Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he will “never criticize snooker fans”, clarifying comments about the atmosphere at this week’s Northern Ireland Open.
O’Sullivan said the Waterfront Hall atmosphere was “smooth” earlier this week, and said he felt “very sad” during the first-round win over Andy Hicks.
The six-time world champion explained his comments, saying he was not impressed by the situation, not the crowd.
O’Sullivan told Eurosport: “It never has anything to do with the crowd, the Belfast crowd.
“Such an arrangement means you can’t create a good atmosphere because no one is sitting on the sidelines, so you feel like you’re playing in an empty audience.
“When I said the atmosphere is the same, it’s because you feel like you’re not playing to anyone, you don’t see the crowd.
“The way it was done looked like I said it was the fans, but it didn’t depend on the fans – it’s the auditorium, it was set up wrong, and it’s not the fault of the fans.”
O’Sullivan, who lost the last three NI Open finals to Judd Trump, beat Alfie Burden 4-1, making his way to the 16th final in Belfast.
The 45-year-old said the fans were “like family” to me when he expressed his frustration in the layout of Belfast’s “Waterfront” hall.
He added: “They have three tables, so you kind of play the scoreboard. When you have fans, they lift you up and keep moving, and that creates a different atmosphere.
“I just wanted to explain it because every snooker fan is for me as a family, so I wouldn’t criticize snooker fans.
“It was never insignificant in the crowd, more so I thought the setup didn’t create a good atmosphere, so it’s hard to play in such an environment – that’s what I wanted to say.”