Barry Hearn: Ronnie O'Sullivan return not vital for snooker

Last Updated: 21/01/13 1:18pm

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Ronnie O'Sullivan: Reigning world champion

Ronnie O'Sullivan: Reigning world champion

Sky Bet

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn believes the success of the recent Betfair Masters shows the game can thrive without former world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Reigning world champion O'Sullivan pulled out for the remainder of the current season for "personal reasons" in October.

The 37-year-old was a spectator at Alexandra Palace on semi-final day, sparking rumours he will defend in world title in Sheffield in April.

While Hearn admitted he would welcome O'Sullivan back, he feels the sport is in good health, as demonstrated by the Masters, which was won by Mark Selby courtesy of a 10-6 final victory over defending champion Neil Robertson on Sunday.

"If I know Ronnie I think the reason he came Saturday night is because he's sitting at home watching it on telly saying 'I used to be good at that game'," said Hearn. "He just turned up; he should've brought his cue.

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"He still has a choice of entering the World Championships. The closing date is the end of February; he's got to make a decision before then.

"If he decides to he's welcome with open arms, because he adds so much. And if he doesn't, I just want to remind him that he wasn't in the Masters, we sold more tickets and we got bigger TV ratings.

"The sport does not rely on one person, even if that person can add another dimension to it, which we would welcome. The choice is entirely his. I'm certainly not going to put any pressure on."

Hearn was appointed chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association in 2009, before taking up his current role with the governing body's commercial arm in June 2010 and has ushered in a number of changes designed to boost attendances and television viewing figures.

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