Snooker: Hearn turns to O'Sullivan as ally in battle for player loyalty

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The Independent Online

Barry Hearn has moved to shore up his most prized playing asset, Ronnie O'Sullivan, ahead of a crucial player vote on Wednesday that will decide snooker's future.

World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association chairman Hearn's plans to launch a series of new events, while taking a 51 per cent stake in the game's commercial activities, will be decided on at an emergency general meeting this week.

An alternative vision, revealed late last week and headed by the respected City figure and former Olympian John Davison, has split the game and left some players in a quandary.

Davison has pledged an immediate £5,000 "dividend" to the top 64 players – a sizeable inducement to those struggling on £9,000 a year lower down the rankings.

O'Sullivan, who hinted that he might retire soon, said: "I have very good vibes about what Barry is trying to do, and he could make me see things in a different way. His plans are exciting. He has been very straight with me. He said to me: 'I want you on board. I don't want someone who isn't too sure, I want Ronnie O'Sullivan who wants to play snooker. I can do it without you, but I would much rather do it with you.'"