Ronnie O’Sullivan believes Barry Hearn has taken snooker in the right direction - but will always struggle to compete with other more high-profile sports, writes Will Jennings.
Hearn is chairman of sporting event promotion company Matchroom Sports, who organise the World Snooker Tour that allows players to embark on globetrotting odysseys all year round.
But snooker continues to struggle to attract the attention of sports such as football, tennis and Formula One, a source of regret for O’Sullivan who has romped to five world titles since 2001.
The world No.6 reckons Hearn has given players opportunities but the resources available will continue to leave snooker behind.
“Barry’s given the players opportunities - they can play every week if they like, and how fantastic is that if you that’s what you want to do?” O’Sullivan, 44, said.
“I’ve got no grumbles with that, but when you look at the financial resources available to snooker and how it’s done it can only go so far.
“It is what it is, and I don’t know, when you compare it to other sports, the golfers and how they structure a tournament and how it’s done and Formula One and the UFC, it’s done with a bit of glamour and a bit of style.
“I think snooker’s problem is resources - when you’re trying to compete with other sports like tennis, golf, football and Formula One, they have such huge resources that mean they can really put on a great show.
“With snooker, it’s very hard with their limited resources financially that they have, to try and organise a tour of 128 players.”
O’Sullivan is currently preparing for the Betfred World Championship at the Crucible, bidding for a sixth title to narrow the gap on Stephen Hendry’s record of seven.
That competition will take place behind closed doors but the absence of other sporting events is hoped to attract unprecedented viewing numbers, as fans far and wide tune in to watch world No.1 Judd Trump defend his title.
Millions are expected to watch the action from Sheffield but the Rocket says the sport will require a major injection of funding to fully propel itself into the public eye.
“At times it’s been a lot more painful than going to work. The kids just wind me up deliberately. In September I’ll shake their teachers by the hand and say: ‘Good luck. New-found respect’” @EddieHearn and @BarryHearn talk lockdown and @matchroomboxing https://t.co/gR5KvJ0x9X
— The Sunday Times Magazine (@TheSTMagazine) August 2, 2020
“You’re going to need someone like Roman Abramovich to come along to blast it open!” he added.
“I just think there’s major sports with major resources which are always going to have the major appeal.
“You’re up against it straight away when you’ve got football stadiums, the golfers and the Formula One and it just looks great on TV, and you feel you’re a part of something that’s unbelievable.
“Snooker doesn’t have the funding to kind of project that image… that’s where snooker is really, at the moment.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.