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UK snooker star ups the stakes on China's role

By Harvey Morris in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2016-12-01 22:14

UK snooker star ups the stakes on China's role

Ronnie O'Sullivan of England considers a shot against Matthew Stevens of Wales in their third round march during the UK Championship 2016 in York, United Kingdom, 30 November 2016. [Photo/IC]

For the second time in a week, UK snooker star Ronnie O'Sullivan has been beating the drum for a greater Chinese role in the sport after rattling its organizers with criticism of what he sees as its second-class status.

Speaking in York, where he had just gone through to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship, O'Sullivan said: "China is where it is at. The money is there, they are ready to pump it in to snooker."

But he told the BBC on Wednesday he did not believe China was interested in the present format of tournaments involving 128 players. “They want the cream of the cream - and that is the top 32."

O'Sullivan made headlines earlier in the week when he said snooker was like a "car boot sale"

compared with the luxury department store image of tennis and formula 1. He suggested snooker needed some Chinese billionaires to inject sponsorship and prize money to make it a core sport again.

In his latest comments, he said he favoured a slimmed down version of the international snooker tour, featuring elite players. "I always believe in more quality over quantity," said the five-time world champion. “That has always been my philosophy in everything I do."

"I think we have a lot of quantity, but very few quality events," said O'Sullivan. Referring to last month's China Championship, he said: "That is probably where I think snooker could be improved, with probably more prestigious events like the Masters, the one they have just had in Guangzhou."

“I know what people in China think," he said. “They just want the top players there."

He said not enough young players in the UK were being brought into the sport, compared with the situation in China. "There isn't that junior amateur field now, whereas in China they do gave it. And they have a center where a lot of the best kids play, and the best are taken to Beijing," he said. "That is why we are seeing a lot of good Chinese players coming through."

O'Sullivan's original remarks merited a rebuke from Barry Hearn, the chairman of World Snooker, the sport's international governing body, who said: "The game has rebuilt and is going from strength to strength, particularly in China, Europe, and obviously within the UK."

The writer is a senior media consultant with China Daily UK.

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