No appearance cash for Rocket
Snooker's ruling body have warned Ronnie O'Sullivan he will not be paid appearance money as an incentive to stay on the professional tour.
World champion O'Sullivan declined to sign the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) players' contract ahead of the entry deadline for the first two ranking events of the season.
It means he will miss this summer's Wuxi Classic and Australian Open, and there is the prospect of O'Sullivan staying out of the game if he and snooker's authorities remain opposed on the contracts issue.
O'Sullivan said he believed the WPBSA contract was "too onerous".
He will have the opportunity to sign the contract at any time and compete in ranking events later in the season.
But it has emerged through the WPBSA that there is a major stumbling block to snooker's biggest crowd-puller committing to play in ranking events, and that appears to concern his earning potential.
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has directly addressed the situation involving O'Sullivan, stressing it would be unfair to the rest of the players if special privileges were afforded to just one man.
Ferguson said in a statement that it was a "misconception" that players signing up to the contract were being "forced" to enter events, and said it was intended "to protect the players' income derived from the tour".
He added: "It is the WPBSA's duty to ensure that all of the players are treated equally and therefore it is our belief that all players should sign the same contract.
"We do not believe it would be in the interest of the membership as a whole if one player was allowed a different contract which could give that player additional appearance money."
O'Sullivan, who knows how important he is to the sport as it seeks to grow its worldwide audience, could still be paid appearance fees by tournament sponsors.
However, the WPBSA and World Snooker - the commercial arm of the sport headed by sports promoter Barry Hearn - are digging in their heels and insisting they will not be making an exception for any player.
Ferguson added: "The World Snooker Tour is expanding rapidly and consistently on a global basis and it is set to grow further. We are looking for the support of the players as a whole in order to assist this growth.
"Ronnie O'Sullivan of course is free to sign the contract at any time during the season which would make him eligible to play in World Snooker events, but it is important to note that signing the players' contract does not in itself compel any player to enter any World Snooker tournaments."