World Snooker Tour (WST) has warned that some of its top players could be reprimanded after opting not to play in Belfast in favour of an overseas event.
The Northern Ireland Open, scheduled for the end of October, will reportedly not be attended by four-time world title holders Mark Selby and John Higgins, together with reigning World Snooker Champion Luca Brecel.
The trio, together with Ali Carter and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, have instead chosen to pack their bags for an exhibition event in Macau despite threats of disciplinary action from the WST.
In what has been described by people close to the matter as “strongly worded letters”, the WST explained that the actions of all five players will lead to a breach in their contracts.
Defending lawyers, however, have argued that the threats are baseless since none of the players have actually entered the Belfast tournament, and that they can do whatever they want in their own time.
Current world rankings leader Ronnie O’Sullivan has also come out in defence of the five players, expressing strong disapproval of WST’s actions by labelling them as scare tactics.
He commented: “This is about players being able to earn what they can and choose how and when they play.”
O’Sullivan himself is due to play in Shanghai during the Northern Ireland Open qualifiers, on which he added: “There is absolutely no reason to try and stop me and other players going to Shanghai during the Northern Ireland qualifiers. That is a small event, we are not involved, and we could still play in the final stages with our matches being held over.”