|Betway UK Championship|
|Venue: York Barbican Dates: 27 November-9 December|
|Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 1 December.|
Ronnie O’Sullivan says he is not fearful of any sanctions from World Snooker after being warned by chairman Barry Hearn “enough is enough”.
After reaching his 11th UK Championship semi-final, O’Sullivan continued his ongoing row with Hearn by reiterating his plans for a breakaway tour.
But Hearn said: “Nobody is bigger than the sport. Not me, or Ronnie, but we need our stars.”
O’Sullivan said fellow player John Higgins was with him “all day long”.
Three-time UK champion Higgins was deeply upset after his second-round exit in York, and hinted he may retire at the end of the season.
O’Sullivan suggested after his second-round win that he is “ready to go” and form a breakaway tour, clarifying afterwards it would be a “last resort”.
O’Sullivan said: “I spoke to John and he said ‘whatever you get, I am in’ so I have definitely got John on board. I phoned him four, five days ago and asked him to call me when he is ready.
“We had a chat. I told him: ‘I know the reason why you said what you did.’ He said he is not truly out of love with the game but he cannot carry on as it is.
“I asked if he would do something with me and he went: ‘Yeah, all day long, I would love to do it.'”
I am doing it for the players – O’Sullivan
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan is unhappy with the number of events on the calendar and the travelling required to compete across Britain, Europe and China.
He says the system is “blatantly unfair” and has a signed list of players who “all agree” about the changes he wants implemented, which include seedings at tournaments for the top-16 players, and rankings to be calculated on an average from the tournaments played.
Despite playing in three of a possible nine ranking events this season, O’Sullivan’s record is excellent. Prior to the UK Championship, ‘The Rocket’ was the beaten finalist at the Northern Ireland Open, progressed to the semi-finals of the English Open, and also won two invitational events.
Hearn, though, said he is “bending over backwards for Ronnie” and his “door is always open” for a discussion about any concerns. O’Sullivan rejected the invitation as “there is no point” speaking to him.
O’Sullivan said: “I get some of the other players don’t want to put their names to it, I understand if they are worried of upsetting Barry Hearn, but I have been open about it and happy to take it on.
“I cannot keep being singled out – ‘it is just Ronnie that wants these changes, it is just Ronnie that is moaning’. I have brought it out into the open and everyone feels it is something they can talk about but what we really need now is players to put their name to it and put some pressure on them.
“I predict that Hearn will say I am self-indulgent, but that is totally not the case. I am doing it for the players and not gaining anything out of it. All I am trying to do is prolong my career and play the best snooker I can and to be the best you can be.
“If his door is truly open, let’s have a transparent chat, talk about it and be open to new ideas, new promoters and have another tour. Let people choose where they want to play and work together.
“Barry does not want that, he wants everyone to play in his tournaments and no-one is allowed to set up their own tournaments other than if you work for Barry.
“I am a bit braver than most of the guys on the circuit and ready to look at an alternative.”
O’Sullivan comments ‘damaging’ to snooker
Hearn suggests O’Sullivan could be fined or banned for any more outbursts, and said the player needs to “adopt the proper procedure” by speaking or writing to the WPBSA, the players’ union or the players’ commission.
He added: “I have to factor in something special with Ronnie, the guy is a genius and geniuses are not the same people as you and I. They don’t have the same rationale or the same thought process.
“That does not mean you can ignore the rules, but you have to take into account they are different people. I am trying to with Ronnie and he is making my life harder and harder.
“I want to put an arm around Ronnie rather than hitting him on the head with a rock. He needs to understand the way we work and we need to understand he may have some points worthy of consideration. We will run the sport for the benefit of 128 players, not one.
“Of the 127 players, not one would even contemplate doing anything with Ronnie O’Sullivan because his agenda is for Ronnie O’Sullivan and that is on a selfish point. That is understandable but it is damaging to the game when you are talking to major governments and major broadcasters for them to be reading about a breakaway.
“It is a word which tips you away from the sport, it is controversy. That is damaging and must stop.”
Slow play is ‘tantamount to cheating’
Hearn also want to eradicate slow play in the game, and says anything over 30 seconds per shot is “excessive”.
Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is the fastest player on tour, with an average shot time of 16.25 seconds, while Englishman Rod Lawler is slowest on 33.35 seconds per shot.
Hearn said: “This could potentially be used as gamesmanship to slow down a game against a faster player. That is tantamount to cheating.
“We will have to bring in rules to govern that at the end of the season. Those would involve an average shot time inside the arena for the fans and players.
“The referees are in a difficult place, having to be brave enough to tap them on the shoulder and say ‘you’re a bit slow’.”
From next year, prize money for the UK Championship will increase by £150,000 to a total of £1m, with the winner receiving £200,000, a £30,000 increase from the current tournament.
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