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Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

O'Sullivan wants X Factor glitz

Ronnie O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan struggled to overcome Perry at Wembley

World snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has called on X Factor judge Simon Cowell to revitalise the game.

O'Sullivan's frustration at what he believes is a "dying" sport was shown after he narrowly beat Joe Perry 6-5 in the opening round of the Masters.

"I feel like I'm in a sport that has had its good days and is on a downward spiral," he said at Wembley Arena.

"It needs someone with entrepreneurial skills like Simon Cowell who is in the modern world and more dynamic."

Cowell is one of the most powerful figures in the music business, thanks largely due to the success of The X Factor television show.

O'Sullivan suggested promoter Barry Hearn, the manager of former world champion Steve Davis, could also help revamp the sport.

"If someone like Barry Hearn came in and took over the game and started doing with snooker what he has done with darts and made it interesting and lively that might make coming to tournaments and [my] enthusiasm to play a little bit different," said O'Sullivan.

Arguably the most talented player in the history of the sport, O'Sullivan has frequently voiced his frustrations with the way snooker is run and has often talked of quitting.

Last year in a BBC interview the world number one said he lacked the passion and drive for the game to go on and equal Stephen Hendry's record of seven world titles.

The 33-year-old, who won his third World title last year, deliberately snapped his cue "for fun" before his clash with Perry and admitted he is struggling for motivation.

"It's quite uninspiring coming to tournaments," said O'Sullivan, nicknamed the "The Rocket".

"I still enjoy playing but sometimes I wonder do I want to go to Ireland for 30 grand or go to China for 40 grand or Bahrain and there are two people in the crowd.


"I remember the good days when it was fun going to tournaments and now it doesn't feel like fun.

"The people who are running snooker seem to be going backwards. Nothing seems to be happening and it just feels boring and the sport is dying.

"There are little rules brought in like penalising players for conceding when you don't need snookers.

"You can't help thinking that whoever is making these decisions are killing the sport and stopping the entertainment.

"I love the game and I'm in great shape physically and mentally, but I've got to the stage where I don't really care if I play or not.

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O'Sullivan gave a frank interview to Inside Sport in December

"I don't want to go through the rest of my life like that so I've got to make a decision on what I want to do."

In response to the claim made by O'Sullivan that the sport is dying, World Snooker Association chairman Sir Rodney Walker says that he is "surprised and disappointed" at the remarks.

Six-time world champion Davis also disagreed with this assessment of the unhealthy state of the game but concurred that it was possibly time to look outside for promotion.

"For the last 25 years our association and players have tried to run their own game a bit Motown style, in-house, and also promote it," he said. "It could possibly be better done by an outside promoter or entrepreneur.

"Barry Hearn was mentioned who's been running the Premier League and that's been quite a successful event.

"Participation and sponsorship-wise a lot of sports are struggling but when you look around the world there are some places where snooker is quite popular.

"The game's not totally dying it just needs a shot in the arm occasionally."

Hearn himself suggested that whilst snooker was not "down and out" it is suffering from a lack of characters in the sport.

"Snooker still does decent business but it's not as dramatic as it used to be," he told BBC Radio Five.

Snooker needs to reach out - Doherty

"We had a diet of fantastic characters in the sport and, without criticising the other players, Ronnie O'Sullivan is sort of carrying the sport on his own shoulders.

"He's the biggest seller of snooker to most punters but he needs some competition, he needs some other characters out there that will highlight the advantages and the excitement of snooker."

In reference to O'Sullivan's comments about Cowell, Hearn said: "Whether snooker is something he would want to be involved with I doubt very much but it's a nice thought, he might bring something new to the game."

One man to put himself forward as a potential saviour for the sport is publicist Max Clifford who claims he is willing to listen to offers from snooker's governing body.

"There needs to be a PR campaign using the media to build awareness, build young stars, good looking young guys with attractive girlfriends who should be seen at big events and movie premieres to move the whole thing on and forward," said Clifford.

"Really, that's what it is about, working the media, because the bigger the stars, the bigger the interest.

"By breathing fresh life into it it encourages sponsorship, greater television coverage, more glamour, more coverage - it's self-perpetuating.

"It needs the board to come and say, 'Right, we're going to have a year's PR campaign' which will cost 250,000 or some like that, but what you're going to get out of it is worth millions."

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see also
O'Sullivan 'cannot equal' Hendry
07 Dec 08 |  Snooker
O'Sullivan punished for comments
08 Jun 08 |  Snooker
The Masters - results & schedule
05 Jan 09 |  Snooker
Masters draw
05 Jan 09 |  Snooker
Snooker on the BBC
16 Sep 08 |  Snooker

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