Ronnie O’Sullivan says he is at a “crossroads” with snooker’s governing body and could quit the sport if he has to reduce the time he spends in China.
The seven-time world champion, 47, is facing disciplinary action for publicly criticising the World Snooker Tour.
His comments related to five players being threatened with punishment for playing in an exhibition event in Macau instead of the Northern Ireland Open.
“I know that they’re going to throw the book at me,” O’Sullivan told the BBC.
“I can’t speak out. I’ve accepted that. So that’s the situation that I’m in. I’m under disciplinary,” he said in an extensive interview for BBC Two.
Disciplinary action against the five players – world champion Luca Brecel, four-time world champion John Higgins and Mark Selby, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Ali Carter – was averted when the event in Macau, a special administrative region of China, was moved to December, with World Snooker Tour (WST) permission.
O’Sullivan backed the players in their dispute with WST in October.
Specially organised events in East Asia are a lucrative proposition for stars like O’Sullivan, who can attract large crowds whenever they play.
“I have no option now,” O’Sullivan added. “If I can’t go out and do what I need to do – which is play a lot in China – then I won’t ever play again.
“We are at a sort of crossroads now.
“There’s not enough here for me in the UK to justify the effort that I put in. When I go to China I play in great venues, great crowds, great prize money. And I love it.
“If that gets to the point where I’m not able to do that or I’m not allowed to do that, then I probably won’t play. I’ll probably go and play Chinese 8 ball (pool) because I still want to play snooker. I still want a cue in my hand.”
In response, WST said: “While we are delighted for Ronnie to build his profile in China, and to play in his private exhibition events, our priority is to protect the interests of all players.”
The main snooker circuit also confirmed that prize money in the sport was now at pre-Covid levels – worth around £14m over this season – having dropped post-pandemic to around £10-11m with the loss of several, now reinstated, events in China.
In September, O’Sullivan collected a winner’s cheque of £210,000 for triumphing in the Shanghai Masters.
However, the three largest prizes for winners remain the Triple Crown events hosted in the UK – the World Championship (£500,000), UK Championship (£250,000) and the Masters (£250,000).
The largest winner’s cheque for an overseas ranking event is £175,000 at the International Championship, which was held in northern China in November.