Former champion Shaun Murphy says amateurs should not be allowed to play in professional snooker tournaments after losing in the first round of the UK championship to 19-year-old Si Jiahui.
The 39-year-old, who was runner-up in the world championship this year, fought back from 5-1 down to level the match but lost the deciding frame to the Chinese amateur.
Murphy, who has won more than £4 million ($A7.4 million) in prize-money in his career, vented his frustration after the defeat in York on Tuesday.
“I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man but that young man shouldn’t be in the tournament,” Murphy, known as the Magician, told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“It’s not fair, it’s not right … I don’t know why we as a sport allow amateurs to compete in professional tournaments.
“This is our livelihood. This is our living. We’re self-employed individuals and not contracted sportsmen. We don’t play for a team.”
Si is competing as an amateur due to falling off the main tour at the end of last season and takes on 49-year-old veteran Dominic Dale in the second round.
“The other 127 runners and riders in the tournament, it’s their livelihood too,” Murphy added.
“It’s wrong, in my opinion, to walk into somebody who’s not playing with the same pressures and concerns I am.
“He played like a man who does not have a care in the world, because he does not have a care in the world. I’m not picking on him as a young man, he deserved his victory.
“This is how I put food on the table. This is how I earn money. Since turning professional at 15, I’ve earned the right to call myself a professional snooker player. He hasn’t done that.”
Murphy later said on Instagram that he had been playing with a severe injury, while he doubled down in another interview with TalkSport radio.
His stance on amateurs drew heavy criticism from fans but other professional snooker stars defended the Englishman – including Australia’s reigning champion Neil Robertson.
“I totally get where Shaun’s coming from,” Robertson said.
“When you’re playing one of the Chinese boys, some of them are amateurs, but some are as good as anybody in the top 50 in the world.
“Amateurs are under a completely different pressure where there’s actually no pressure, because they’re not competing for ranking points.
“They’re basically on a free hit at a pro, so I completely agree with what Shaun’s saying there, because it is very dangerous.”
Alfie Burden said: “Completely agree with Murphy you earn the right to be a pro and if you’re not you shouldn’t play in the pro events until you do … simple as that really.”
Four-time world champion Mark Selby believes “a lot of players agree” with Murphy.
“Because he said it after he lost, people probably think it is sour grapes and he wouldn’t have said it if he had won – but I totally stand by everything he said,” Selby said.
“There’s a reason there is a Q School (qualification competition) to try to get on (the professional tour), and if you don’t get on, you should have to wait another year and play in the amateur events.”