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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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July: Decision Time
July 2022

Decision Time I feel an opportunity presenting itself here.

And for the first time in quite a while, it is a made-to-order opportunity for an organization to turn the tide of public opinion in its favor.

The organization is the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA). The call letters for pool’s world governing body are usually accompanied by the following adjectives: the much-maligned WPA; the misunderstood WPA; the ineffective WPA; the greedy WPA; the helpless WPA.

Not all those adjectives are misplaced. In fact, all have, at times, been spot-on appropriate.

Now, however, the WPA is being given the chance to act on behalf of the game in ways that could truly help the sport and, in the process, could actually gain some street cred in the pool community.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the WPA in the past has been its inability to satisfactorily explain its purpose and its funding. From a structure standpoint, no one with any knowledge of international sports federations would argue the WPA’s existence and importance. Pool was only marginally considered an international sport before the formation of the WPA in 1987. Membership made up of countries around the world led to the development of government-funded national pool federations. A few years later, the cue sports (pool, carom and snooker) banded together in 1995 to form a world confederation (the World Confederation of Billiard Sports – WCBS) and seek acceptance from the International Olympic Committee, which led to acceptance as a member of the IOC three years later.

This further allowed members to solicit their national governments and sports authorities for funding to develop cue sports. Almost instantly, the world got much smaller for the pool community.

Over the past 20 years, however, the WPA has done little more than sanction a few tournaments — more than a few of which turned out to be financial farces that left players with either unused plane tickets or substandard prize money — and hand out a few medals. Of course, much of the vitriol leveled against the WPA is overblown, in large part because the organization has long done a lousy job of marketing, explaining itself and defending players.

Contrary to popular belief, the WPA is not rolling in money from sanction fees and has never demanded money be taken from players to pay those fees. That decision has always been at the discretion of the individual promoters.

The truth is, the WPA was never intended to be a tournament promoter. It is a facilitator for its member federations, and (in theory, at least) a protector of the players who play under those federation flags.

It has fallen woefully short in both areas in the past, but now it has a chance to shine.

Two topical issues facing the sport have the WPA in position to make some noteworthy and impactful decisions. Properly addressed, a pro-pool, decisive stance on both issues would be met with almost universal applause in pool circles. They would give players and fans alike some hope that the WPA could still be a leader in the sport’s growth.

First, the WPA could rescind the judgment preventing Russian and Belarusian players from participating in sanctioned tournaments. The organization’s original stance in March was knee-jerk but somewhat understandable. With the World Games banning those countries from its quadrennial competition (in Birmingham, Ala., in July) and the IOC “recommending” similar action across the board from its members, the WPA thought it too risky to fly in the face of such important partners.

But that was six months ago. There is no telling when Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine will end. And other sports are realizing the slippery slope created by holding athletes responsible for their home government’s actions.

The WCBS will convene in Birmingham during the World Games, and it is hoped that the subject will be discussed and, with the Games behind them, the WPA can get players like Fedor Gorst, Kristina Tkach and Margaret Fefilova Styer back to the tables.

Buoyed by that decision, the WPA could then turn its attention to the major events being produced by Predator and Matchroom. Pool is finally flush with big-money events and solid promoters. Put on your referee’s jersey and pull up your big-boy pants and mediate a plan that will allow the sport’s two biggest promoters to stage their events in such a way that players can compete in every event offered instead of having to choose between them and/or crisscross the globe to attend.

Will it be easy? No. Will you have to make hard decisions and stick to them? Yes.

You owe it to the players and fans to do the job that you were intended to do: to facilitate major international tournaments for both players and promoters. Quit cowering and develop a plan that allows players and fans to both enjoy and benefit from the most lucrative and stacked schedule it has ever witnessed.

You have more power and leverage than you think. It’s time for WPA leadership to start leading. Instead of simply responding to what others decide, make the decisions yourself.

You’re on the clock. These two decisions are right in front of you. Show vision and leadership and you could well be viewed in an entirely new light.

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