'Bullied' Ronnie O'Sullivan slams snooker chiefs

England's Ronnie O'Sullivan poses with the trophy after winning the Masters in London in January 2017

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn denied claims of "bullying" and "intimidation" from Ronnie O'Sullivan, saying the five-times world champion had made "unfounded" and "inaccurate" allegations.

O'Sullivan slammed Hearn and snooker's hierarchy shortly after beating Gary Wilson 10-7 in the first round of this year's World Championship at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre in northern England on Sunday.

The 41-year-old felt he had been harshly treated in receiving a letter from disciplinary chiefs after he criticised referee Terry Camilleri and swore at a press photographer during January's Masters -- a tournament he won.

O'Sullivan insisted he was done with being "bullied" and "intimidated" by officials.

However, Hearn responded by issuing a statement Monday saying: "I personally take any accusation of 'bullying and intimidation' by me or World Snooker very seriously.

"Unfounded accusations such as these are damaging to World Snooker's global reputation, as well as my own, and we will take whatever action is required to protect this reputation from such inaccurate comments.

"I hope all parties can move on from this position and concentrate on the brilliant entertainment provided by players at the Betfred World Championship."

One of the most talented cuemen the game has known, O'Sullivan is now snooker's biggest drawcard while Hearn, who made his name in sports promotion as the manager of six-times world champion Steve Davis, has been credited with lifting the game out of the doldrums since taking charge of World Snooker.

But the two Englishmen's relationship took a turn for the worse when Hearn said last week that some of O'Sullivan's recent behaviour had been "embarrassing".

Post-match interviews have seen O'Sullivan deliberately and repeatedly respond with one-word answers, while he gave an interview to British television channel ITV at the World Grand Prix in February using a 'robotic' voice

Following the Wilson match, O'Sullivan yet again raised the possibility of his retirement as he criticised Hearn and snooker's authorities.

"I phoned Barry up four weeks ago and I said, 'Barry, I'm done with all you and your board of people'," O'Sullivan said.

"And I've got a very good friend of mind who said, 'Just let my lawyers deal with it'. I won't get involved with it because I'm not being bullied, I'm not having people doing that to me ever again.

"I like Barry, but I'm not being intimidated or bullied any more."

- 'Don't need you, don't need me' -

He added: "I've given 25 years of service to this game and I think I've given enough. Drop me out, I don't need you, you probably don't need me."

"I've had it for five, six, seven years, and I'm just done with it.

"It's not that important. I could go and do Big Brother, I could go and do I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here," O'Sullivan said in a reference to two British television 'reality' shows. "I could have a great life doing other stuff.

"This is something I do for love, but I'm not going to do it and have people trying to intimidate me and bully me."

Nevertheless, O'Sullivan -- who has failed to win back-to-back matches at the five previous events he has competed in since lifting the Masters trophy at London's Alexandra Palace in January -- insisted he would focus on the task at hand as he went in search of a sixth world title.

"It's important that I keep focused, keep professional, keep myself out of trouble and just try to come and do a job," he said.