Ronnie O’Sullivan signs up to three-year Saudi snooker deal

Ronnie O’Sullivan won the first World Masters of Snooker in Riyadh last month (Picture: Zhai Zheng @zhaizhengqd)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has signed a three-year ambassadorial agreement with Saudi Arabia, committing the world number one to playing in all World Snooker Tour (WST) events in the Kingdom.

An announcement on Tuesday night expanding the relationship between WST and Saudi Arabia confirmed that Riyadh Season has become an ‘official partner’ of the World Snooker Championship and that the World Masters of Snooker will return to the calendar next season.

The first edition of the event, featuring the controversial new golden ball which allowed the opportunity of a 167 break, was won by O’Sullivan in March.

It is not entirely clear what Riyadh Season partnering with the World Snooker Championship will entail, but Turki Alalshikh, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority said: ‘Riyadh Season is delighted to be a partner of the World Snooker Championship, which will start next Saturday and continues until May 6th at Crucible in Sheffield.’

O’Sullivan’s agreement sees him signed up to play in the World Masters of Snooker and the new ranking event, the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters for three years, meaning retirement for the 48-year-old is not round the corner.

The Rocket will also go to Saudi Arabia on coaching trips, after Alalshikh announced plans for a new Ronnie O’Sullivan Academy in the country.

‘Playing in Riyadh last month was an amazing experience, I love the atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the fans,’ he said. ‘We can make snooker huge in Saudi Arabia.

Ronnie O'Sullivan signs up to three-year Saudi snooker deal

O’Sullivan has committed to playing WST events in Saudi Arabia for three years (Picture: WST)

‘So I am excited by this chance to work to grow the sport there and the opportunity to coach the best young talent and pass on my experience. I’m also relishing the chance to play in more big events in the Kingdom, and to work alongside HE Turki Alalshikh on his ambitions.’

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: ‘We are honoured to work with HE Turki Alalshikh on his visionary plans for progress. We share his ambition of bringing snooker to many more fans across the Middle East, and to foster new talent and develop grassroots structures. We share a dream that one day Saudi Arabia will produce a World Snooker Champion, and each of the three initiatives announced today are steps towards that dream. We are thrilled to be working with His Excellency and to deepen our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

‘The inaugural Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker was a fabulous event and many of the players enjoyed the atmosphere created by the local fans. We look forward to returning to the Kingdom in the summer for the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters, which will be the first ever world ranking event in the region. These tournaments grow the sport and provide fantastic opportunities for the players to compete for outstanding prize money.’

World Snooker Tour’s relationship with the Kingdom looks set to be close and for a lengthy period of time, with the Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters already confirmed on a 10-year contract.

O’Sullivan just this month called for the World Championship to move from Sheffield, touting Saudi Arabia as a possible location and the latest announcement will only encourage fans to think that move is very much a possibility.


MORE : Steve Davis on Ronnie O’Sullivan: I had an X Factor but he’s XXX


MORE : Stephen Maguire books Crucible return but admits doubts over his game

For more stories like this, check our sport page.

Follow Metro Sport for the latest news on
Facebook, 
Twitter and Instagram.

Snooker