O'Sullivan given suspended ban after admitting assault

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Ronnie O'Sullivan will compete in the quarter-finals of the Embassy World Championship this morning despite admitting assaulting a press officer at the Crucible.

Instead of being disqualified he received a two-year ban, which is suspended for two years, and a pounds 20,000 fine. An additional pounds 10,000 will be donated to charity.

The verdict was announced at midnight last night after a four-hour hearing by a disciplinary committee of the governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association in Sheffield. Geoff Foulds, the chairman of the inquiry, said O'Sullivan had been in breach of three association rules, but that his previous good behaviour had been taken into account.

O'Sullivan, the No 3 seed, admitted the assault on Michael Ganley, an assistant press officer, on Sunday, adding in a statement: "I would like to apologise most sincerely to Michael Ganley, my fellow professionals and Embassy for my out-of-chracter behaviour. I would like to thank the disciplinary committee of the WPBSA for giving me the opportunity to play the game I love.

"I give them an assurance that from here on I shall use my very best endeavours to be a model professional and ambassador for the game of snooker and the association."

The incident occurred on Sunday when O'Sullivan was asked to remove a guest from the press room because he did not meet the dress requirements. An argument followed and O'Sullivan assaulted Ganley.

The verdict left the 20-year-old from Chigwell, north-east of London, free to continue his attempt on the world title this morning with the first of three sessions in his quarter-final against John Higgins, who spent most of last evening not knowing whether he would be facing an opponent.

"I don't know how I'll react because I've not been in this position before," Higgins, the 11th seed, said after his 13-5 defeat of fellow Scot Alan McManus. "My reaction if Ronnie had been banned is that I would have gained pounds 30,000 and earned more ranking points."

Last year Higgins arrived in Sheffield amid much ballyhoo and retreated quickly after being beaten 10-3 by McManus in the first round. It was a result he put down to his inexperience of the Crucible, a venue which he found claustrophobic. This time he prevailed clinching a match he led 12-4 overnight with a break of 77. "The venue still looks small to me but it's getting bigger all the time."

The lugubrious-looking Nigel Bond was routed 18-9 in last year's final , which for most people would be either character-building or crushing. Fortunately for the 12th seed, the former seems to be the case.

Earlier this month, he won his first world-ranking tournament, the British Open in Plymouth, and yesterday reached the quarter-finals here, crushing James Wattana 13-4. That included a run of eight successive frames in the second session.

Ahead 12-4 overnight, Bond quickly finished off Wattana yesterday. Just 20 minutes of the third session and breaks of 53 and 15 were required to take the frame he needed to earn a shot at Dave Harold.

Darren Morgan's chances are increasing, too, after beating Ken Doherty 13-5. Like Bond, the Welshman won his first major tournament this month, taking the Irish Masters.

Jimmy White, the six-times runner-up, must wait another year for an attempt to win the title after losing 13-12 to Peter Ebdon. The match was decided by a 123 clearance by the 10th seed.

O'Sullivan's troubles, page 25