RONNIE O'Sullivan has certainly ruffled a few feathers this week.

Arguably the greatest player in the history of snooker, the five-times former world champion has been shooting from the lip.

Whether talking about snooker's status in global sport, the people who watch the game or the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year Awards, O'Sullivan has not been short of an opinion or two.

His comments have been branded "nonsense" by Barry Hearn, the chairman of World Snooker, while one of his biggest rivals, Shaun Murphy, has told people not to bother listening.

But any publicity is good publicity, of course, and O'Sullivan, let us not forget, is currently trying to promote his third book, a crime novel.

Not content with describing snooker as a "car-boot sale" next to the Harrods of Formula One, or bemoaning the lack of "beauty" in the sport, his latest interview was uncomplimentary about the quality of his rivals on the world tour.

He expressed the view that the "tail was wagging the dog" and described many players in the top 128 as unknown figures who will never make it to the top of the tree.

"There are a lot of players I watch out there and they can't play, as simple as that," he said. "No disrespect. They just can't play and they are never going to be good enough.

"It is like the tail wagging the dog, in a way. You are supporting the bottom ones when really no-one knows them and they are never going to get anywhere."

The Betway UK Snooker Championship currently being held at the York Barbican is one of 16 out of the 19 ranking tournaments that involves 128 players.

O'Sullivan, who was in quarter-final action last night, feels the size of the tour field should be reduced and says China – not the UK – holds they key to the future of the game.

"We have a lot of quantity but very few quality events," he said. "Maybe skim them down a bit and make them all real proper set-ups. Maybe the tour is only strong enough at the moment to cater for 64 players. That's where I think snooker could be improved.

"We are living in the global world now and China is where it's at. That's where the money is. They are ready to pump it into snooker. They just don't want 128 players – they want the top 16, the top 32.

"My argument is that there should be more for the top players. I always believe the top players should be rewarded and have more classy events to play in and should be treated differently.

"I do believe the top 16 or top 32 should be having better opportunities, rather than having to keep coming in at round one, and going to a lot of events that don't carry great quality."

When asked if his vision for the sport might hinder the development of young talent, O'Sullivan replied: "There is no grass roots. The only grass roots are in China. There are no snooker clubs in England.

"In London, you don't find young kids playing like it was when me and John Higgins came through. There is no amateur game. If you don't turn pro, its because you are not good enough."

O'Sullivan, who turns 41 next week, insists he has not been "knocking" snooker and is undoubtedly entitled to express his opinions on the basis of his achievements in the game.

His views always command and deserve an audience too, whatever Murphy might say.