Ronnie O’Sullivan insisted he was “devastated” after being caught up in a new ‘cheat’ storm at the Shootout.
The Rocket apologised to beaten first-round opponent Alan McManus after TV replays showed he had fouled the black in Friday’s late-night clash in Watford.
O’Sullivan, playing in the quickfire event for the first time in five years in front of a raucous sell-out crowd, grazed the black with his cue while potting a tough pink.
Referee Desislava Bozhilova, alerted to the incident, called out “Stop” as O’Sullivan lined up the next red but failed to halt him playing the next shot.
And five-time world champion O’Sullivan, 44, claimed the deafening noise inside the Colosseum had played a part in not hearing either the foul or the official.
The incident led to a hail of online criticism for both O’Sullivan – with accusations of ‘cheating’ – and the referee. Bozhilova was also involved in another recent incident when Ali Carter talked her out of a correct call.
And there were echoes of another O’Sullivan incident at the English Open in 2018 when a foul by him in a 5-3 win over Luo Honghao went undetected.
O’Sullivan, denying any intent to deceive, said: “Look, when you’ re playing in a normal snooker tournament it is deadly silent. Snooker, like any sport, is played by sound.
“You hear everything usually and out there I couldn’t even hear it when I was hitting the ball.
“It was totally news to me when I came in this morning and was told Desi was shouting my name to stop. I couldn’t hear her – then you watch it on TV and think ‘How could you not hear her?’
“But it was like playing in a football stadium with the singing and the chanting, and I couldn’t hear her. She is miked up to TV.
“I was devastated when O came in today, and I said to Alan I have heard and I am gutted and said to him if I could give you my place then I would, but I can’t.”
Shortly after the incident a shaken Bozhilova then re-spotted the yellow on the green spot.
O’Sullivan added: “I said to the ref today ‘Desi I hear there were a couple of incidents, me hitting the black and you re-spotting the yellow on the green spot.
“And she said to me that her head was gone after that situation. So it shows in that atmosphere there a lot of little things can go wrong.
“After she asked me to stop and I played the next red, maybe they could change the rule. They could have stopped me, and put the pink and white back like the miss rule to get it right.”
A World Snooker spokesperson said: “If a foul is neither awarded by the referee nor successfully claimed by the non-striker before the next stroke is made then it is condoned.”
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