The superficial thirst for success in professional sport is left trailing by the very real hunger for social justice. The very real chance to affect meaningful change in society.

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford and world snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan are among the favourites for this year's Sports Personality of the Year award – and both sing from the same hymn sheet in calling for an end to child poverty in the UK.

UK Championship
Ronnie O'Sullivan set to make Masters return despite media concerns
6 HOURS AGO

Scoring goals, potting balls or holing putts for a living means little when you consider what is going on in the wider world at large. Real drama looms far away from playing games.

Rashford was awarded an MBE for his campaign to extend free school meals for the most vulnerable during the summer holidays, but has so far been rebuffed in his bid to see the government support his calls for an extension until Easter 2021.

In the year of a global pandemic, O’Sullivan has applauded the England forward's passion in his campaign for free school meals during school holidays, but can’t understand why hunger and homelessness has not been properly addressed in the UK.

"I think the campaign is fantastic. It is brilliant," said O'Sullivan. "I've been there and know what it is like to have to rely on free school dinners.

"This is very important to families up and down the country. No kid or person should go hungry in this country I believe.

"Homelessness has always been a big bugbear of mine. Why do some people have so much yet some people can't even get a sandwich or a cup of tea?

"I could never quite fathom that out or how that was allowed to happen.

"Unless people like Marcus Rashford stand up and speak for these families who are struggling then their voice doesn't get heard.

"I think he's used his platform, especially for someone so young to come out and speak and be so passionate and proactive in his campaign.”

Ronnie O'Sullivan lifts the world title in 2012 with the help of his son Ronnie Jr.

Image credit: Eurosport

Rashford has submitted a petition that has attracted almost one million signatures forcing it to be debated in parliament.

O’Sullivan feels the government should "admit defeat", change their position and make Rashford the focal point of the campaign to eradicate child poverty.

"I think the government have really got this one badly wrong. If I was advising the government, the first thing I'd be telling them is to get Marcus Rashford in to talk to him and be wanting to work with him,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

"We want him representing us as a government and us as a country. We want the whole world to see what a brilliant job we are doing.

"At the moment, they've got it wrong. The best thing they can do is admit defeat and admit we can all be teachable.

"Someone like Marcus Rashford is running rings around them at the moment. If they want the embarrassment to stop then the smartest thing to do is bring him on side."

O'Sullivan – who returns to action at the Champion of Champions event in Milton Keynes next week – is also dismayed to see investment being spent on railway projects such as HS2 when there are people living below the breadline.

"I think at the moment, it's about unity. When you watch what is going on in America, there is so much division," said the seven-times UK and Masters winner.

"That's never really a good thing. Hopefully as a country at this time, it's about uniting and supporting the vulnerable.

"With the free school meals, they can find millions to get help you get from the North of England to the South of England 20 minutes quicker yet you can't find £20 million for some school dinners and an extra £5m for the people of Liverpool and Manchester at this time.

"You think something is quite not right there and again wonder where are we at? How can you not find that money? Yet you can find £100 million for a train to get you from north to south quicker.

"This is a time to support the vulnerable. A lot of people are going through hardship at the moment, and this is when you want your government and country to support you."

UK Championship
'I feel like I’m king of my castle' – Rocket Ronnie on his route back to the top
YESTERDAY AT 11:24
UK Championship
'Nobody does it like O'Sullivan', two 147s and a quit threat: The best of round one
YESTERDAY AT 08:10