O’Sullivan suggests snooker change to stop players getting ‘bashed up’

Ronnie O'Sullivan clashes with Mark Allen during tense game

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Ronnie O’Sullivan insists snooker bosses must enact change to stop lower-ranked players being ‘bashed up every week’ and harness the game’s young talent. The Rocket is adamant that regular brutal defeats against elite stars are damaging players further down the rankings.

O’Sullivan cemented his status as snooker’s greatest ever by claiming his record-equalling seventh world title at the Crucible in May. The 46-year-old has had permanent residence near the top of the snooker rankings since graduating as a professional three decades ago and is world No.1 after matching Stephen Hendry’s magnificent seven at the Sheffield showpiece. 

He seldom faces trouble in the early rounds of ranking events, so often blistering through with heavy scoring against players without the tools or experience to mount serious competition. O’Sullivan thrashed Lukas Kleckers 4-0 to sail into the Northern Ireland Open second round, as the snooker season gains momentum before next month’s UK Championship.

But O’Sullivan is not comfortable with the current tournament system of a flat 128-player draw and believes a return to a tiered system would benefit lower ranked players. 

“I think word amongst all the players is that the bottom-ranked players would prefer a tiered system so that they can play amongst themselves and get better draws,” he told Eurosport. “That way you will get bottom ranked players getting wins and getting confidence and building that confidence until they get to a top player.”

O’Sullivan made his claim after Chen Zifan suffered another early tournament exit against home favourite Mark Allen. The Chinese youngster accumulated a total of just 42 points as Allen romped to a 4-0 victory, in the latest demoralising result for a low-ranked cueist. 

While he has previously been outspoken about the lack of quality-in-depth that is hampering snooker, O’Sullivan thinks more players will thrive if a tiered system is introduced that allows lower-ranked players to draw each other in ranking events.

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“I think although the flat 128 draw sounds fair, it’s not really fair because the bottom ranked players just keep getting hammered and they’re drawing top players,” he added. “You just see he got beat 4-0 and hasn’t done it, he hasn’t had an impact on the game. 

“If he’d have won one or two matches against his own he’d have had a bit of confidence and a bit of money in his pocket and would have come into that match with a different frame of mind. 

“I think you’ll see more bottom-ranked players coming through because sport is about confidence and momentum but if you keep getting bashed up every week and that goes on for years, then you don’t go anywhere. Making them play amongst themselves a bit more will give them more confidence.”

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