O’Sullivan Ineligible As He Fails To Sign Players Contract

Interesting news today from Ronnie O’Sullivan as the reigning world champion has confirmed that he will has not signed the players contract for the 2012/13 season and will not compete in the Premier League amongst other tournaments. Barry Hearn has already issued a response…

Ronnie announced via the Grove Leisure website earlier today:

“I have decided not to enter any tournaments for the time being including this year’s Premier League and forthcoming WPBSA ranking events.

“I have not signed the player’s contract as I feel the contract is too onerous and am in a stage of my career where I don’t wish to make this commitment.

“I still want to play snooker and visit those places around the world such as China where snooker is enthusiastically received and adored.

“I hope to remain involved in the sport in some way in the future.”

Following his announcement, World Snooker and Barry Hearn issued the following statement:

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn today confirmed that all players on the World Snooker Tour for the 2012/13 season have signed the official players’ contract, other than Ronnie O’Sullivan, who is therefore not currently eligible to compete in any World Snooker sanctioned event.

The contract was prepared and agreed in conjunction with the WPBSA and following consultation with the Snooker Players Association.

Hearn said: “As much as we will miss Ronnie O’Sullivan in World Snooker events, we simply can’t make exceptions for one player’s individual requirements. Our duty is to treat all of the players equally.

“Ronnie is at liberty to enter our events and play on the circuit at any time, once he agrees to abide by the rules of the players’ contract.”

So what can we make of this development?

At first glance the story is a major one. The bottom line is that that until Ronnie is prepared to sign the players contract, he is ineligible to play in any ranking, or any other World Snooker sanctioned event. He is already sure to miss the first two ranking events of the season, as well as the Premier League, while the entry dates for the initial PTC events of the season are also approaching.

As Ronnie outlined in depth during his press conference in the immediate aftermath of his World Championship success, there are certain aspects of being a snooker professional at this moment in time that he is not happy with, and at this stage in his career he has no reason to commit himself to a contract, which he has described as being too ‘onerous.’

On the other hand however, at this stage at least, O’Sullivan is doing no more than he said he would. Following a long season in 2011/12, Ronnie made his intention not to compete in the early events of the new campaign clear at the Crucible and it was no surprise to see his name omitted from the Wuxi Classic and Australian Goldfields Open draws published today.

It is also interesting from Hearn’s quotes that Ronnie has the option to sign the contract at any time, so presumably as long as the contract is signed, he will be able to enter any tournament with an entry date falling after that point. Many observers had expected him to a break of around three or four months, before returning to action somewhere around either the Shanghai Masters in September, a situation that despite today’s development, could still easily happen.

What I am surprised to see is that O’Sullivan has opted not to compete in the Premier League during 2012, a tournament that he has of course won on ten separate occasions and is currently the reigning champion. Only he will know the reasons behind that decision, whether he just wanted a longer break from snooker, or whether he is trying to send out a message to Barry Hearn and World Snooker by not signing the contract.

The talk of the contract does of course beg the question as to what exactly is in the contract that O’Sullivan feels is so onerous, but unfortunately I have never seen one of the contracts so cannot comment in any detail. That being said, while he is the only player not to have signed his, I am sure that he is not the only one who objects to particular aspects of it.

As ever, time will tell as to whether this is anything more than a warning shot from O’Sullivan, or whether he has any real intention of remaining off the tour for any real length of time. My own feeling is that we will see him sign that contract before the year is out.

But then only on Monday I had tipped him to enter the Premier League again so what do I know!