O'Sullivan threatens to withdraw from Championship League over coronavirus fears

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Food for thought: Ronnie O'Sullivan eats a salad.

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02/06/2020 at 23:08 | Updated 03/06/2020 at 07:53

Ronnie O'Sullivan could pull out of the Championship League if he is not allowed to take his own food with him to the Marshall Arena complex in Milton Keynes.

The Essex man is due to play in the behind-closed-doors event on Friday afternoon when he faces matches against Kishan Hirani, Michael Georgiou and Chris Wakelin in Group 10 of the 64-man opening stage.

But according to media reports, O'Sullivan is not keen on sampling the food cooked by hotel staff at the venue over fears it could be risky to his health during the coronavirus crisis. 1997 world champion and pundit Ken Doherty has been posting pictures on social media of the food delivered to his hotel room in containers.

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All players have to undergo a throat and nose COVID-19 test and spend the night in isolation at the hotel before being cleared to play the following day with strict hygiene rules and social distancing in place.

“So as long as my desire to stay healthy was respected and I could take my own food, once I heard of the other measures being taken I was happy to play," said the five-times world champion.

“I don’t trust people cooking my own food at the hotel during these times. I have been told that will be okay, but you never know until you arrive there and see what happens.

“If I feel the food situation is not right and I am not allowed to bring in my own pre-prepared stuff, I will feel my health is the most important.

“I don’t mind cold food so I’ll bring some chickpea curry along, or some chicken and make some salad and vegetables.

"Until there is a vaccine you are going to be anxious and have worries, and not take risks. So when I get there, hopefully I feel safe, and if I don’t and I’m not happy, then my health has to come first and I could leave."

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O'Sullivan last played in a competitive match at the snooker shoot-out in February and has dropped to 18 on the sport's one-year ranking list largely due to a part-time match schedule.

"I asked about the food before I agreed to play. I explained that I have had no one touch my food for the last 10 weeks," he said. "I haven’t had takeaways, or let anyone else cook for me. I wouldn’t trust anyone else doing it right now.

"I will cook it at home, take it there, there’s a fridge in the room, and it’s only a day and a half. That would be a deal-breaker for me, I am funny about it. They said it would be fine, but let’s wait and see on the day."

Keen jogger O'Sullivan, who says he has been spending recent weeks running away from the snooker practice table, has not won an event in the UK since the Tour Championship in March 2019, but is adamant it will not be business as normal after the health crisis is over.

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“I was the first person to stop shaking hands anyway well before the outbreak, and I’ll do that until the end of my career now. I’ll use the elbow when we can, that’s a good one," he said.

“I have been careful about not touching certain things, like door handles, for three or four years.

“I haven’t had a COVID-19 test up to now, so that will happen I think on Thursday. And if I fail, then it’s straight back home and isolation somewhere else, and back running where I can.

“I have been very careful anyway who I have seen over the last two or three months, maybe two people other than who I am living with.

“I have taken social distancing very seriously, I really don’t want to get ill. That message got through to me.”

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