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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.


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May: No Passion? No Point!
May 2021

So, Barry Hearn has decided to kick his feet up and relax a bit. (See Wing Shots, pg. 12.)

Well, good for him. He’s certainly earned it. But it won’t work.

Anyone who has ever met the gregarious, larger-than-life 72-year-old promoter knows that sitting under an umbrella on the beach reading novels and sipping pina coladas might seem like the perfect setting for Hearn’s twilight years, but it isn’t likely to stick.

Hearn has spent 40 years hustling, selling, promoting and inspiring through his Matchroom Sport promotions company. And when you’ve built that company from a tiny sports management firm that started in the basement of a snooker hall in sexy Romford, England, to a behemoth that now requires the word “Group” in its title, it’s a pretty fair bet that those years included precious few days off.

That’s why I’m not buying this notion that Barry is suddenly going to turn off his mobile device and take up shuffleboard. Sales and promotion is imbedded far too deep into his core.

You see, Barry Hearn is a man of passion. If he can’t be passionate about something, he generally doesn’t waste much time on it. In fact, Hearn has long preached the motto that perfectly captures his spirit and is the mantra of Matchroom Sport: “If there’s no passion, there’s no point.”

When Hearn was building his company into what it is today, he did so based strictly on his passion for the sports he promoted. He loved snooker. And snooker took him into another cue sport, American pool, which he also fell in love with. Pool brought out the London East End in Hearn; fast-paced, a bit dangerous and filled with colorful characters and even more colorful banter. American pool was virtually non-existent in the United Kingdom, where prim and proper snooker and barroom English 8-ball were the only cue games played.

That didn’t stop Hearn. He was beginning to delve into event promotion and television, and he thought he could single-handedly get Brits to love the game. It takes some nerve to like something so much — something that had zero following in his own country — that you are willing to bankroll its infancy.

I am fortunate enough to have known Hearn since the ’80s, when he also boldly thought he could get Americans to like snooker. (That one didn’t go so well!) I like everything about the silver-haired, smooth-talking Brit, but the thing I like most about Hearn is that when he finds something about which he is passionate, he will stick with that thing even if it means years of taking a financial beating at the start.

Pool fans today hear the name Matchroom and immediately think, and rightfully so, of a massive sports promotion company that has a staff of thousands and produces big-money, arena-sized events. In the early years of Matchroom’s foray into pool, however, pool wasn’t exactly making Hearn rich. The first Mosconi Cup was played in a bowling center, had approximately 100 fans (none of whom paid a shilling for a seat) and paid the players $1,000 to participate. (Today, each winning team member receives $30,000, and each player from the losing squad gets $15,000.) It was years before the event reached the must-see status that it enjoys today.

And the truth is, most promoters who have dared delve into pool events would have (and oftentimes did) pulled the plug after the first year or two of red ink.

That’s what makes Barry Hearn different. And that’s why his company succeeds. He turned around pro snooker and professional darts, launched the U.K.’s leading developmental golf tour (the PGA EuroPro Tour), promotes fishing, table tennis and bowling, and has created a stable of boxers and has promoted fight cards that landed his Matchroom Boxing a $1 billion contract with streaming sports service DAZN.

In truth, the success of the boxing arm of Matchroom has largely been the product of Barry’s son, Eddie. And it is Eddie Hearn who will take over the helm of Matchroom Sport Group in the future.

According to the Matchroom press release announcing his reduced role, Barry Hearn will become the President of the group in an advisory role.

“I shall continue to be available to all Matchroom companies as non-executive President,” said the elder Hearn. “An advisory role concentrating on group strategy and global expansion.”

Ah, that’s the Barry Hearn I know! An “advisor … on global expansion.”

In other words, the crafty Hearn will spend the foreseeable future globetrotting in the name of sport and charging everything to the company.

Now I get it.

Good for you, Barry Hearn. Good for you.

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