Barry Hearn has warned snooker’s top stars to smarten up their acts as he plans the next phase of a revolution he hopes will globalise the sport.
Hearn admits he is far from impressed from the recent behaviour of some of snooker’s leading lights and says he will not stand for anyone neglecting their professional responsibilities.
The World Snooker Ltd chairman today stated that the governing body was close to signing new broadcast deals with the BBC and Eurosport and were looking at staging an extra half dozen events outside the UK.
But I suggested to him that he needs player support to transform the game’s fortunes and that some of them need a wake-up call.
“It’s true and I’ll deal with the players in a balanced way with education on one side and penalties on the other,” Hearn said.
“Punishments will be draconian because I don’t want to take prisoners. If I’m going to give as much time and commitment as I have been to the ongoing increase in tournaments and prize money, I have to expect a similar return from my top players, and some of them are not delivering.
“So we’ll be looking at our player contracts in more detail. There will be bigger penalties for entering tournaments and not turning up. There will be penalties for arriving late.
“I’ve never had all of this in darts. I’ve got 380 players in the PDC and have never had a problem. The real secret is that they’ve been educated properly. I’m afraid some of the snooker players have a bit of an, ‘oh well, it doesn’t really matter’ attitude.
“They’ve been allowed to get away with things for the last few years that I would never allow. I’ve been quite shocked that a couple of them are following that route but they have to be dealt with and I don’t care if their name is Sid Smith or Ronnie O’Sullivan. You know with me that they will be dealt with. There won’t be any tolerance whatsoever.
“For Ronnie entering tournaments and then not turning up, it’s referred to the disciplinary process and there will be harsh financial penalties written into the contracts next year. Neil Robertson turned up with ten minutes to spare at the Premier League last week. It’s a harsh note from me. It’s lack of professionalism on his part and he’s very embarrassed about it. He’ll be told in future he’ll be expected to turn up six hours before the match, not one, if he wants to play in my events in the future. Ding smashed the pack in an EPTC. That’s gone to a disciplinary.
“Dave Douglas has a range of issues to sort out, including players who didn’t turn up to the opening press conference in Shanghai, because they didn’t think it really mattered – well let’s see what Mr. Douglas has to say about that. There’s a price to pay. John Higgins has paid a price for being unprofessional in some aspects. Other players will have to as well. Going forward, you either play under my rules or you don’t play at all. It doesn’t matter who you are.
“Over the next few weeks you’ll read certain things and say, ‘blimey, he was actually telling us the truth.’ We are a professional sport and 99% of players act like professionals all the time. But snooker has been stuck in the mire, going nowhere, and there’s a certain attitude among certain players that it doesn’t really matter. They’re being educated now. Some of them are quite surprised I’m delivering the things I said I would and they need a wake-up call to be more professional.
“In other sports I’m involved in I don’t have any of this. In snooker, the contracts haven’t been tight enough and people abuse it, but they don’t abuse it with me twice. I bumped into one them who said, ‘you won’t discipline me.’ Trust me, I’d do it to my mum, and she’s dead.
“I need the top players to illustrate to the younger players the rules that exist, on etiquette. They all come from the top players. If your kid at home watches a footballer take a dive, when he’s out playing for the under 11’s, he’ll take a dive because he’s seen it on TV. That’s not good. We have to set the standards. In the 1980s, it was all built on the bowtie image and that’s one that carries a huge financial premium.
“When I was in Shanghai I couldn’t believe the red carpet treatment I got. I mean, I know I’m important but I was astonished how well I got treated. Then I’m in my hotel room in Bangkok and the phone goes. It’s the prime minister’s office asking if I’d go and see him. It shows you how big this sport is. It all comes about through the image you create And this is where the top players have a responsibility to the game.”