THE AMATEUR BILLIARD CIRCUIT
…a personal view
A June Sunday in 1991 saw the launching of Derick Townend’s vision of an Amateur Billiards Circuit. It was held at Morley Snooker Centre with 20+ entries and was won by Brian Harvey. Brian accounted for me and also for Martin Goodwill on his way to victory. My memory is fairly clear on this because a few weeks earlier Martin had given me a sound thrashing in the final of the English Amateur. The season 1991/92 saw the Circuit take off in earnest and we have just completed the round for 1997/98 giving six successive seasons of competition. I know I speak for all players when I express gratitude to Derick and Peg for their hard work and devotion over this period for providing us all with the opportunity to play billiards at various venues up and down the country.
Experiencing and coping with success and failure, with elation and disappointment, with good fortune and not so good fortune, is a vital ingredient of any sport and the emotions which ensue effect us all to some degree. I am both pleased and proud to be involved in a sport where the vast majority of players control their emotions most of the time, and win and lose with gracious dignity. Long may this be the case. The A.B.C gives an ideal setting to improve one’s play, to learn to control one’s emotions and to make new friends. The rival in 1991/92 hopefully became a rival and a friend by 1997/98.
In recent seasons the nature of the ABC has changed in that ranking points are now awarded. The ranking points lead to an order of merit and those fortunate enough to figure high enough on the list may be called upon for the national representative team. Players anxiously await to see the printed list and anxiously await the draw on A.B.C. Sunday. Points are precious and make no mistake about it the stakes have been raised. In 1997/98 I was lucky to get off to a flying start winning two of the first four A.B.C’s and being runner-up in the other two. The points were in the bag, relax and feel relieved. This raising of the stakes has led me to consider various aspects of current procedure, and issues have arisen in my mind which I would like to share with you all.
Currently on arrival at a venue it is quite common to see tables in use as some players take advantage of the goodwill of the host club to get in some last minute practise. This facility can never be available to everyone on the day so should it be to anybody? I noticed at the Ellis Lloyd Memorial Sunday before the start of play, when Derick was saying a few words about Ellis, there were players still practising and obviously not listening. I think this was both bad mannered, and insensitive to the occasion. Still on the issue of grabbing every moment of practise, it is not unknown for a player to arrive at the table to find his opponent already there playing a few basic shots obviously to acquire an early insight about the speed of the table and the throw of the balls. Ten out of ten for initiative but how many out of ten for protocol in this era of raised stakes?
The subject of availability of referees will always be a problem and the tireless efforts of Colin Pattimore, Ray Gowton and John Richmond are much appreciated by us all. To further help with the refereeing some players, who have probably travelled together in any case, have a reciprocal arrangement to assist each other. Nevertheless there are still too many games which take place when players have to referee and mark for themselves. A long drive followed by the first game then an hour’s refereeing (or vice-versa) then the second game and so on make for a tiring day. There is no doubt in my mind that playing, then relaxing (or vice-versa) and maybe enjoying a leisurely lunch before playing again gives advantageous preparation for the next contest. If every player came to an ABC with a willingness to help with refereeing for one session then the problem would be minimised and mutual respect between players would be increased. I have noticed several times over the last season Derick Townend playing without the luxury of a referee and although he would be the last person to expect any special favours, I think that it is inexcusable especially as on each occasion there were people standing around watching but not offering to help.
In the near future the number of international matches may increase and it is not inconceivable that the rankings could be used to make other decisions regarding eligibility for other tournaments on the horizon. Whatever the case they are now an integral part of our sport. It is generally accepted that competitive sport requires written rules and regulations in order to conduct its business. Indeed we have them in billiards for our annual championships and no doubt they exist around the regions. So far the ABC has existed in a more informal context with indiscretions being largely overlooked. Can this be sustained however? I personally hope it can but the challenge for us all, both now and in the future, is to ensure we attain a balance between competitive rivalry and sociable interaction, with a sense of fair play and equality being paramount. Hopefully the ‘raised stakes’ will also help to raise standards and encourage more people to take part, but most important of all is the maintaining of a climate which allows camaraderie to flourish.