MARK Allen has risked a war of words with World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, labelling him “ridiculous” for banning football shirts at the Betfred World Championship.

The Masters champion booked his place in the second round by beating Liam Highfield and turned to famous fan Brian Wright, who is known for wearing a Coventry City top every year since 1989, and shook 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, became the latest player to question his decision, saying it risks driving fans away.

“Look, the world has gone nuts if you can’t wear a football top and come in,” he 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 32-year-old Northern Ireland player, who lifted 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 encounter against Joe Perry.

The draw looks to have opened up for Allen, with Englishman Perry knocking out two-time defending champion and world No.1 Mark Selby.

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

“But for a few shots, that match could have been very close and I guess experience told in the end,” Allen added.

“I don’t feel like I played badly, I did not score as heavily as I would have liked to but Liam made it very tough for me. The first time here can be daunting and it is for many people but I thought he handled it very well and it could have been 8-7 either way if a few more went in.”

Allen started strongly with an 88 break giving him the first frame but Highfield, making his Crucible debut, stayed in touch and trailed just 3-2 after five.

But Allen accelerated and took a 6-3 lead overnight, leaving him just four frames from victory.

Highfield gave him a scare yesterday though, winning the first frame of the session before missing a crucial brown in the next which would have made it 6-5.

His miss let Allen off the hook and the Antrim-born player found some rhythm and got over the line by winning four of the last five frames, ensuring he will be back on Thursday for the second round. 

“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.

“Maybe people need to give Joe a lot of credit rather than criticising Selby for getting beaten. Joe has been a top player for a number of 
years now.

“He has been knocking on the door for a long time now and it is going to be a very tough match. It would have been tough against Mark but it will be as tough against Joe.

“I don’t think we are the type of people to worry about our opponent. We will go out there and just play the game, play our shots and try to score.

“I think that is the way the match will be, it will be open with lots 
of breaks – may the best man win,” he added. 

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