Barry Hearn, the chairman of World Snooker, has risked igniting a row with arguably the sport’s biggest name on the eve of the World Championship by telling Ronnie O’Sullivan: It’s time to grow up.
O’Sullivan, the five-time Crucible champion, has staged a two-month protest against what he perceives as harsh treatment by the game’s governing body.
The 41-year-old was disciplined after he criticised referee Terry Camilleri at the Masters in January, and then swore at a cameraman.
Since, O’Sullivan has responded to most questions from the media with one-word answers, replied in a monotone, robotic voice to others and, at the Welsh Open last month, even started singing Oasis’s Wonderwall in response to questions from the BBC.
And, speaking ahead of the sport’s biggest event - which kicks off in Sheffield on Saturday - Hearn said: “I’m going to be having a word. Ronnie’s monosyllabic remarks are not a breach of the rules but certainly they are a breach of the spirit of how those rules are interpreted.
“And I would hope that common sense comes back, because what started off as being quite amusing has now become in my view embarrassing for everyone, including Ronnie.
“I’m a fan of the relationship between the players and the press. It’s time for Ronnie to grow up a little bit now.”
O’Sullivan, who set the record for the sport’s fastest 147 at the Crucible in 1997 when he cleared the table in five minutes and 20 seconds, won his fifth world crown in 2013 and has since finished runner-up to Mark Selby in 2014.
He went out in the second round last year, but remains one of the game’s biggest names all around the world.
Meanwhile, Jimmy White is hoping snooker chiefs hand him a career lifeline with a tour wild card.
The 54-year-old Whirlwind will drop off the professional tour at the end of the season after falling in the first round of World Championship qualifying.
He lost 10-7 to Jack Lisowski on Friday, and faces a wait to learn whether he could have a helping hand back onto the circuit.
Two-year cards were offered to Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and James Wattana in 2014, and supporters of White will be hoping the same applies to the six-time World Championship runner-up.
White wrote on Twitter: “Fingers crossed for the wildcard.
“Hit the ball really well and really fancy giving it another go.”