World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn is cracking down on toilet breaks to avoid gamesmanship, having grown tired of the top stars wandering off mid-frame to spend a penny.
Former world champion Graeme Dott criticised Peter Ebdon for prolonged toilet breaks during this year’s World Championship.
From next season, Hearn said there would be a maximum of two breaks per session of any match. “There’s no compromise,” he said. “It’s unacceptable to have any break during a frame because it looks like gamesmanship.
“Anyone with prostate problems has my sympathy. I am 65 next birthday but I cannot believe the number of toilet breaks these players take and it’s got to stop. They want to go to the toilet and give themselves a talking-to or talk to someone else.
“Tennis players wouldn’t stop a rally. Darts players have more reason than anyone to go to the loo but they never do.
“It smacks to me of things going badly. If you say ‘I need to go’ to your opponent, he is not going to say no and have a row. But if the paying customer has bought a ticket and play suddenly stops, he or she will think ‘what’s going on here’
“People at home watching on TV are suddenly watching a screen with no action. We live in an age of action.”
One of this year’s Crucible semi-finalists, Judd Trump, is in favour of the new rules but admitted: “It depends how long the game is. If someone has to go, they have to go, but a lot do go out to waste time and it has to be sorted. But how you do that is difficult. You don’t want to be followed into the toilet.”
In Friday’s action, defending champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan was just three frames away from his fifth World Championship final after ending the day 14-10 ahead over Trump
The game’s two great entertainers were locked at 4-4 overnight and 6-6 at the mid-session interval yesterday morning, but the more experienced O’Sullivan reeled off three frames in a row to take a 9-7 lead heading into last night’s third session.
O’Sullivan then faced a ticking-off from referee Michaela Tabb but regained his focus to move within sight of a place in the final.
The defending champion lost all his concentration and looked bored as the penultimate frame of the night became scrappy.
When he missed a ball he expected to rifle into the pocket he ran his hand up the shaft of his cue between his legs and Tabb stepped in to issue a brief reprimand, with O’Sullivan seeming to say “I wanna go home”. He denied trying to cause offence, arguing his cue was sticky and he was trying to solve the problem. He lost the frame but took the last of the night to go 14-10 in front.
He had breaks of 51, 62 and a closing 89 to punish Trump for a series of misses that suggested he was feeling the pressure of the semi-final occasion.
The quality of O’Sullivan’s tussle with Trump was not being replicated by last-four debutants Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden in the second semi-final, with the pair limping through their afternoon session, Walden going from 6-2 to 9-7 in front despite his opponent remaining without a half-century break in the match.
Chester-based Walden fired in 106, his third century of the match, to lead 8-5, but then saw Kent cueman Hawkins claw his way back.
Hawkins had struggled badly yesterday, managing a top break of just 36, and his break-building trouble persisted as the match progressed. Eventually he managed to improve on it, allowing himself a small fist pump during a break of 47.