World Snooker: The game wouldn’t miss Ronnie O’Sullivan, says Hearn

Ronnie O'Sullivan in action against Matthew Stevens
Ronnie O'Sullivan in action against Matthew Stevens
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Barry Hearn claims snooker would not miss Ronnie O’Sullivan if he announced a snap retirement and stuck to his word.

The five-time world champion has repeatedly threatened to quit the sport throughout his long career, but has always had a change of heart.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is spoken to by referee Olivier Marteel in his second round match against Matthew Stevens

Ronnie O'Sullivan is spoken to by referee Olivier Marteel in his second round match against Matthew Stevens

Asked what impact it would have if O’Sullivan walked out, Hearn said: “Nothing at all, nothing whatsoever.

“It’s happened in so many other sports in the past. People move on and people rise to the occasion - ‘the king is dead, long live the king’.

“Providing the event is attractive and shown well on TV and you get full crowds and a good standard, it moves on.

“I’ve got some great ambassadors I know I can rely on.

“It’s not for me to say if they are as damagingly exciting as Mr O’Sullivan.

“But I have a feeling with Ronnie that he’ll be around a lot longer than we all think, because Ronnie will always do what we least expect.”

It was confirmed on Wednesday that O’Sullivan will face no punishment over a curious incident involving his chalk during his quarter-final against Stuart Bingham.

O’Sullivan - who earlier in the tournament played some of a frame in his socks and was then warned about his behaviour following a hand gesture in the second-round match against Matthew Stevens - caused a stir when he placed the small cube of chalk on the baize while lining up a shot, a breach of competition rules.

Hearn said: “To the average Joe Public that’s watching, they’ll say, ‘That’s Ronnie isn’t it, we’re lucky he’s playing with his trousers on’.”

Referee Terry Camilleri failed to call the penalty, and a tournament spokesman said that was the end of the matter.

Hearn leaves such decisions to the disciplinary panel of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.

“It’s up to them what they do,” Hearn said.

But while Hearn is confident snooker can survive and thrive without O’Sullivan, he appreciates the interest there is in the 39-year-old, wherever he plays.

“I know Ronnie’s Ronnie, and he may well break half a dozen more rules today. That’s why everybody will be watching, in the same way we used to watch Alex Higgins waiting to self-destruct,” Hearn said.

“The reaction from most sponsors is that if it gets more eyeballs watching almost anything is acceptable, which is not necessarily right but it’s a commercial attitude.

“As much as you can take the moral high ground, there’s a big part of me saying I wish we had 12 more Ronnies.”