World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has described Ronnie O’Sullivan’s accusation of ‘bullying and intimidation’ as an “unfounded accusation” that he takes “very seriously” and has promised to take whatever steps necessary to protect his reputation.
O’Sullivan launched a remarkable verbal attack on Hearn and World Snooker on the second day of the Betfred World Championship, after he launched his 25th Crucible campaign with a 10-7 win over Wallsend's Gary Wilson.
The five-time world champion was angered by Hearn describing his recent conduct in interviews as “embarrassing” and responded by claiming a letter he received from snooker disciplinary chiefs had left him distressed.
“I phoned Barry up four weeks ago and I said, 'Look Barry, I'm done with all you and your board of people',” O'Sullivan said of the letter sent to him after he criticised referee Terry Camilleri and swore at a press photographer during January's Masters.
“And I've got a very good friend of mine who said, 'Just let my lawyers deal with it'. I won't get involved with it because I'm not being bullied, I'm not having people doing that to me ever again.
“I like Barry but I'm not being intimidated or bullied any more."
In response to his comments Hearn released a statement on Monday morning, in which he claimed O’Sullivan’s accusations were “unfounded”.
“Neither World Snooker nor myself have received any communication from Ronnie O’Sullivan’s lawyers in regard to his responsibilities or concerns in relation to his signed players’ contract,” the statement reads.
“I personally take any accusation of ‘bullying and intimidation’ by me or World Snooker very seriously.
“Unfounded accusations such as these are damaging to World Snooker’s global reputation, as well as my own, and we will take whatever action is required to protect this reputation from such inaccurate comments.
“I hope all parties can move on from this position and concentrate on the brilliant entertainment provided by players at the Betfred World Championship.”