Hearn calls O’Sullivan ‘ignorant’ for criticising spectator trials
The return of spectators at the snooker World Championship in Sheffield has caused rifts within the sport as Judd Trump criticised Anthony Hamilton as “selfish’’ for pulling out and Barry Hearn hit back at “ignorant” criticism from Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Trump, who begins his title defence today against Tom Ford, said Hamilton, an asthmatic, should have raised concerns earlier. “Before the qualifying started, he should have just pulled out completely and given someone else a chance,” Trump said.
O’Sullivan, the five-time world champion, meanwhile, faced criticism from World Snooker chairman Hearn for saying the trials of indoor crowds from today were treating players like “lab rats”.
Hearn, who says the competition has already “swallowed” a £2million loss, warned that “the whole concept” of indoor professional sport could be lost forever without safe trials.
He said: “There’s no doubt sport could die and we are the flag-bearers of indoor sport, and anyone who criticises it is really ignorant because they don’t understand the level of work that’s gone into it.”
Some older fans have been reluctant to attend, and a small number of tickets are still available for the first session, with capacity at the
Crucible being reduced from 1,000 to 260 to help social distancing.
“I’ve been promoting sports for over 45 years, and Covid-19 has set the greatest challenges I’ve ever encountered,” Hearn said. “We are only going to get through this pandemic by making small steps to recovery. I’m enormously proud of the teams of people I employ, and their dedication.”
Hearn said fans would be sitting in socially-distanced seats “marked out to the centimetre” and even the ventilation system will “only circulate fresh air, not recycled air.”
Given the unprecedented effort, Hearn expressed disappointment at criticism from some players, with Hamilton saying the trial is “ridiculous”
and “too early” for fans. Hearn countered by saying: “They have no comprehension of the level of detail that we’ve got into.
He said that World Snooker had “worked hand in hand” with government departments “and they’ve been an amazing ally for us, because we’re all on the same page in terms of ‘We have to get this country turned round, generally speaking, or sport will die’,” he said.
Government inspectors will be on hand and World Snooker will share its own evaluation report with other sports. “This is a huge undertaking,” Hearn said. “You can’t 100 per cent guarantee safety, but if we don’t start something, then we’ll never come out of it.”