Ronnie O’Sullivan’s comments ‘disrespectful’ – WST chairman Steve Dawson

Seven-time world champion O’Sullivan claimed this week that the game is in “the worst state ever” in terms of prize money, even mentioning the possibility of players staging a strike.

A match-fixing hearing involving 10 Chinese players also means next month’s World Cup will take place in Sheffield under a dark cloud, but Dawson has fallen out with a lengthy statement on the WST’s website.

“Ronnie is a fantastic player and a legend in our sport, but sometimes his misguided comments go too far,” Dawson wrote. “I feel it necessary to respond to some of the damaging remarks he made to the press this week.

“Firstly, Ronnie has never attended a players’ meeting or engaged with us to get his point across. He also has my number and is happy to speak to me directly.

“He often compares snooker to golf and tennis, but I would ask him if he is promoting the sport himself and acting as a role model like a Rory McIlroy or Roger Federer.

“We strive to take snooker to a higher level, but we need the players to be ambassadors in the public and communicate their concerns through the right channels. Comments like Ronnie’s this week hurt us as a sport – and they are unfounded.”

Highlighting the growth in prize money since the commercial snooker rights were awarded to Matchroom Sport in 2010, Dawson added: “During the time we’ve been running the Tour, Ronnie has made £7million in prize money, including the top prize of £500,000 last year’s World Cup.

“Without a doubt, his talent would have gotten a lot better if he had decided to compete in more events.

“His comments are too often disrespectful to snooker’s dedicated management, the sport’s commercial and event partners and its fellow players.

“In the past he has referred to lower ranked players as ‘Numpties’ but they love the sport as much as he does and our job is to give them the opportunity to compete. This season we’ve given every player an income guarantee of £20,000 to help them pay expenses and develop their careers.

“He suggested players should go on strike – but why? This will certainly not bring any new income. He also claims that players are afraid of being fined for speaking their minds, but again this is not supported by the facts.

“The number of players who are fined for commenting in the media is tiny – in general they are given a lot more freedom than athletes in other sports because we want them to be more involved with the media and the fans .

“If Ronnie would use his own tremendous worldwide popularity to be a true ambassador for snooker then he could work with us to advance the sport for his benefit and for the sport as a whole.

“Snooker is bigger than any other player. The sport will continue to grow and we have no doubt that it will be more successful than ever in the years to come.

“My message to Ronnie – and all the players – is come and talk to me and the team. Our door is always open.”

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