What Can Matchroom Do for Pool?
Back in March it was announced that Matchroom Multisport, the promoters of the Mosconi Cup and World Cup of Pool, had acquired the US Open 9-ball tournament.
In order to get everything ready for this change of hands Matchroom decided to not run the US Open in 2018 and the first tournament that they will take the helm on will be the 2019 edition.
What I want to look at here is what this could mean for professional pool.
Matchroom Multisport and Barry Hearn
If you didn't already know then I can tell you Barry Hearn is the Chairman of Matchroom Multisport. He has a long history of promoting sports events and providing them with boosted audiences through TV deals with channels like Sky Sports in the UK.
Hearn is also Chairman of World Snooker, a sport that under his leadership has seen a huge resurgance with more television coverage, more professional tournaments and higher prize money, from £3 million when he took over in 2010 to £12 million now.
Hearn and Matchroom have also taken the sport of Darts to an unprecedented level making millionaires out of many of the top players that now participate for huge prize funds and are also household names.
Could This be the Start of the Growth of Pool?
Hearn has always loved the game of 9-ball, he brought us the Mosconi Cup and then developed other events like the now defunct World Pool League, the World Pool Masters and in 2006 the World Cup of Pool.
Although these events have always been prestigious and have always had decent prize money and featured world leading players they are events that are a packaged product for TV.
There is nothing wrong with this, any sport is of course a product and that product needs to be packaged for TV, especially if a sport wants to see some growth.
By purchasing the US Open, Matchroom not only have access to the longest running open pool tournament in the world but also an event that carries world ranking points and tons and tons of prestige from the fans and players.
It is a step in a different direction and is more akin to what Matchroom have done with open tournaments in snooker and in darts.
Barry Hearn is a phenomenal business man and if anyone can turn around a sport it is him. I honestly hope that this step is the first step in a much longer journey, the start of growth for professional pool.
It is a sport that is played all over the world but for whatever reason has never hit the big time in terms of professionalism, some of this I think comes down to many different governing bodies that don't work cohesively for the good of the players.
I am really hoping that Matchroom taking on an event of this magnitude will see something positive for the players with even potential further events in Europe, China and South East Asia where there is a hotbed of talent.
We mustn't forget that Matchroom were also responsible for the World 9-Ball Championships from 1996 to 2007, the tournament that really got me excited for the sport and made me start playing. They have history.
Could we see a new World Tour with better opportunities for players?
US Open 9-Ball Championships 2019
The details for the 2019 (the 43rd US Open) event have now been announced and the $1000 entry fee will remain in place for the time being although Hearn has said that the long term aim would be to reduce this to zero.
Already any previous champion will be invited back with no entry fee applicable.
In addition Hearn has also announced that the guaranteed prize fund will be $300,000, the largest ever seen. I prefer the premise of a guaranteed fund, the players know where they are with this and of course entries then won't matter.
The tournament format has already been slightly adjusted to make it more television friendly.
It will be double elimination down to the last 8 on both the winners and losers sides. This is a big move as previously the US Open has been a true double elimination tournament.
Those 16 players will then play the final stages as a straight knockout on a single table setup in a large arena at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
It is an exciting time for pool.
Exciting especially for professional players who have not had a great time of it over the last few years, especially in the USA with entries dwinding and prize money staying quite stagnant.
This is a huge opportunity and I hope that players and fans get behind it.