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Ronnie O’Sullivan not backing down in World Snooker Tour row as he jets off to China

Snooker legend Ronnie O'Sullivan admitted it is difficult for him to turn down the lucrative exhibition match offers that provide him with financial security.

O’Sullivan, whose 10-7 win over Ding Junhui on Sunday made him the oldest winner of the title, maintains the view that some officials see the sport as being better off without him, insisting “they seem to want me to hand my resignation in”.

His claims have been flatly denied by the WST, who responded in a statement: “We want to work together to continue to grow the game which we have done so successfully to date, we would love Ronnie to carry on playing for as long as possible.”

O’Sullivan’s criticism comes amid an uneasy truce between the WST and leading players, five of whom – not including O’Sullivan – were warned that committing to an exhibition in Macau in October that clashed with the Northern Ireland Open would have constituted a breach of contract.

The Christmas Day exhibition, also in Macau and involving O’Sullivan and a number of other leading players, is not affected by such a threat, but the world number one has made no secret of his disinterest in engaging on the issue with those who run the tour.

O’Sullivan said: “As long as they want me to keep playing I’ll play. But they sent me a letter the other week saying they want me to consider my future on the tour. I don’t know what’s going through their heads at the moment.

“From my perspective, I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job but they don’t seem to think so, they seem to want me to hand my resignation in.”

WST contested O’Sullivan’s interpretation of the contents of the letter, one of a series sent to the world’s top 16 players in the wake of the Macau controversy, seeking to initiate discussions.

“We wrote to Ronnie hoping to discuss his future plans and ambitions in the sport,” the WST added.

We understands that as of this week, only Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen, who had what he described as a “positive” four-and-a-half-hour meeting with officials on Tuesday, has taken them up on their offer.

O’Sullivan, who has skipped half of the eight ranking tournaments so far this season, and is yet to commit to play in the Scottish Open later this month, has often made plain his belief that his future – and perhaps that of the sport itself – lies in lucrative exhibitions abroad.

Therein lies the issue for the sport’s power-brokers, as the reopening of the Chinese market has brought big-money offers, many of which dwarf the prize funds at regular ranking tournaments, which players are effectively contractually bound not to undermine by playing elsewhere.

“I get paid so much more for going to do that (exhibitions),” added O’Sullivan. “It’s really hard for me to turn them down, I can’t. I’ve got to think of my family and all that sort of stuff.

“It’s all right if you win all of these tournaments, great. But if you get beat first round you’re struggling to pay your bills and stuff.

“It’s hard. I’m trying to find the balance between competing and playing and trying to take the good offers that are out there for me to do my own sort of thing.”

READ MORE: Ronnie O’Sullivan extends record-breaking run in UK Championship

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