English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Amateur Billiard Player : May 1998

The Amateur Billiard Player : May 1998

News from the editorrials’s chair

Photo of The Editor (27k)

Well it’s that time of year again when the magazine is
guaranteed an embarras de richesses, as the French
would say, following the completion of various
championships, both amateur and professional. We heartily
congratulate Paul Bennett on retaining the blue riband event
of the amateur game, the English title, and also to Neal
Rewhorn on reaching his first final. As I mentioned in an
earlier issue, Neal is a lovely cueist, so reminiscent in style of
the great Norman Dagley, with a fluid delivery that is so easy
on the eye; I’m convinced that he will win the title in the not
too distant future.

In fact he has not long to wait for a second chance to capture
his first national senior title when he contests the CIU final
against the very stiff opposition provided by Darren Kell on
April 25th; a full report of which will appear in the next issue.

It’s disappointing, but not altogether surprising, to hear of
the dwindling spectator attendance at this year’s finals at
Nuneaton. The venue is smack in the middle of the country
thus giving fair access to the maximum number of people but
this is obviously not enough to guarantee the sort of support
that we used to take for granted when the old competition
proper was contested at venues like the Western Social in
Middlesbrough. I can personally remember early round
matches where it was not unusual to see queues forming
outside the club before opening time to ensure the availability
of a good seat. How much this phenomenon was due to the
calibre of billiards on display at the time or to that well known
North Eastern propensity for strong ale is a debatable point!!

What is not in doubt, and this is in no way intended as a
criticism of today’s leading players, is that the amateur game
at that time was the only game in town. The professional
circuit had not yet really been firmly re-established and all
the UK ‘s leading active players were, with the odd exception,
amateurs, and very good ones at that.

Again speaking personally as both a player and spectator at
the final stages of the competition proper, it was always
profoundly disappointing to see players of the calibre of
Dagley and Close and now the current crop of new talent
playing early morning sessions in front of a referee, a marker
and a couple of die-hard spectators. I’d be interested if anyone
can think of any other sport in which a country’s leading
exponents, as is the case with billiards in the UK today, attract
so little interest. Maybe the dynamics of the game have
changed and the standards are not what they were at amateur
level but what there has been is a quantum leap in the
competition that now exists for people’s leisure time and
disposable income which makes our task of promoting the
game ever more difficult. No, I’m not being a harbinger of
doom and gloom, just a realist who wants to maximise what
limited potential the game has.

On the same point, I understand that the powers that be are
contemplating a change of venue for next year’s English
Amateur competition and, if this decision is taken, I would be
very supportive, and this is purely a personal view, of a move
back to Teesside. Even without the obvious local interest of
the old Close/Dagley rivalry, I’m convinced that the
grass roots interest in the area combined with yet another
local national champion in Paul Bennett, plus several strong
local contenders would guarantee a much higher level of
spectator interest than we have been accustomed to seeing.

As a player, I would always prefer a longer journey in return
for a good audience but then again I’m sure that there are
plenty of you out there who would disagree; your views
would be welcome on this prickly subject please.

OK, soapbox session over. I’ve just received my regular
submission from John Smith who reports on the thriving
Midland Counties league and hope to include this in its
entirety in the next edition. I’ve often thought how this league
might be an example of the way forward for the game as a way
of supplementing purely within town/city local league
activity. Success would, to an obvious extent, be predicated
on the availability of a sufficient numbers of interested players
plus the willingness of local stalwarts such as John and his
colleagues to get involved in the organisation. Just a thought
for those of you in local leagues, why not at least float the
idea of getting together with other towns or cites that are not
too geographically distant to establish regular inter town
leagues with a similar format to the Midlands model? One of
the benefits of the Midlands format by way of compensation
for the travelling involved, would be mat players are assured
of much more billiards that the average 150 up rush hour
league bash, with a guarantee of three one hour games per
player. I’d be interested to hear your views.

To prove that we are not just interested in the household
names I’m pleased to mention a proud achievement by 14
year old Matthew Sutton from little Harrowden. Not content
with being England’s only winner in the junior international
against Northern Ireland in January, he then went on to regain
both the Northants league title and the Eastern Counties
championships before capping it all on his 15th birthday when
he won the annual Bob Kirk trophy at Raunds against strong
opposition from that other highly talented junior player and
local rival Dean Bavister. It’s healthy that Teesside does not
have a monopoly on junior talent and we will follow both
Matthew and Dean’s progress with great interest.

David Burgess

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