Ronnie O’Sullivan: I’d walk away from snooker if I felt under-valued

Ronnie O’Sullivan declared himself open to offers amid rumours of a rival snooker tour and warned he would walk away from the sport if he believed his talent was being under-valued.

Leading players, including O’Sullivan, are understood to have been approached by Far East backers about the prospect of establishing a breakaway circuit from as early as next season.

And O’Sullivan, who polished off a 10-1 win over Jackson Page in the first round of the World Championship in Sheffield, insisted players were within their rights to consider any lucrative opportunities that came their way.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 – Day Six – The Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan has not ruled out the prospect of joining a rival snooker tour (Mike Egerton/PA)

O’Sullivan said: “Every player has the right to do what they want to do. Each sportsman is a business, whether you like it or not and it’s just like any other job – if you get a better offer, you’re going to go.

“What is a better offer? For some people it might be a reduced schedule, it might be more money. Everyone has a different idea of what is right for them and everyone has the right to make that decision for themselves.

“I’ll go wherever I’m looked after and wherever I feel like I’m valued. For me, I just want to play snooker, I want to have fun, I want to be looked after and pampered. Anyone who wants to pamper me and look after me, I’m your man.”

World Snooker Tour (WST) chiefs have relaxed rules on player contracts since a high-profile row in October, when five leading players were threatened with legal action after indicating they would skip the Northern Ireland Open in favour of a lucrative exhibition in Macau.

Players are now able to play in exhibitions provided they do not clash directly with WST events – the number of which is set to increase following WST’s high-profile and potentially-lucrative link-up with Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom staged the inaugural World Masters of Snooker last month – complete with a prize for potting a golden ball which will double to one million US dollars (currently £800,500) next season – and will also hold its first ranking event in Riyadh in August.

The deal appears to have placated a number of leading players, including O’Sullivan, who has signed a separate promotional deal with the kingdom, but he maintained he would have no hesitation in moving on if he received more favourable opportunities.

“The bottom line is, you’ve got to be prepared to walk away,” O’Sullivan added. “If I didn’t get what I want, am I prepared to walk away from the sport? The answer is yes.

“I’m happy with my life. I don’t need the financial rewards that snooker has offered me. I’m playing because I want to play but I have a value. I’m away from home and my family need looking after. A lot of it is done for them really, so I have to value my time and that’s what it’s all about.”

O’Sullivan needed just 40 minutes to polish off Page, building on his 8-1 overnight lead with breaks of 79 and 38 to seal a last-16 clash with another Welsh qualifier, Ryan Day.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 – Day Six – The Crucible
David Gilbert, left, established a 5-3 overnight lead against Robert Milkins (Mike Egerton/PA)

Four-time John Higgins chiselled out a 10-6 win over Jamie Jones to book his place in the second round for the 26th time in his career.

Resuming with a slender 5-4 advantage, Higgins won the first two frames to assume control, but began to feel tension after a missed pink in the next enabled Jones to reduce the deficit.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2024 – Day Six – The Crucible
John Higgins beat Jamie Jones to book his place in round two at the Crucible (Mike Egerton/PA)

Even at 9-6, Higgins looked far from convincing and another missed pink hauled the Welshman back into the contest before the veteran Scot ultimately limped over the line.

Higgins, who will face Mark Allen in the last 16, said: “I began to miss a few and thought, ‘oh no, don’t do this again’. Obviously you don’t want it going 9-7 or 9-8.

“Who knows where I’ll be in a few months’ time, but my only focus was getting through that first round game and having a crack at Mark Allen.”

Third seed Judd Trump will take a commanding 6-2 lead into Friday’s second session of his second round match against Tom Ford.

Trump punished Ford for missing a routine red when he was 63 points up in the fifth frame, and on the verge of establishing a 3-2 lead.

Instead the former champion hit back to snatch the frame, and subsequent breaks of 52 and 69 set him up to also win the last frame of the session and move four clear in the race for a place in the quarter-finals.

David Gilbert, who beat defending champion Luca Brecel in the opening round, built a 5-3 lead against Robert Milkins in the opening session of their last-16 clash, which resumes to a finish on Friday.