God knows I’ve tried!
Over the years, I’ve been known to take a shot or three at the World Pool-Billiard Association, the recognized governing body for pocket billiards in the World Confederation of Billiard Sports. The WPA always appeared to me to be nothing but a small, billiard version of its paternal International Olympic Committee — self-absorbed and visionless, with a touch of greed sprinkled on top. A “Mini Me,” so to speak.
In recent years, I’ve tried to better understand the WPA. Its president, former Australian snooker pro Ian Anderson, is a pleasant guy. And I don’t doubt that he sincerely wants the best for the sport. The WPA is not a wealthy governing body. It cannot produce its own tournaments, like World Snooker, the commercial arm of the World Professional Billiard and Snooker Association. It essentially waits for promoters to express interest in running a sanctioned world championship, and then tries to accommodate the promoters. Eventually, concern for the players seeps into the equation.
Because of these realities, I realize in many cases the WPA is at the mercy of the promoters.
But, geez, guys, at some point ethics and vision should find a way into your decision process!
As reported in Wing Shots (pg. 12), the previously announced WPA World 8-Ball Championships in Toronto, Canada, in August, has been shelved. Pending the official signing of an agreement, the World 8-Ball Championships will instead be held in China later in the year.
Why the change?
Well, since you asked…
Let me start by pointing out that the World 8-Ball Championship hasn’t been held since 2012, and was held only sporadically in the years prior to that. In other words, promoters haven’t exactly been breaking down the doors at WPA world headquarters to underwrite the event.
Enter Jim Wych. Wych is best known to pool fans as the primary play-by-play man for most of the televised Matchroom Sport events, including the World Pool Masters and the Mosconi Cup. He is straight-forward and sincere. He loves the cue sports and the players who excel at them. Wych is also part owner of a large poolroom and sports bar in Toronto, the Corner Bank. After putting together a sponsorship group, Wych contacted the WPA about reviving the World 8-Ball Championship in Toronto. After more than meeting the criteria required to gain sanctioning for the event, the WPA awarded the tournament to Wych and his group. An official announcement was issued by the WPA in March.
“Two weeks later I received a phone call from Ian Anderson,” said Wych. “He told me there was a deal on the table with China that he thought was for Chinese 8-ball. He said they threw him a curve saying their intent was for American 8-ball. That’s when the wheels came off.”
According to Wych, the WPA tried to get him to give up the rights to the World 8-Ball Championship in favor of some other event. The rationale, he said, was that the Chinese promoters were willing to commit to five years and $3 million, with $300,000 prize funds being awarded for both a men’s and women’s division in each of the five years.
Not surprisingly, Wych felt corner hooked. He certainly had the right to hold onto the event, but to what end?
“In the end,” he said, “I didn’t have the first right for a second, third or fourth year. I didn’t want a one-off event. We’re trying to build an annual thing here. I knew the WPA would take the event directly to China next year and there wouldn’t be anything I could do about it.”
So, in sports parlance, Wych took one for the team.
And you know what? It was probably the right decision.
Thing is, he never should have been put in the position of having to make that decision. Shame on the WPA for its pettiness, greed and lack of ethics. I wouldn’t want to buy a house from these guys. If a better offer came around before closing, I’m sure they’d find a way to rescind the original contract and grab the bigger paycheck.
Of course, the argument will be that this is best for the players, because lord knows the WPA always puts the welfare of the players first! (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.)
It’s not like the event in Toronto was going to be run on a shoestring. There is every expectation that the Wych-produced event would have been every bit as good and as well-funded as most WPA events. Additionally, this was an opportunity for the WPA to bring a world championship back to the Western Hemisphere! I don’t know about everyone else, but that is every bit as important to me as the prize fund. Want to increase pool’s visibility in the media and among players in North America? This continent hasn’t hosted a world championship since 2010 (World Straight Pool), and hasn’t hosted one of the higher profile division championships since the turn of the century. Again, a lack of vision.
Also, I find it hard to believe that a promoter willing to put $3 million into the game would not have listened to other options.
To date, no paperwork has actually been signed. I hope for the WPA’s sake, this deal is everything they apparently said it was going to be. You’ve already alienated one promoter whose interest was purely for the sport.