A Few Corrections
Last week I wrote a long opinion piece on the future of small ball pool. I am going to hold my hands up and say that it wasn't my best piece of writing, I am not overly proud of it and nor was it particularly well researched.
So with that in mind I wanted to try and offer a few corrections. Some of this has been brought to my attention by Jon Shapland who sent me a detailed response via email that he gave me permission to publish right here.
I Got It Wrong
The first thing I want to draw your attention to is the fact that I got the venue wrong. Two years ago the tournament was played at Lakeside but for last season, and this, the tournament was actually held in Bradford.
I realise it is only a minor error and what is about 300 miles between friends?
There is a division
I still believe that the small ball game is polarised, there is a division between two major governing bodies, especially in England.
A number of readers pointed out that I was being very "Pro Blackball" last week. I was, I personally prefer the rules, they are more attacking in my opinion. However, when we talk about the division in the sport what we really need to do is get two governing bodies to come together and get the player base playing to the same set of rules and the same system.
The rules themselves don't actually matter!
What matters is that as a game all players are playing under the same umbrella. This makes it a much more viable option for potential sponsors at amateur or professional level.
Tours and Tournamants
Craig Marsh, who I have known for many years, was a very deserving winner of the recent IPA World Championships. I mention this because I sang the praises of the IPA Tour and the seemingly good playing opportunities that the tour now offers. It is true that there are many talented players that participate in the IPA Tour. What I failed to mention though was the UK Pool Tour.
The UK Pool Tour is played to World Rules, it doesn't class itself as a professional tour but there are many, many talented players that compete on this circuit as well.
In fact 150 players feature on the UK Pool Tour end of 2016 rankings, that is a very decent number. The tour is lead by players such as Phil Harrison, Mick Hill, Adam Davis, Craig Waddingham and Tom Cousins. All very highly regarded players in their own right. With Mick Hill you have one of the most recognisable names in small ball pool.
Alongside a main tour that claims to offer £120,000 prize money across 12 events there is also the innovative Premier League that takes 6 top players in kind of the Premier League Darts format of a round robin event.
At the time of writing I actually cannot see the total claimed prize fund of the IPA Tour but the open, amateur and professional tournaments pay £4800 in first place prizes at each event.
The Amateur Game
For this I have to only allude to England as I am not fully versed in what happens in Wales and Scotland.
We have two governing bodies, the EBPF that governs the Blackball game and the EPA which governs the World Rules game.
In my previous article I said that the amateur game was lacking, however, I now want to look at this further as I don't believe I have been completely fair and have taken a somewhat blinkered view.
The division in the sport does cause some problems. Different towns and regions play different sets of rules. Take my three local leagues as an example. Portland where I live still plays the old EPA rules, Weymouth moved to Blackball about 4 years ago and then Dorchester played World Rules (I think they have now switched to Blackball for the most current season). This makes it very hard for players to know how to progress further in the Sport, we have both a Dorset Blackball and Dorset World Rules county team. The Blackball team does seem to now be drawn from the West of Dorset where I live, whereas the World Rules has a very Bournemouth and Poole feel about it.
If we look further up the structure of amateur pool though the EPA (World Rules) actually offers many more well organised events with the Champion of Champions, The Golden Cue, National Interleague, County Finals, the Grand Prix and a National Amateur Champonships.
In comparison the EBPF that runs Blackball in England currently only offers the National County Finals, a fractured 'national tour' and there is also talk of a national 7's event which as yet has not taken place.
In fairness the EPA as an organisation has been structuring these type of events for longer so does have a head start, but if the Blackball game is ever going to be taken seriously at amateur level in England more needs to be done by the EBPF to provide decent competitions for players. That is not to say that there aren't forward thinking people already involved trying to make a difference, nor that something is in the pipeline.
The game could be huge
I still believe that the game could be huge. From a spectator and non-player perspective it is really easy to follow and the small tables mean it is relatively easy to setup a decent tournament. What needs to change though is that there needs to be one effort, one governing body. Imagine how big tournaments and prize funds could be if everyone came together.
Personally I still prefer Blackball rules and I think the link with the World Pool Association means the game is in a stronger position to achieve something more substantial.
Before I finish I just wanted to mention our bi-monthly prize draw. This was drawn at random on Monday and was won by Matt Lochrin. He wins a £100 gift card to use at Billiards Boutique. The draw takes place on the 6th of every second month, so the next draw is in April. As long as you remain o this list you are automatically entered into the draw.
If you have any comments or further information about this or any of my other emails please feel free to get in touch. Likewise if you have a subject you are passionate about (cue sport related!) and want to put it in front of 4500 likeminded people then let me know.
Until next week