Ronnie O'Sullivan's biggest controversies: York walkout, 147 protest, Crawley comments and more

After Ronnie O’Sullivan clashed with referee Olivier Marteel during the 2022 World Championship final in Sheffield, Planet Sport looks back at his biggest controversies.

If ever you're looking for a dictionary definition of a sporting enigma, then Ronnie O'Sullivan is not too far away.

Arguably the most naturally gifted snooker player of all time, if The Rocket turns up at a snooker tournament, and has his head right, then more often than not he'll walk away with the trophy.

Sometimes that's a big 'IF' though, for a player that has continually struggled to keep his focus while falling in and out of love with the game.

Just when you think he's out for good, his love of the game brings him back to the baize, and just when you think he's cruising, he'll do something outrageous either on or off the table.

Yet again, in the 2022 World Championship final against Judd Trump, O'Sullivan was in the news after his altercation with the referee - receiving an official warning then insisting referee Olivier Marteel was "looking for trouble".

It's not the first time, and most likely will not be the last time that the Rocket has blown up either on or off the table, so let's look back at some of his biggest controversies.

Hellhole in Crawley

The K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley may not be a World Heritage site, it's not on the National Trust roster either and won't win any architectural awards.

However, the criticism from O'Sullivan at the 2018 English Open went one step further, and arguably a step too far as the Rocket describe it as a "hellhole".

"It's such a bad venue, it demotivates you to want to play," O'Sullivan told the BBC. "This is about as bad as I've ever seen. It's a bit of a hellhole.

"I don't know what this gaff is, but I've just done an interview and all I can smell is urine. I'm thinking "this ain't right mate" I shouldn't have to stand here for four minutes and like inhale urine while I have my picture taken.

"It's just got no atmosphere in there. I'm practising and I've got wires all around the table. There's no security, you've got people running at you left, right and centre."

Rocket blasts younger players

If you ask O'Sullivan a question, you'll get an honest answer, no matter who it upsets, and on this occasion in 2020 it was any young snooker player on the circuit.

In his defence, O'Sullivan keeps on making world finals and winning world titles while John Higgins and Mark Williams are also there or thereabouts.

So when O'Sullivan was asked about why the older generation could still win the big trophies, he gave his unique assessment of how it was possible.

"When you look at the standard of play, if you look at the younger players coming through, they are not that good really. Most of them would do well as half-decent amateurs, not even amateurs. They are so bad.

And then the punchline...

"A lot of them you see now, you look at them and think, 'I would have to lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50'.

"That is why we are still hovering around, because of how poor it is down that end."

Early ban for assault

We all know about O'Sullivan's troubled upbringing, and back in 1996, when aged just 20, his temper got the better of him.

At the 1996 World Championships he admitted assaulting a press officer and was banned and fined for the incident.

O'Sullivan was given a two-year suspended ban and fined £30,000 fine, but was allowed to carry on playing at the Crucible that year.

Ronnie's China crisis

While some of O'Sullivan's antics raise a smile, some are more unsavoury, such as his press conference after going out of the 2008 China Open.

O'Sullivan was caught on cameras making a series of lewd and inappropriate comments while his questions and answers were being translated.

He claimed in defence that he didn't know the cameras were on or that his microphone was picking up his comments.

He was fined and docked 700 ranking points as a punishment.

New shoes please!

One of the funnier incidents for O'Sullivan came at the 2015 World Championships when he complained about his new shoes hurting him.

We've all been there when breaking in new shoes, but not at the Crucible during the World Championships!

O'Sullivan held a 4-2 lead over Craig Steadman but was unhappy about his footwear, so promptly took them off and played in his socks.

"Has anyone got a size eight or nine?" was O'Sullivan's question to the crowd, but it was tournament director Mike Ganley who eventually supplied him was some new brogues after informing him that it was against regulations to play in socks.

O'Sullivan made light of the change and won his match with ease.

Rocket vs The Pistol

Things got really heated in the in the 2020 Champion of Champions event, which aptly enough took place on November 5!

There was certainly fireworks between these two as Ronnie O'Sullivan accused Mark Allen of standing in his eyeline to distract him.

Allen largely ignored the initial accusation, but as O'Sullivan pushed the issue Allen became more irate and it threatened to boil over at one stage.

And you thought snooker was a boring game!

Ronnie's first 147 protest

O'Sullivan has protested about the lack of reward for a tournament 147 for some time, given how much the prize for a maximum break has reduced given players are hitting them more and more.

The Rocket had to actually be talked into completing a 147 at the 2010 World Open in Glasgow as he made 140 then left the black on the table after previously being told there was no specific 147 prize on offer.

O'Sullivan topped mid-frame to ask about the 147 prize, but all that was on offer was a £4,000 bonus for the highest tournament break.

It didn't go down well and O'Sullivan made 140, shook opponent Mark King's hand and went to leave, and had to be persuaded by referee Jan Verhaas to return and pot the black before walking off.

O'Sullivan makes a 146 - twice!

The 147 prize debate rumbled on, and at the 2016 Welsh Open O'Sullivan potted the pink on the penultimate red to make sure he finished with a 146 instead of the maximum.

It was in protest to having just a £10,000 as the 147 bonus - and an act that snooker boss Barry Hearn branded "disrespectful and unacceptable".

If any player can deliberately make a 146, it's O'Sullivan, and although he didn't admit it, he then made a 146 the following year at the 2017 World Championship at the Crucible.

O'Sullivan made £147,000 for his 1997 maximum break, but the prize for one in 2017 would have been a maximum £15,000.

The Rocket said it was just how the balls fell, but BBC commentator Stephen Hendry insisted: "Let's just say I don't think he was giving it 110 per cent".

Ronnie walks out of UK Championship

The UK Championship is one of the biggest events in snooker, just behind the world in some eyes so it's a big deal - especially when you just decide you've had enough and walk out.

O'Sullivan's moods have swung hugely throughout his career, and in the 2006 event in York he just lost all love for the game while 4-1 down against Stephen Hendry.

He was 24-0 in the sixth frame, but just conceded the match, shaking hands with a bemused Hendry and referee before exiting the arena.

O'Sullivan later revealed he was in a bad place mentally due to personal problems, saying: "I just was out there playing Hendry and thought "I'm not going to win this match, I'm not feeling it, I don't want to be here, I just want to get out of here," I shook his hand and off I went.

"I just wasn't in the right frame of mind at all. There was a lot of stuff going on in my head that was upsetting really. That could have happened three of four matches before Hendry."

In typical O'Sullivan fashion, though, he returned to York the year after and won!

READ MORE: Ronnie O'Sullivan's greatest achievements

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