Desmond Kane

Ronnie O’Sullivan should name and shame after Twitter claims

Desmond Kane

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Amid some heavy snow and dipping temperatures, Ronnie O'Sullivan washed up at the Masters at London's Alexandra Palace back in January during his 11-month absence from snooker to watch a semi-final between Mark Selby and Graeme Dott.

It was a turgid match that saw 10 frames take over five hours to see off, and one completely at odds with the flamboyant nature in which the world champion likes to perform. It conspired to produce the sort of fare the game's blue-chip figure loathes participating in, far less watching. Selby v Dott on BBC2 highlighted why snooker missed 'The Rocket'.

On a self-enforced sabbatical, O'Sullivan said he only turned up because he lived in the vicinity and his mate wanted to watch some snooker. He remains nothing if not unpredictable.

As O'Sullivan sat chatting to players from yesteryear in the form of television pundits John Virgo and John Parrott in the media room, who looked as startled as everybody else by his unannounced arrival, it was difficult to escape from the conclusion that here was a man who was missing snooker.

Not only the sport, but the limelight it provided for him, an unusual form of oxygen for the attention seeker.

He may claim otherwise, repeatedly over the years with his tiresome threats to retire, but suggesting O'Sullivan does not like the fame snooker brings him is like actors claiming they do not like watching themselves in movies.

Left out in the cold in January, he prefers some heat. O'Sullivan loves publicity, sometimes to his own detriment as we witnessed on Tuesday. Here is a figure who should not be clamping himself to issues that do not really concern him, but he could not resist the temptation to involve himself in the Stephen Lee match-fixing disgrace.

His comments on Twitter yesterday in the wake of Trowbridge's Lee being found guilty of "frame and match-fixing" remain ill-advised. And unfounded.

Free speech is all well and good, but the main point the World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn will be putting to O'Sullivan is that there has to be a responsibility when making such claims. Spouting insinuations on social networking sites from the comfort of your own living room without offering supporting evidence of the players in question is a dangerous business.

Since Hearn, the former manager of Steve Davis, returned to snooker back in 2010, it is also an offence for professionals to keep such knowledge to themselves. O'Sullivan has probably left himself snookered because he could not help himself. His claims are damaging and unsubstantiated.

He is only tweeting hearsay which is likely to see him scalded by the authorities for bringing the game into disrepute unless he is willing to provide a dossier on the figures who he knows are involved.

His outburst does nothing to help his fellow players, the best of whom are competing this week in the Shanghai Masters in China. While the fall-out from Lee's shenanigans and the damning 35-page dossier that is likely to see his career effectively ended for throwing frames and matches begins to take effect, O'Sullivan suddenly becomes part of the plot for no apparent reason.

Most players are honest triers attempting to make a living from the game who would never dream of throwing a frame, but mud sticks. It will not take much for Joe Public with a passing interest in snooker to think: 'If one's at it, they all must be at it.' O'Sullivan has fed the beast with his tweets.

O'Sullivan has a brilliant brain, frequently turning snooker into an art form. He is probably the greatest player in the history of the sport with his five world titles, easily the best to watch, but like some of his compatriots picking up a cue, he is not the brightest of characters away from the baize.

Will sponsors be attracted to a sport when the world champion is claiming players are throwing frames? Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are toxic by their very nature, good it seems only for highlighting a lack of basic intelligence and common sense.

In the aftermath of the wretched and unfounded Twitter campaign against Lord McAlpine, do some of these characters think before they tweet or post? Obviously not. The ongoing TV presenter Phillip Schofield showed an astonishing lack of judgement when he became a celebrity nonce hunter 10 months ago by brandishing a list of suspected paedophiles assembled from internet hearsay in front of the Prime Minister David Cameron.

O'Sullivan's outburst on Twitter was unnecessary, unhelpful and self-harming. It paints an untrue picture of a sport that has made him over £7 million in career earnings. Biting the hand that feeds him springs to mind. There are a smallish number of corrupt figures in every sport. Not just snooker.

Alleging that the game is bent says more about O'Sullivan than snooker. It says more about the toxic brand that is Twitter. If O'Sullivan has time to tweet, he has time on his hands.

It would not be absurd to suggest he would be better off playing the sport he loves rather than needlessly harming it.

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