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Football top ban is crazy, blasts Allen

 

By Charlie Bennett

Mark Allen has risked a war of words with World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn by labelling him "ridiculous" for banning football shirts at the Betfred World Championship.

The Antrim potter booked his place in the second round by beating Liam Highfield before turning to famous fan Brian Wright - known for wearing a Coventry top every year since 1989 - and shaking his hand after the win.

Hearn issued a statement last week saying football shirts were no longer welcome in a bid to clean up the sport's image and Wright was forced to change when he turned up in a Coventry top on Saturday.

But Allen, who has clashed with Hearn in the past, followed Ronnie O'Sullivan in questioning his decision - saying it risks driving fans away.

"The world has gone nuts if you can't wear a football top and come in," the Masters champion said. "I saw Barry's reason was for the image of the sport. For me, would you rather a big crowd with everyone wearing a football top or go to China, like we do, and play in front of three people and a dog?

"It is a ridiculous statement to make and I am sure he could have come up with a better reason than that. I put a tweet up with me in a football shirt so I feel like I am one up on Barry."

Allen looks like he is here to stay in Sheffield after he marched into the second round with a 10-5 win against qualifier Highfield.

The Northern Ireland ace, who won his first triple crown event at The Masters in January, pulled clear late on - winning four of the last five frames to set up a last-16 clash with Joe Perry.

The draw looks to have opened up for Allen, with veteran Perry knocking out two-time defending champion and World No.1 Mark Selby in a shock result.

And with favourites O'Sullivan and Ding Junhui both in the bottom half of the draw, Allen will fancy his chances of going far.

"A lot of people would have expected Mark to get through that and I am no different. But Joe is a class act," he said.

"We will go out there and just play the game, play our shots and try and score.

"I think that is the way the match will be, it will be open with lots of breaks - may the best man win."

Meanwhile, the biggest shock of the day went to Jamie Jones, who stormed back to knock out World No.8 Shaun Murphy in a deciding frame.

Jones trailed 8-5 at one stage, but the Welshman reeled off three straight frames to fight back and level the match at 8-8.

Despite Murphy taking the next frame to go within one of victory, it would be Jones who would progress to the next round as he triumphed in the final two frames to eliminate the former world champion.

"I played really well in patches," Jones said. "Shaun got into his stride to go 8-5 up and I was shut out of the match.

"The 100 to go 9-9 put me on the front foot but when I missed a chance in the final frame I thought it was going to be a nightmare.

"I think it is my best victory. I have never faced pressure like I have today so I am so pleased to hold myself together and come through. It gives me loads of confidence."

  • Watch the snooker World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.

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