English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : June, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : June, 1911

Things that Matter in Billiards

8.—BOGUS AMATEUR SUSPENSION ANNOUNCEMENTS

With a view to examining the validity or legality of the
“suspension” notices dealing with amateurs that have
been so freely issued of late by the Billiard Association, The
Billiard Monthly has taken the opinion of its legal contributor—
a barrister-at-law—on this subject, and is not surprised
to find that such notices, whatever may be their
effectiveness or ineffectiveness in other directions, are in
law libellous alike as regards the Association that issues
them and the newspapers that publish them.

Our legal contributor writes to us:—
The ex-amateur champion having resigned his membership
of the Billiard Association, that Association had
no longer any jurisdiction over him. That Association
merely arrogated to itself a monopoly and jurisdiction
which it could not arrogate legally. Monopolies were
abolished in 1621 and the billiard business (unlike the
accountants’ business) has not yet had conferred upon it
a charter enabling its members to dictate terms of membership
to new seekers after membership or to dictate
ostracism towards those who ignore it.

The executive members of this Billiard Association are
therefore liable to be arrested for criminal libel in issuing
notices that the ex-amateur champion’s amateur status
was suspended, so also are the proprietors, editors, managers,
and publishers of any newspapers that repeat the
libel.

In addition there is also a civil action against the Billiard
Association for “Black Listing.” The law with
regard to this matter was repealed so far as trade unions
were concerned by the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, on
December 21. 1906, but the Billiard Association is not a
Trade Union and the law with regard to Black Listing
therefore remains applicable to it.

The leading case on this subject was decided in the
House of Lords on August 5th, 1901 (Quinn v. Leatham,
1901 A.C., 495) wherein it was decided that:—”A combination
of two or more, without justification or excuse,
to injure a man in his trade by inducing his customers
or servants to break their contracts with him or not to
deal with him or continue in his employment is, if it
results in damage to him, actionable.”

The same law applies to an ex-amateur billiard
champion as applies to an employer, who in this case was
a flesher (butcher) at Lisburn, Ireland.

The same law also applies to the proprietor or recipients
of the monies which would have been received for the
charity as the result of the exhibition match between the
professional and amateur champions. Their case is the
stronger as the ex-amateur champion was not playing for
profit, but even he could sue for libel and get
damages for a defamation of character implying a dishonourable
course of conduct which necessitated a degradation
which the Association had no power to decree.

The only attempt at justification of the action of the Billiard
Association that we have come across is contained in
some notes in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News
of May 20 by “Ranger,” who says:—
So much discussion has recently taken place as to the
suspension of two or three more or less prominent amateurs
by the committee of the Billiard Association, and
so little seems to be known by the public generally as to
the rule under which this penalty was imposed, that an
explanation of the matter may not prove uninteresting.

A good many years ago several of the leading professional
players began to complain bitterly that amateurs
were getting into the habit of taking part in exhibition
games in public, and thereby frequently deprived a professional
of a much-needed engagement. This complaint
was felt to be just and well founded, and matters were
brought to a climax when a well-known amateur, since
deceased, arranged to play for a week with Stevenson at
the Grand Hall, Leicester Square. The amateur championship,
for which this gentleman had entered, was
arranged to take place in the same hall the week after
this exhibition game had been decided, and it was so
manifestly unfair that he should have a week’s practice
on exactly the same type of table upon which he was
to contest the championship, and should have every
opportunity of getting thoroughly accustomed to the room
and surroundings, that something had to be done.

Accordingly a meeting of the committee was called, the
subject was fully discussed, and the following rule was
passed:—”No amateur shall play in public without previously
obtaining a permit from the Committee of the
Association. Violation of this rule may involve the forfeiture
of his amateur status. ‘ Playing in public ‘ means
any advertised match, or where admission is charged.”

This rule has been rigidly enforced with the happiest
results. It goes without writing that the committee have
never attempted to interfere with what might be done
in a private house, or in a club or institute, fully realizing
that they had no right to interfere with the liberty
of any man to do as he liked when playing at home or at
a friend’s house or club. Nor has a permit ever been
refused to any amateur wishing to play in public, when
the whole of the profits were to be devoted to a benefit or
charity. Were, however, amateurs to be allowed to play
promiscuously in public, the line of demarcation between
them and professionals, which, in some cases, is very
faintly defined even under present conditions, would
speedily disappear altogether. The question of expenses
would soon creep in, and directly an amateur begins to
accept these in any shape or form, the sooner he acts
honestly, and boldly joins the ranks of the professionals,
the better.

These paragraphs are interesting, but they do not go
very far towards justifying the Billiard Association’s recent
“black-listing” notices, even from the ethical point of
view.

A line should undoubtedly be drawn between professionalism
and amateurism, but the proved making of profit,
apart from prize-winning, out of billiard exhibitions, should
constitute that line, and even then the matter should be
dealt with privately by resignation being required from any
billiard organization whose rules forbid the making of
profit out of match-playing and to whose rules the offending
member has formally subscribed.

For the rest, it is the opinion of The Billiard Monthly—
as fully expressed in its first issue of November last—that
the more leading amateurs play in public, either together
or with professionals, the better it will be for their game
and for the interests of billiards at large.


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