02 May 2024

I know my value – Ronnie O’Sullivan set to prioritise big-money overseas offers

02 May 2024

Ronnie O’Sullivan has warned he could quit playing tournaments in Britain after his quest for a record-breaking eighth world snooker title was shattered by Stuart Bingham in a major quarter-final upset at the Crucible.

O’Sullivan will jet off for an exhibition tour of China, Finland and Bulgaria next week, insisting he will pick and choose his future tournaments, and increasingly prioritise big-money offers from Saudi Arabia and the Far East.

The 48-year-old recently signed a deal with the Saudis which ironically commits him to signing a new contract with World Snooker Tour, in order to fulfil his obligation to play in the inaugural Saudi Masters in Riyadh at the end of August.

And with four other tournaments scheduled for China before the end of the year, O’Sullivan expects to pick up enough prizes and ranking points to enable him to keep his appearances at the less appealing UK events to a minimum.

O’Sullivan said: “I’m contracted to do certain events in China, and I’m contracted to go to Saudi, so obviously they’ve got first dibs then it’s about spending time at home with the family.

“It’s first come, first served. I’m already signed up for eight or nine tournaments, so if I do really badly in them I might have to dip my toe in and play a few tournaments over here, but probably not.

“I don’t just turn up willy-nilly to events, there’s a tax to be paid. If people are prepared to pay it, I’ll get my cue out of my case. If they’re not, I’m content to never ever play again, and move on and do other stuff.”

O’Sullivan missed a total of 10 tour events last season, withdrawing from the majority on medical grounds. Under the terms of the amended WST contracts, he cannot play exhibitions or other unsanctioned events if they directly clash with WST tournaments.

Apart from the low-key Championship League, the first UK ranking events next season are the back-to-back English and British Opens in Brentwood and Cheltenham respectively in September, followed by the Northern Irish Open in Belfast the following month.

I don't just turn up willy-nilly to events, there's a tax to be paid. If people are prepared to pay it, I'll get my cue out of my case. If they're not, I'm content to never ever play again, and move on and do other stuff

Whilst O’Sullivan’s claim that he only played in the World Championship at the behest of a new sponsor should be taken with a pinch of salt, it inevitably raises questions over his desire to go one better than Stephen Hendry in terms of modern-era Crucible titles.

O’Sullivan shrugged off his loss to Bingham, denying suggestions he had become increasingly agitated during the match, and refusing to comment further on his claim in a Eurosport interview in between sessions that referees were “out to get me”.

The lucrative opportunities elsewhere appear to have given his career a new lease of life, as he shrugged off defeat to Bingham – and the loss of his number one ranking – insisting: “I like getting my cue out and I like the sound of the balls.”

O’Sullivan added: “You only get one life and I want to fulfil everything to the maximum, but I’m also aware of my value and my time, and what I bring to the sport.

“As long as those needs are met, I’ll keep playing. If they’re not, I’ll be hanging up the waistcoat and hanging up the cue. At the moment there’s enough things going on to keep me interested in the game.

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