Snooker doesn't need Ronnie O'Sullivan, says supremo Hearn
Agence France-Presse in London
World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn has insisted the success of the recent Masters tournament shows the sport can flourish without Ronnie O'Sullivan - although he would welcome the return of the world champion.
Sunday saw world No 1 Mark Selby take his third Masters title after a 10-6 victory in the final at London's Alexandra Palace against defending champion Neil Robertson, of Australia.
O'Sullivan was a spectator in the crowd on semi-final day, sparking thoughts the fans' favourite could be about to end his self-imposed exile from snooker at the World Championships in Sheffield in April.
That event will see Selby, who also won the UK Championship, trying to win all three of snooker's major titles in one season. "If I know Ronnie I think the reason he came Saturday night is because he was sitting at home watching it on television saying, 'I used to be good at that game,'" said Hearn.
"He just turned up - he should've brought his cue.
"He still has a choice of entering the World Championships. The closing date is the end of February. He's got to make a decision before then."
There had been concerns that when O'Sullivan staged his latest departure from snooker, the sport would be badly hurt by the absence of its biggest box office attraction.
But Hearn said snooker was about more than one man.
"If he decides to, he would be welcomed with open arms because he adds so much.
"If he doesn't, I just want to remind him that he wasn't in the Masters and we sold more tickets and got bigger television ratings.
"The sport does not rely on one person, even if that person can add another dimension to it, which we would welcome.
"The choice is entirely his. I'm certainly not going to put any pressure on him."