WORLD Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has hit back strongly over Ronnie O’Sullivan’s criticism of the four-table arena set-up at the Coral UK Championship.
But Hearn has conceded that the Rocket had a point with his rant about the quality of the table during his second-round win over Peter Lines, notably erratic bounces off the cushions. Corrective work was performed late into Sunday night.
O’Sullivan, 39 this week, was unhappy over being forced to play in a four-table arena in the early rounds at York’s Barbican Centre – by no means the first to voice such concerns.
But Hearn has told the players to get on with it - insisting the 128-player open event with its logistical baggage is here to stay and meant to benefit all and not just the elite.
O’Sullivan also said there was no atmosphere, and told snooker bosses to “get a proper venue” and to “stop cutting corners”, saying he felt like Roger Federer stuck out on Court 13 at Wimbledon “in front of three men and a dog”.
“We always try to improve but this is the look of this event and it is not changing,” said Hearn. “This is the second-biggest tournament, and it is open to every player.
“The top players all want a single table with 16 players, but that isn’t the case in this event for the early rounds, and it isn’t going to be – and I want to reward the York public for their support.
“In their world the top 16 are interested in the top 16, but this is a 128-player event, so they need to get on with it. We make decisions for the game, not individual players.
“And as for Ronnie saying Federer wouldn’t play in front of three men and a dog on Court 13, it was a packed arena. As Margaret Thatcher once said, this lady is not for turning.
“Complaints about the tables are worthy of consideration, and we will speak to the table manufacturers and installation companies.
“I think they have been disappointing. The job must be done better, so I take that criticism. They have to be perfect and there is no excuse for that.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos