Ronnie O’Sullivan wants support for suspended players

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Ronnie O’Sullivan has suggested that snooker’s governing bodies should provide further support to those players suspended following an ongoing match-fixing investigation.

The world champion has regularly highlighted the struggle that some players face to make a living in the professional game and made a plea for understanding amid an investigation that has seen 10 Chinese players suspended.

Those players include Zhao Xintong, the 2021 UK Snooker Champion, who has been tipped by O’Sullivan for greatness and the former Masters champion Yan Bingtao.

Both are ranked in the world’s top 16 and have lost their places in this year’s Masters pending an investigation that is expected to be concluded in the next fortnight.

O’Sullivan, who has admitted that he was once offered money to throw a match but could never contemplate such an action, said that he had “no” concerns, “not at all”, about the players he faced.

O’Sullivan stressed that he had no knowledge of this specific investigation, which has not so far resulted in charges against any player, but highlighted the wider challenges faced by some snooker professionals.

“I don’t know what’s going on if I’m honest,” he said. “Before you start criticising the guys involved you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It can only be one of two things, they either have an addiction and if that’s a case then they need help, or they are struggling to make ends meet.

“I think World Snooker could help support them rather than being hard on them and maybe change their structure and maybe not put these players in that situation.”

‘It’s not really as important as other things that’s going on in the world’

O Sullivan also does not expect lasting damage to snooker. “I’m sure it’s happened in football and it hasn’t harmed football,” he said. “I’m sure it’s happened in tennis and it hasn’t done tennis any harm. I’m sure some golfer along the line has done something, it doesn’t seem to have affected that sport.

“I think it will get sorted. We obviously have to sit here and talk about this, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not really as important as other things that’s going on in the world.

“What we’re talking about is a sport. Try and get to the bottom of it and try and support these people to hopefully put them in a position where they might not feel the need to have to do what they’ve had to do. That’s my take on it.” 

Snooker’s governing bodies issued a joint statement following O’Sullivan’s comments. “WST and WPBSA provide support both in guaranteed income and the opportunity to earn significant sums of prize money, available on the World Snooker Tour,” it said. “Our structure includes a Players’ Board, and providing welfare and support to our players is extremely important to us.”

O’Sullivan, who has won the Masters an all-time record seven times, had earlier swept to a 6-1 first round win against Luca Brecel and will play either Mark Williams or Dave Gilbert in Thursday’s quarter-finals.