By Jim van Wijk, PA
Ronnie O’Sullivan hopes the return of fans at the Crucible Theatre can help inspire him towards another World Championship triumph.
The showpiece tournament in Sheffield is the first sporting competition to be included in Government plans for a pilot programme enabling the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions ease in England.
The trial will enable some 1,000 spectators per day to attend the World Championship, which runs from April 17 to May 3.
O’Sullivan will be bidding for a seventh title when he defends his Crucible crown, which he won with victory over Kyren Wilson in August.
The delayed 2020 tournament had initially been open to fans on the first day.
However, it then went behind closed doors amid tighter coronavirus restrictions before a limited number of spectators were eventually allowed back in for the final two days of the championship.
O’Sullivan has reached five finals this season, losing them all, the latest defeat coming to Neil Robertson in the Cazoo Tour Championship at Celtic Manor.
The world number two hopes when he walks back out in front of supporters again at the Crucible later this month, the change in atmosphere will give him a welcome boost.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) August 16, 2020
“I always miss the fans. I think it is time at some point to start getting back to that,” O’Sullivan said during a Facebook live event on Tuesday afternoon to promote his new partnership with Rokit.
“I have been guilty myself sometimes out there, maybe not kept the foot down as much as I would have done if there was a crowd. Sometimes they get on your back if they think you can do better.
“I think for everybody it will be helpful, not just for snooker but all sports.
“At some point we have got to try, but they have to do what is the right thing and I am sure they will and at some point we can get the fans back in.”
O’Sullivan admits the international Covid-19 restrictions during the global pandemic have made his participation in UK-hosted World Snooker Tour events more straightforward.
“This year I have been able to play a bit more just because we were forced to not do travel around the globes five times in a month, I just couldn’t do that,” he said.
“If I was to go to China and play four tournaments back-to-back, stay there, then come back, I would probably play in as many tournaments as anybody else.
“But I just could not enjoy my life or function properly if I was flying around chasing whatever.
“It all depends how the schedule comes out – if it is sensible, I will play more, if it is not then obviously I will play less and just will kind of be on the road doing a few more exhis (exhibition games) while them boys are out in Gibraltar and grafting away.
“For everything I don’t do, there is an opportunity to do something else in many ways.”
— ROKiT Drinks (@ROKiTDrinks) March 31, 2021
There had been speculation Tuesday’s announcement would be to announce O’Sullivan’s retirement.
The 45-year-old, though, has no intentions of hanging up his cue just yet.
“I’m taking retirement from my name. It’s not Ronnie O’Sullivan, it’s Ronnie ‘the Rokit’,” he said at the opening of his Facebook live event.
“I’m not retiring from snooker, so everyone can chill out and calm down, take it easy. I am still here, potting some balls – Oasis-style.”