Blackball is the future of small ball pool
A bit of a change of subject for this weeks newsletter.
Snooker is of course awesome but there are a number of other great cue games out there that do deserve a mention. The first of these is Blackball.
For those that don't know (and forgive me if this comes across as condescending) Blackball is a version of 8 ball pool played on the type of table that we Brits find in our local pubs, if your local pub still has one. Generally they are 7ft long with pockets cut very similarly to a snooker table in that they are rounded. In addition the cloth is a napped cloth as found on snooker tables.
Like other versions of 8 ball pool Blackball is played with a set of 15 object balls, 7 red, 7 yellow and then a black 8 ball. The basic object is to clear your set of balls and then the black ball to win a frame.
I won't go into the rules in this email but if you are interested then you will find them here. Blackball is the only small-ball pool game that is affiliated to the World Pool Association which in turn it does fall under the Olympic banner.
Division in Small Ball Pool
One of the main reasons that small ball pool has never really progressed beyond a pub game is that there has always been division. There are two recognised rule sets. Blackball that is affiliated to the WPA and then World Rules which have been affiliated to Sport England. It has meant that at a more professional level the game has stagnated.
That is until the IPA came along and with a bunch of top level recognised players took over the association from the former organisers. This has led to a much more forward thinking organisation and a UK Tour that offers very decent prize money as well as other opportunities like a professional World Championships and a World Series.
World Rules has by the most part really been stuck in the UK, yes there have been International teams travel from Belgium, Malta, South Africa and Australia but other than small little pockets the game has never really exploded.
Blackball on the other hand has the bigger opportunity in my opinion as it is played across the UK, France, Northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a number of other African nations like Morocco have sent teams to the World Championships. With the World Series, quality live streaming and regular newspaper press the IPA Tour have created something that could truly be regarded as professional.
Prize money is still nowhere near other professional sports and really even the top level players probably treat it as a cash top up rather than a full time career. I the long term maybe if TV coverage can be garnered then their may be some progress with players able to earn a reasonable 'salary' through playing the game.
World Professional Championships
This week, and really what triggered this email, the IPA World Blackball Pool Championships is happening at Lakeside in Frimley Green [correction, it is actually in Bradford]. The same venue that has held the BDO Darts for many years.
This event features all of the top Blackball players from the UK and France, sadly at this time there are only a handful of entries from outside these two nations. South Africa, Morocco and Malta are joined by a single entry from both Ghana and Hungary to add some International flavour. The main reason for this will be the cost of entry, travel and accommodation for a week when compared against potential returns. The winner will do very well with a £10,000 cheque but further down the field the cash available is limited which may prohibit a lot of players from travelling.
With a very well organised World Championships like this, the World Series, which see's 'professional' players travel to different Countries for the final stages, Blackball certainly has a future.
Amateur Pool is Lacking
At an amateur level though, as with snooker, the game does seem to be a bit behind and quite a bit fragmented. There are lots of amateur tournaments and leagues taking place across the UK however a structured approach to these tournaments or leagues is lacking. In and of themselves they do offer a good solid structured system of play but leagues play different rule sets and tournaments don't seem to link to a pattern or level of progress.
What I would like to see is a dedicated amateur circuit, perhaps in addition to the IPA that can allow progress onto the IPA tour. I must add that the IPA currently run 3 tournaments across a tour stop weekend, Pro, Open and Amateur so within this system there is already good provision. It would be nice though to see a series of cheaper to enter amateur events that filter into the IPA structure to give young or aspiring players good competitive pool without huge outlays.
In the England the EBPF as a national body do not seem to be helping with the progress of the sport. It, in my view, is not run as professionally as it should be and seems more about using players as a commodity rather than developing the sport in England. We lag behind quite significantly over nations like Wales, Scotland and France when it comes to developing the game and players.
For this game to have any future or cohesiveness there has to be a conversation had between the World Rules and Blackball ruling bodies to see if an agreement can be made to concentrate solely on one set of rules. For me this should be Blackball as there is already a good professional tournament structure and the game is much more attacking and flair based. This is what viewers would want to see if the game ever made it onto TV screens regularly. In addition there are also more International nations taking part.
Small ball pool is a huge sport in the UK but mainly at fragmented local pub league level. There needs to be a more forward thinking organisation involved that can help progress these players, Blackball played in every league in the UK would be a great start but is very hard to achieve.
Organisers working for the players rather than selfish reasons would also be a huge step in the right direction.
As I always say, this is written as my own personal opinion, I am sure some of you have different or similar experiences and opinions - I would love to hear them, just hit reply and send me a message.
Until next week,