From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.
March: Worlds Apart
NEVER BEEN a big fan of the World Pool-Billiard Association, also known as the WPA.
Oh, I was never against the idea of a WPA, and I think the world of Jorgen Sandman, the likeable, selfless Swede who was bold enough to almost single handedly take on the task of organizing the pool-playing nations of the world and forming a global organization that followed the structure required to eventually seek membership (under the umbrella World Confederation of Billiard Sports) in the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
And while the ultimate dream of actually participating in the Olympic Games has never been (and will never likely be) realized, philosophically pool is still way ahead through the formation of the WPA. Developing a thread of communication between nations has been integral in the development of the pro and junior sides of the sport. And there is little doubt that many of the great international events that have taken place in the 20-plus years since the first WPA general assembly would never have been as successful or talent-laden without the WPA imprimatur.
So, what, you may ask, is my problem with the WPA?
Hmmm. Arrogance? Shortsightedness? Self-importance?
For the sake of brevity, I'll stick with the short list.
My question has always been, "What does the WPA do to advance the sport?" As far as I see, the WPA takes in its $60,000 or so a year in dues from its members. And it rakes in its percentage from the prize fund of international tournaments that seek its affiliation. And where does this money go? Aside from some funding to international junior and wheelchair events, it pretty much goes to flying its board members to the various international events and to holding "general assemblies." International sports federation heads love assemblies. They sit around draped tables and pontificate on the sport's future and argue rules and countless other inane topics.
And, as is the case in all sports federations, the board members never change. They keep re-electing each other and patting each other on the back for jobs well done.
In November, at the WPA's General Assembly in Manila, Germany's Thomas Overbeck had the audacity to challenge the association's painfully ineffective president, Ian Anderson. (Anderson is in his 10th year as WPA president.) Overbeck, who had served as the WPA Sports Director from 1993-2009, was also the WPA vice president at the time.
When it became apparent that Anderson had already solidified a pocketful of proxies and that the election was over before it started, Overbeck resigned. The European Pocket Billiard Federation's other WPA board member, Gre Leenders, had resigned some months earlier, also as a result of Anderson's handling of the association. In fact, the EPBF's appointed replacement for Leenders, England's David Morris, was denied the seat again in a proxy-laden vote.
And so, for now, the WPA has no representation from the EPBF on its board.
Meanwhile, the EPBF is far and away the strongest and most active federation in pool.
Power struggle? Personality clashes? Sure. Overbeck can be a bully at times, but no one can question his commitment to the sport. When he's at a WPA event, you know it. You see him tableside 24/7. Anderson? He usually shows up just in time to hang medals around the winners' necks.
"The WPA is headed in the wrong direction," said Overbeck recently.
Like sanctioning the World 10-Ball event even though promoter Yen Makabenta had failed to pay out prize money in the past? Then acting surprised when it happened again?
Is it any wonder the WPA has failed to live up to Sandman's dreams?