Barry Hearn
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Barry Hearn: “prize money has grown from £3.5 million to £15 million.”

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has taken apparent swipe at recent comments made by Ronnie O’Sullivan, saying that snooker “is a land of opportunity.”

Barry Hearn
Barry Hearn has overseen an influx of new tournaments onto the calendar. Photo credit: World Snooker

In recent days, O’Sullivan has taken to social media platform Twitter to voice his discontent with the current state of the game.

The world number three, who won a thrilling Champion of Champions final against Kyren Wilson on Sunday to collect £100,000 in prize money, is currently playing in the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

The first round at the Waterfront Hall accounted for eight members of the top 16 as the event suffered from an early wave of seeded casualties.

O’Sullivan argued that, with the quick turnover of tournaments from one week to the next and the flat 128 draws that are implemented in all of the ranking events aside from the World Championship, top players aren’t being given enough protection in the game.

The standard of the venues have also come under criticism from the “Rocket”, who last month said that the English Open venue in Crawley was a hellhole that smelled of urine.

However, Barry Hearn has retorted that “this amazing set of results justifies the format for this event and highlights the unprecedented quality of players throughout our tour.”

The players ranked among the top 16 are rewarded in the fact that they are seeded in the draw so that they can’t meet another top-16 player until the third round but it’s a level playing field, which is what top level sport should be.

“They are vulnerable in the first round because there are so many good players throughout the rankings. The standard this season and the number of centuries and 147s being made has never been higher.

“Snooker is a land of opportunity and only the cream will rise to the top.

“All sport is about chasing dreams, but new players need the opportunity to chase that dream, and we have that now. We have a progressive system which is based on talent rather than reputation.

“The top 16 have huge benefits because they are invited to the Masters, the Shanghai Masters, the Championship League, seeded into the final stages of the World Championship, and seeded in the draw for every tournament.

“But in most ranking events they start in the same round as all 128 players and that is a fair system.

“Our overall prize money has grown from £3.5 million to £15 million within the past decade, and there are more and more players earning a good wage.

“In our current rankings there are 56 players who have earned £100,000 or more from ranking events within the past two years, whereas at the end of the 2015/16 season that figure was just 33.

“We are extremely ambitious in our plans to grow the sport further and create more opportunities for every player on our tour.”

O’Sullivan, who was boisterous in his disdain but didn’t offer much in the way of any solution, refused an invite to join the WPBSA Players Commission or attend the several meetings that are held annually to discuss the sport.

The five-time world champion didn’t let the distraction affect his playing performance, though, as he compiled a hat-trick of century breaks in hammering Soheil Vahedi on Tuesday.

The Englishman meets China’s Mei Xiwen in the second round of the Northern Ireland Open later on Wednesday.

Live coverage will be on Eurosport and Quest TV.

Click here to view the draw(times: CET)



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World Rankings Top 16

World Rankings after the Northern Ireland Open – won by Mark Allen.

1. Judd Trump
2. Mark Selby
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan
4. Neil Robertson
5. Kyren Wilson
6. John Higgins
7. Shaun Murphy
8. Stephen Maguire
9. Mark Allen
10. Ding Junhui
11. Mark Williams
12. Stuart Bingham
13. Yan Bingtao
14. Barry Hawkins
15. Jack Lisowski
16. Anthony McGill

Fin Ruane Snooker Academy