Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record-equalling reign at the top of his sport can inspire a new golden generation of snooker talent, according to the chairman of the sport’s governing body, the WPBSA.
Jason Ferguson said O’Sullivan’s seventh World Championship win confirmed his status as the greatest ever, and will serve as an inspiration for those seeking to emulate the 46-year-old and his ‘Class of 92’ veterans Mark Williams and John Higgins.
“There was always that feeling that, in terms of the greatest ever, you looked to Stephen Hendry because he only played in 10 or 12 events (each year), yet still win so many titles.
“But this win over Judd Trump really takes Ronnie O’Sullivan above and beyond, and for me it means he has become the greatest of all time.”
The accomplishments of the trio have come in stark contrast to the performances of younger British competitors, with the current top-ranked domestic player, Sam Craigie, ranked a lowly 44.
And while Ferguson believes it will still take time for the balance to redress itself, he believes that when it eventually does so, the game will reap the benefits of the longevity of its current leading names.
“We’ve been redeveloping this sport for 12 years and what we had is a huge gap between those players who were performing to high standard, and those who were coming in young and interested,” Ferguson added.
“We are starting to see those young players break through, so it will happen but realistically we are probably looking at between three to five years before they can start challenging for titles.
“But the key thing for me is to see these younger players competing against the great players, and that’s what’s going to help them going forward.”
Ferguson insisted he was keen to draw a line under the incident in the opening session of the final on Saturday in which O’Sullivan reacted to a warning from referee Olivier Marteel over an alleged lewd gesture.
And Ferguson, who confirmed that no further action will be taken against O’Sullivan over that specific incident, also backed Marteel for intervening towards the end of the final frame of the session.
“Olivier Marteel spotted something that he felt he needed to warn Ronnie for, and he proceeded to warn Ronnie during the match, in the arena, which is the right thing to do,” Ferguson said.
“I personally felt the situation was handled very well by Olivier, and I think Ronnie knows deep down that Olivier is one of the best referees in the world.”