Saturday 18 November 2017

Hearn returns fire following O'Sullivan's 'bullying' claim

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn Picture: John Walton/PA Wire
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn Picture: John Walton/PA Wire

Luke Brown

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has described Ronnie O'Sullivan's accusation of 'bullying and intimidation' as an "unfounded accusation" that he takes "very seriously" and has promised to take whatever steps necessary to protect his reputation.

O'Sullivan launched a remarkable verbal attack on Hearn and World Snooker on the second day of the Betfred World Championship, after he launched his 25th Crucible campaign with a 10-7 win over Gary Wilson.

The five-time world champion was angered by Hearn describing his recent conduct in interviews as "embarrassing" and responded by claiming a letter he received from snooker disciplinary chiefs had left him distressed.

"I phoned Barry up four weeks ago and I said, 'Look Barry, I'm done with all you and your board of people'," O'Sullivan said of the letter sent to him, after he criticised referee Terry Camilleri and swore at a photographer during January's Masters.

"And I've got a very good friend of mine who said, 'Just let my lawyers deal with it'. I won't get involved with it because I'm not being bullied, I'm not having people doing that to me ever again. I like Barry but I'm not being intimidated or bullied any more."

In response, Hearn released a statement yesterday morning in which he claimed O'Sullivan's accusations were "unfounded".

"I personally take any accusation of 'bullying and intimidation' by me or World Snooker very seriously," the statement reads.

O'Sullivan will next face Shaun Murphy, who held off a Yan Bingtao comeback to claim a 10-8 first-round victory yesterday.

Meanwhile, Antrim's Mark Allen progressed after beating Jimmy Robertson 10-8.

Earlier, Stuart Bingham knocked out former champion Peter Ebdon 10-5 as Marco Fu stormed to a 10-9 comeback win over Luca Brecel. (© Independent News Service)

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