Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed his fifth World Snooker Championship crown with an 18-12 victory over Barry Hawkins.
It was his first significant tournament after returning from retirement purely to defend his world title. While some see this as a remarkable achievement, I see it as a shame on snooker.
O’Sullivan admitted during this tournament that he had only returned for the money. This is a dangerous situation for snooker. While the game benefits from the obvious genius of O’Sullivan, no player is bigger than the sport and no player should be allowed to pick and choose when they play.
The Essex man has done nothing to represent or promote snooker all year and yet is allowed to waltz back in to the biggest tournament of all and enter without qualifying as the number one seed.
Many people saw Ronnie’s lack of matches prior to the tournament as a disadvantage for him whilst experts always saw it as an advantage. His major rivals in the tournament have spent the year travelling the globe, playing in all the insignificant tournaments that attract little attention in the far-flung places of the world.
Do they want to play them all? No of course they don’t, but they do because it’s their job to travel the world and represent snooker. The result is of course that they are more jaded and lacking in freshness than a man who walks back in from nowhere and decides he fancies playing again.
Stephen Maguire has played 106 matches this year in countries far and wide, such as China, Australia, Germany and England. It’s a similar story for others, with Neil Robertson having played 86, Mark Selby 93 and Barry Hawkins reaching 100 matches this week. That sort of effort is bound to take its toll and handed an unquestionable advantage to Ronnie O’Sullivan.
It would surprise nobody if he decided to retire again. Similarly it would surprise nobody if he turned up this time next year to defend his title again. This cannot be allowed to happen. If O’Sullivan wants to play at the World Championships he must earn his spot like everybody else. He must represent snooker in the same, professional way all the other players do for the whole season. He is a genius, he is box office for snooker but he is not bigger than the game. Ronnie O’Sullivan is a World Champion again and it doesn’t feel great for snooker.
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