Ronnie O'Sullivan revisits 'numpties' rant with Real Madrid and snooker comparison

Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan has further outlined his “no numpties” stance in the sport and urged the powers that be to replicate clashes from football such as the Real Madrid vs Manchester City Champions League tie earlier this week. The Rocket has rarely held back when explaining how snooker can be improved upon, previously hitting out at “numpties” that were competing at tournaments with him.

Speaking after winning the Players’ Championship in Llandudno in 2018, O’Sullivan was full of praise for the tournament as it didn’t follow other events and open their main draw to a larger number of players. “I’m absolutely delighted because it’s a great tournament,” O’Sullivan said, before taking aim at some of the lesser-known players. “Top 16, no numpties, so it has a bit of quality. At some of the other tournaments it’s like being in the zoo but this is pretty nice. It’s like first-class.”

Five years later he has repeated his criticism of larger draws and encouraged tournaments to encourage more matches between the higher-ranked stars of the sport. Speaking on BBC Radio, O’Sullivan, said: “Snooker was huge in the 1980s, and everyone bought into it. And I think what you need now is the content to be stronger. You need to see the top players playing the top players more often.

“In sport now, and take boxing – you see matches made but you know who is going to win before it starts. If you get two fighters that are 50-50, you buy into it. And I think that is the same with snooker. A lot of the time you have matches where maybe the top guy can lose, but invariably they don’t.

“And when you watch the top tournaments with the top eight or the top 16 playing each other, there is nothing better than watching two great players slogging it out. It’s a bit like watching Man City against Real Madrid last week – it was a fantastic game of football. And then you watch AC Milan against Inter, and by comparison that was boring. It was poor, and I didn’t even really watch it. When you talk about the need to let people qualify in snooker…if they do qualify to get through in a tiered structure, that’s great, they made it.”

O’Sullivan crashed out of the World Snooker Championship at the quarter-final stage to eventual winner Luca Brecel, but as viewing figures in the Belgian’s final win over Mark Selby were down significantly from the previous year that featured the Rocket, there may be some merit to O’Sullivan’s view.

“For a lot of matches… when you have all players in from round one, a lot of the top players don’t get inspired and lose early on, because they’re not really up for it,” he continued. “They get up for the big crowd, the occasion, the big matches. The pressure of performing makes a top player perform.

“But if you put them in an environment where there is maybe 10 people watching, playing a lower-ranked player against who they are expected to win, it is hard to get up for that. And then you get a lot of upsets and weird results. That is fine, but if you ask me why snooker is not up there with some other sports, we have to fight for that.

“We have to fight to have many more great matches and moments that will make people say the next day ‘did you watch that last night?’ And a lot of the time now people don’t want to watch it, because they are not exciting matches.”