World snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has claimed he was forced to change in the toilet of a nearby hotel due to the lack of hotel rooms in York, where the UK Championship is being held this week.
O'Sullivan, who reminisced of years gone by when the players were treated to excellent service during the tournament, commented that he could understand the complaints of some of his fellow professionals about the conditions.
Me, (Stephen) Hendry, (Mark) Williams and (John) Higgins reminisce about the old days. With the tobacco sponsors there was great hospitality, courtesy cars, everything.
These days I couldn’t even get a hotel room in York — I got changed in the toilets of the Novotel over the road. I am about an hour’s drive out of the city because of the traffic.
If I was 20 I would be devastated, but I am 38 next week, my time in the game is almost up and I can get some sadistic pleasure watching the rest of them have to go through it!
Thus far, the players' frustrations have fallen upon deaf ears, with world snooker chairman Barry Hearn calling the stars "spoilt," per Nunns in the Daily Star.
However, Hearn was willing to concede that the facilities at the Barbican Centre in York were not up to the demands of staging a 128-player tournament—now the size of the UK Championship field.
It is a difficult dilemma for both Hearn and the stars involved. Snooker, following the banning of tobacco sponsorships, had been struggling to generate funding.
While Hearn has managed to increase prize money at the event, the cost of doing so has been more travelling to tournaments in the Far East and less in the way of facilities and services for the players.
Given that five of 11 ranking tournaments each year are now played in China, it would seem that the Far East is very much the future of the sport. Indeed, iconic player Jimmy White recently predicted that the World Championship would also head to the Far East, per Shamoon Hafez of BBC Sport.
While continuing to hold events in the UK may mean players need to accept less in the way of service, it is clear that the conditions in York are not up to acceptable standards.
Hearn may be right that he is saving the sport in Britain, but there is a compromise that must be struck to keep all sides happy in future years of the event.