Ronnie O’Sullivan’s decision to snub the Turkish Masters over the lack of extra appearance money has been branded “disappointing” by bosses. The rest of the tour are this week looking to qualify for the first ever ranking tournament staged in the country next month – with a £500,000 prize fund, and £100,000 to the winner.
But six-time world champion O’Sullivan, 46, still the game’s No1 box office star, gave Antalya promoters an ultimatum that only a substantial five-figure sum would see him involved.
This tactic has worked for the Rocket before in China and elsewhere – but in this case the money-men in the cuesports-mad nation held their ground.
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson noted yesterday that O’Sullivan has often criticised leisure-centre venues in the UK – while the Turkey event will be played in a five-star luxury hotel.
And the executive also admitted he is glad not all top players use the same approach – while suggesting by absenting himself O’Sullivan may have missed out on huge commercial opportunities.
Ferguson said: “Of course I am disappointed he did not enter and won’t be there. I know Ronnie has a huge number of fans in Turkey.
“And it is disappointing for them that they won’t see him. That said, they will be overjoyed with the rest of the players who make the trip, apart from that the entries were amazing – 15 of the top 16.
“I can only work hard to deliver world-class events. Ronnie has in the past said he doesn’t want to play in leisure centres and wants better venues – this is exactly that.
“So we have upped our game considerably and gone out to put something world-class on, and it is disappointing he won’t be there.
“I am led to believe it has generated quite a bit of comment in Turkey on social media that he is not leading the charge as a huge star in the sport.
“If every top player did the same we might not have any of them there – but they wouldn’t, that’s the point. Top players love winning and competing – as does Ronnie, to be fair.
“We have some terrific players and people in snooker who give back, and I don’t struggle with the rest of the membership asking for five minutes here or 10 minutes there.
“But Ronnie is different, it is an individual sport and he has got his own agenda. From the governing bodies it has to be a level playing field, so we will never and cannot offer extra money.
“We can’t force people to play, all we can do is provide the opportunities for all from world No1 down to the kid that first walks in to a club.
“Ironically something Ronnie may not be aware of is how huge potentially that market and fan base is in Turkey. It is a big country with huge companies and I think he has missed out passing up the chance to go.
“The numbers he was asking for might have proved pennies financially in comparison to what he could have got while out there. We’ll never know now.”
A defiant O’Sullivan, back in the winner’s circle at the World Grand Prix in December, said: “I don’t have any regrets about not being involved in the Turkish Masters.
“A five-star hotel on the beach isn’t going to entice me to get my cue out of my case and enter a tournament.
“I could probably go anywhere in the world – Dubai, Hawaii – and experience that – and not have to be surrounded by loads of snooker players and officials.
“It is about value for my time and if promoters want me to play in their events, then they’ll have to get on the phone and come to some sort of arrangement. I have many other things to get on with.
“Was I surprised they didn’t try and get me there? No, listen, I don’t get surprised by anything these days. If they didn’t think it was worth putting their hands in their pockets, that’s fine.
“The same decision will be there for them next year. In the past some promoters have done it, and some haven’t. I value myself as a snooker player, and there is a price tag attached.”