Mark Allen was today warned he could be banned for his "unacceptable" claim that Chinese snooker players lack integrity.

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said in a Crucible press conference that he would demand disciplinary chiefs treat Allen's remarks seriously.

Hearn stated his concern that outspoken players are putting their fellow professionals' careers at risk, with the danger that the sport as a whole could suffer.

"This is a very good time to be a snooker player," Hearn said. "It's not a good time to be an idiot.

"Everywhere we go, these players are ambassadors of snooker. They're chaperones of the image of the game.

"In major expanding markets, and there's no doubt China is that, big time, they have to bear the responsibility of those comments and the potential loss - not to themselves or whether they don't get a visa, but the potential loss to the game in general and the desire for the rest of the players to earn a living playing their chosen sport."

"They have responsibility at every level and it concerns me that sometimes it's a case that the mouth is functioning but the brain has not been consulted."

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) have confirmed they will be writing to Allen to initiate disciplinary proceedings.

They have already fined Allen on four occasions this season, costing the 26-year-old Northern Irishman over £2,500.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson said: "The WPBSA is responsible for the governance of snooker worldwide and takes very seriously comments made which could be perceived to be directed at a particular nation.

“The chairman of the disciplinary committee Nigel Mawer is making further inquiries into this incident. Mark Allen will be given 14 days to respond to the letter."

Allen spoke out after suffering a surprise Crucible defeat to world number 81 Cao Yupeng last night, when he believed his opponent should have called a foul against himself midway through the match. The Antrim potter said he was "disgusted" that Cao had not owned up to an offence, however television replays were inconclusive.

Allen also said: "It seems to be a bit of a trait for the Chinese players because there have been instances in the past, of fouls and blatant cheating going on."

Allen is not the only player to have riled Hearn, with Mark Williams' foul-mouthed Twitter criticism of the Crucible venue on Friday bewildering him.

Hearn said: "Mark Allen's comments at the press conference yesterday, and Mark Williams' comments on his Twitter (account), are unacceptable to World Snooker.

"If these comments look likely to bring the game of snooker into disrepute, then the very sternest disciplinary action will be taken against both players.

"It is time for players to understand. Prize money has more than doubled in two years. It comes at a price; it's called professionalism.

"Any player that decides to ignore the players' contract, that he signs to take advantage of these new benefits in snooker, means they are risking their position on the main tour. This is zero tolerance.

"We have the powers to do anything providing we've acted reasonably. It's a fine, a potential suspension, or a ban."

Discussing two-time world champion Williams, Hearn said the Welshman's remarks were "absolutely lunacy".

Allen has already caused offence in China this season, branding the island of Hainan, which staged the World Open, as "horrendous" and its people as "ignorant".

He was fined £1,000 for those comments, but Hearn said today: "I don't think it's a strong enough disincentive by any means.

"That's why our recommendation is that if he's found guilty this time I would expect the WPBSA to take a more serious approach at the level of fines. How far do we go until the players understand their responsibility to the game?

"There comes a point when you have to say enough is enough. And I'm trusting the WPBSA disciplinary system to take that into account. If they don't take it into account, we've got to look at our own rules again. It will be taken into account."