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
TRUST ME, I really do feel bad continually raking the World Pool-Billiard Association over the coals. I want the WPA to succeed. I think there is an important role for a world governing body for the sport, at least in the sense of organizing and overseeing confederations representing pool-playing countries around the world. The game needs some uniformity if it is ever to portray itself as a global sport, which in turn could well lead to global sponsorships and … dare I say it? … the Olympic dream!
But I also want the WPA to lead! Take the sport somewhere! Leverage the strength of your national governing bodies to drive interest!
Instead, the WPA continues to flounder along as the sport’s paper tiger. The WPA produces no events, adds to no prize funds and does very little to market the sport. The last point is somewhat understandable given the cost involved in global marketing, but I don’t care if all you can afford is social networking. Just do something.
What the WPA currently does is put its stamp of approval on events that desire international fields. The WPA imprimatur comes, of course, at a cost. That’s logical. The WPA sanction fee for international events is anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent of the event’s added money. And, according to WPA Press Secretary Jerry Forsyth, international tournaments in recent years, particularly in Asia, have insisted on WPA sanctioning. In turn, according to Forsyth, the WPA has been able to convince promoters to increase the prize funds.
Fair enough, but what exactly does the WPA do with the monies collected from sanction fees?
To date, not much aside from running its office and website, and paying for its seven directors from around the world to meet annually for its General Assembly. Presumably that’s where they all get together, congratulate one another on the great job they’re doing, and re-elect each other to terms on the board. In the case of WPA President Ian Anderson, of Australia, who was once famously described as “a man who travels the world business class in search of a sanction fee,” it also pays for three trips a year to the United Arab Emirates (home to the WPA World 8-Ball Championships) “at the request of the royal family” for meetings, photo ops and the like. (Of course, we’ve all seen those photos of him with sheiks in all the major dailies!)
More problematic to me is the WPA’s lack of spine in doling out its stamp of approval, particularly in light of the recent announcement that it will once again sanction the World 10-Ball Championship in Manila in May. The event will, once again, be promoted and produced by Raya Sports and its president, Yen Makabenta. You will recall that Raya last produced the World 10-Ball Championship in 2009, after which the top finishers waited more than a year to be paid. (Apparently, “Yen Makabenta” translates from Tagalog into English as “Kevin Trudeau.”) In fact, it was the WPA’s insistence on dealing with Makabenta and his questionable track record in ’09 that caused former WPA Sports Director Thomas Overbeck to resign.
What’s worse, Anderson’s rationalization was, “It took much longer than anyone would have wanted, but everyone got paid. And Raya has agreed to escrow the 2011 prize money, but whether or not this will be the full amount we will have to wait and see. The players will be advised on what happens and can make their own decision from there as to whether they will play or not.”
Seriously? This is the world governing body’s response? “This is the WPA World Championship — Play At Your Own Risk!”
Now that’s a group with teeth!
But don’t worry about the WPA. They’ll still get their sanction fee regardless. In fact, the sanction fees are going up. In an effort to start bolstering its coffers (another trip to Fujairah, perhaps), the WPA is now getting its sanction fee for world championships directly from the players in the form of an “entry fee” payable to the association. At the World 10-Ball Championship, all 128 players will pay the WPA $250 to play. That’s $32,000, a considerable step up from the $12,500 that it would have collected based on 5 percent of the $250,000 prize fund. And the WPA will receive its $32,000 even if Raya fails to pay players at the close of the tournament.
Sound fair to you? Me either.
How about this? I know the WPA doesn’t have the money to guarantee the prize fund. But how about telling the promoter that the WPA sanction gets pulled and all federations are off the hook from sending players if the full prize fund isn’t escrowed 30 days out? Participation would still be up to players then, but at least we’d find out if the WPA sanction truly has value.
As for the increased sanction fees, no problem there. The top finishers will certainly prefer this to giving back 5 percent of their paycheck, and if any players have to contribute, all should.
But tell us, WPA, what you have planned for that money. According to Forsyth, an honest man and one of the hardest working guys in the business, the WPA is considering producing its own events, increasing exposure of the sport, live streaming video of world championship events and, yes, continued chasing of the Olympic dream.
I’m good with all that. But the WPA needs to be more proactive in sharing its vision and, frankly, needs stronger leadership.