sport

Rocket - Keep legends in game

World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan believes snooker legends Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry should be handed Tour cards.

The 56-year-old Davis, six-time world champion, lost in qualifying for this year's World Championship, which started on Saturday, and has fallen outside the top 64 in the money list meaning he will drop out of the paid ranks this summer.

Hendry, winner of seven world crowns and retired in 2012, has stated he would not return to the sport, although Davis has said the Scot has revealed he would consider playing in some events.

World Snooker chief Barry Hearn has always insisted the sport should be a meritocracy under his leadership but took to Twitter over the weekend to gauge opinion on authorising an exemption for Davis and Hendry, along with six-time World Championship runner-up Jimmy White.

O'Sullivan, hunting a sixth world title and third in a row, began his defence in easy fashion with a 10-4 triumph over veteran Robin Hull to set up a second round clash with Jamie Burnett or Joe Perry and feels his baize heroes deserve to stay on the tour.

On the prospect of Davis and Hendry receiving wild cards for the profesional tour, 'the Rocket' said: "I think it's good for me because I'll probably find myself in that position at some point.

"If I was in that position and I wanted to play, I probably wouldn't want to go through the qualifying system. So to be able to come in at round one and still compete is good for Steve because he still loves playing, he's been a great ambassador for the game along with Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry.

"I do believe they should have that opportunity to compete if they want to. Wherever we go with our game all over the world, to have them part of it is definitely a plus. I think it would be a crazy decision not to have them there so let's hope they do the right thing and give some of the greatest players that have played our game the opportunity.

"It doesn't deny anyone that's good enough the chance to become a winner. In snooker, if you can pot balls you come through. There's no politics involved, it's as even as you can get, so any junior that wants to come through and is good enough will do so, no matter what the system.

"If Stephen plays 70 per cent of what he can play then he'll still win tournaments. It's about whether he has the desire or the motivation to put the work in on the practice table which he will have to do. As you get older, the motivation to put your three or four hours of practice in is not easy."

Hearn will not vote on the wild card issue, he has said, due to his long-standing close friendship with Davis, but has asked World Snooker board members to determine the merit of his proposal.

"We're going to continue discussing it and considering whether the game first is a loser by not still having two legends like Davis and Hendry," Hearn said.

"The question I asked my directors is: do we owe these people? Does the game owe these people? And what's the downside?"