English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Amateur Billiard Player : March 1996

The Amateur Billiard Player : March 1996

Professional Scene

Mark Wildman

I am so pleased to be given the opportunity to air my
thoughts and news to more enthusiasts. I will try to
give you easy reading and diverse topics.

As a long standing committee member of the WPBSA billiard
section, I will begin by commenting on the professional
game. Most committees will suggest there is always so much
good news that you would not believe there is any problem
at all. That is never the case, whether it be politics,
business, sport or anything else.

On the credit side, we have the following encouraging
factors:
A record number of paid up professional players – now
approaching 50 in number.

A record average number of entries – now up to 35 per
tournament and increasing.

More ranking tournaments than ever before – seven in all.

More prize money next year than ever before – £210,000.

The highest standard of play since the 1930’s – a
subjective view of course!

A steady stream of young players coming through. All of
the top 5 players are under 35 years old.

Sponsorship Investment of £160,000 plus back up costs of
another £100,000, are substantially in excess of any
previous investment,
The down side is:
We rely heavily on the authority and back up of the WPBSA,
from whom funding of £60,000 is forthcoming. The support
was increased from £25,000 six-months ago.

The billiards committee are reasonably autonomous but,
naturally, are expected by the company to balance the budget
and defer to the above on certain areas. These include
disciplinary hearings, all television negotiations and pocket
templates.

Television exposure of billiards in the UK is virtually nonexistent
now. Exposure in India is huge and post-dated
viewing is always available in South East Asia, on Star
Television. I believe that the time is right for billiards
to earn its keep by way of UK exposure. Grass roots growth
would follow organically, here in the home of billiards.

Geet Sethi made a world record break of 1276 in the World
Championship three years ago – a record under the rules of
the day. In the BSCC days which, for all the spoken and
written criticism, had good aspects also, all records had
to be assessed and confirmed as being on ‘standard’ tables.

Not so now. Geet’s magnificent achievement was made on
an entirely different table from that used at Wigan last
year, for example, where the pockets were so ridiculously
difficult to negotiate that pots along, or even 1″away
from the top cushion, were almost impossible.

Later on last year other games were played at Jim
Williamson’s Northern Snooker Centre. These pockets were
far more liberal and so it goes on – no standard conformity.

This is a necessity in order for records to be written. May
I digress and record my thanks here to Jim for all he has
done to keep billiards going, starting way back in the late
1970s with the UK Billiards. There is no side to Jim, no
glory required – “Never in the field of human conflict etc
etc”. Put his name down!

quite strong but it really is hand to mouth in real terms,
to have any long term objectives. Our position is a year
to year one at the moment and the other pre-mentioned factors
are so fundamental, that discussion on them is inevitable.

Recently, a number of players have suggested that autonomy
for billiards as a corporate body, wholly owned and funded
by the WPBSA, would be the answer. It needs careful
consideration.

I will never forget the last few words uttered to me by
Herbert Beetham, a fortnight before he died. “ark don’t
let this wonderful old game die”. Herbert was not suggesting
that I alone had the key to the door but Albert, Malcolm,
Derek and the many others just were not there at the moment
to address.

Coupled with Herbert’s words I give you a line from Reg
Budden of Bournemouth – a 1930s 500 break player, sadly now
also gone.

“Sports are like everything else. They live, then die – like
languages, like business, like living species. But, billiards
will survive many years longer, because of its long history.

No easy come, easy go for the three ball game. It has
history”
Good stuff this. You’ve got the message I hope. The Amateur
Championship, played for since 1888, has few rivals in sport
for its history as an ancient head to head encounter of skills.

Just think of all those names posing for a black and white
exposure: H C Virr, Major Fleming, S. H. Fry, Herbert Beetham,
Jack Karnehm, Norman Dagley.

Not even in Post war years, when tables were being given
away, did the Championship falter and even very recently,
when politics reared its ugly head, that same spirit prevailed
yet again to secure the continuity of the amateur billiards
blue riband event.

It is all too deep to explain – you cannot easily kill spirit!

Now, some snippets of information to finish with:
Chris Shutt is expected to turn professional shortly. What
a player. Lay off a bit, – Albert!

There is a Northants Billiard League playing from Raunds
every Tuesday night.

Our thanks to Mark Wildman for the article; with his
pedigree both in the amateur game as a former national
champion together with his current position within the
WPBSA he is ideally placed to provide a keen insight into
what’s going on in the professional game and I hope that
he will become a regular contributor. The Amateur Billiard
Player, despite its stated focus, recognises the immense
interest generated by the professional world and will
continue to provide comprehensive coverage of events and
achievements…over to you Mark.

Editor

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