'TONE AND TIMING OF LETTERS'
It is not just about the fines.
It is the tone of the letters, and also the timing of them. I've received them one day before I’m due to play a big event. How is that helpful to a player preparing for a tournament?
I'm not prepared to continue accepting this when it is evident the governing body don't seem to have set fines or proper explanations about why people are fined certain amounts.
In view of what’s happened, I think the best way for me to communicate my thoughts, and update everyone in my own words, is by issuing this blog every two weeks.
I think it’s important that I am completely transparent, and let people know exactly what is going on.
This is not a rant, but a measured and factual way that I can communicate with all the people out there without the meaning of my words being twisted and turned into something they are not.
If the president of the US communicates via social media, why can’t I?
Ronnie O'Sullivan on Twitter @ronnie147 and Facebook