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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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April: The April Issue
April 2022

Yes, I know that this is, physically, the April issue. And yes, I know that there is usually some kind of April Fools Day mention in the April issue. (Thatís on page 13, by the way.)

What Iím talking about here is The April Issue ó as in the April Larsen vs the Womenís Professional Billiards Association debate.

To be clear, this debate raged on mostly on social media between fans and the WPBA. Larsen, the likeable, ambitious recent college grad and social media darling was diplomatic as ever in announcing her decision to not sign a WPBA contract for 2022 that would limit her ability to play in regional and local tournaments.

Larsen moved to Texas at the end of 2021 to be a house pro at a Dallas poolroom. She almost immediately began plotting a string of exhibitions, teaching opportunities and regional tournaments through the year to fulfill sponsor obligations and maximize her potential earnings. College taught her well.

In the meantime, the equally ambitious WPBA announced a 10-tournament calendar for 2022, with more than $250,000 in added money guaranteed. It marked a huge improvement in tournament action for the association, which, to its credit, managed to hold itself together through some lean years and appears to once again be gaining some traction.

In an effort to leverage its product (a union of some of the best players in the world) with potential sponsors, the WPBA board of directors, made up largely of players of all ranking, voted to add a stipulation into the player contracts that prohibited a particular list of players from participating non-WPBA-sanctioned womenís tournaments of any size during the year. That list included all WPBA Hall of Famers, players ranked in the top 32 in the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) and the WPBAís own top 16 ranking.

The requirement left Larsen in a tough spot. After a brief letter exchange, neither side seemed willing to relinquish its position and Larsen announced that she would not be participating in any WPBA events. The decision also scuttles her chances of playing in international events with which the WPBA provides players.

Of course, the primary argument against restrictions (and not a bad one) is that, based on tournament prize funds, the WPBA tour does not provide a sustainable income for even its top players, yet it is preventing them from earning tournament income between tour events.

The WPBAís response has been that large sponsors are not likely to invest $20,000-$50,000 in added prize money if the players are allowed to play elsewhere for far less. Erosion of the brand, the logic goes, would weaken the associationís (read: playersí) power to control its future.

Theoretically, that argument holds water. In reality, it is a misguided approach to following its mission of providing opportunity through unity for aspiring women pool players.

Letís be clear. The WPBA is a beacon for pool. They have held together for well over 40 years. They ó the players ó built the most organized and unified tour in the history of professional pool. From a marketing standpoint, they owned the í90s and early í2000s in pool.

But blanket restrictions on players battling to make $1,000 by finishing 9-12 and $750 for 13-16 is simply unreasonable. And, again, misguided. Does April Larsen, ranked in the top 16, playing in a $1K-added regional tournament really jeopardize the WPBAís ability to get the Northern Lights Casino in Bimiji, Minn., to sponsor an event? Do the Northern Lights decision makers even know who April Larsen is?

Of course, this isnít about April Larsen as much as it is about the associationís approach to protecting its product.

I get restricting players from playing in significant events not sanctioned by the association. What is preventing a promoter from adding $10K or $15K to a womenís event and bypassing WPBA sanctioning? Whatís preventing them is that the WPBA would not allow its players to participate without some level of sanctioning. And I donít think any woman player would argue that.

That makes sense. And thatís what separates the women from the men. Prevailing sentiment with promoters of open events is, ďJust add the money. The men will show up.Ē The men have no unity. They have no leverage. They are mercenaries. Nothing more.

And thatís what this really is all about. Strength in numbers.

So, WPBA, stick to protecting your brand, your unity, your power, by holding larger promoters to the higher standard. By all means, prevent your top 16 from playing in anything above $5,000 added unless the event is sanctioned. Events with $5,000-$15,000 added could have a different delineation and lesser point value. Over $15,000 are Classic Tour events.

But making this a player issue by restricting the 15th-ranked player from playing in the Texas Open? Silly.

Your energy would be much better used working on other added-value incentives for promoters of the sanctioned events that promoters of lesser events simply donít receive. That would be adding leverage.

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