Wednesday, April 10, 2024
HomesportDry break for Cuesports Singapore and players after international ban

Dry break for Cuesports Singapore and players after international ban

SINGAPORE – An ongoing dispute between the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), the international governing body for pool, and event promoter Matchroom Multi Sport Limited has left pool players, including Singapore’s former world No. 1 Aloysius Yapp, banned from competing in tournaments.

The Straits Times understands that Cuesports Singapore has been suspended by the Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS) for hosting the 2022 World Billiards Championship and Singapore English Billiards Open without sanction from ACBS or the International Billiards and Snooker Federation. ACBS is recognised by WPA as the governing body for pool in Asia.

The ban was initially imposed from March 24 to Aug 31, and ACBS extended it for another six months from Sept 1. As a result, 20 players from Singapore, including Yapp, were barred from competing at the Aug 28-Sept 2 Formosa Cup ACBS Asian Pool Championship in Chinese Taipei.

Yapp told ST: “It is frustrating and confusing as I have been hearing different things from different people as to which tournaments we can or cannot play.”

According to Cuesports Singapore, the players were banned despite organiser Chinese Taipei Billiards Federation accepting the players entries – they had planned to compete in a personal capacity and not as representatives of the national sports association – on June 19.

Yapp was informed on July 25 by ACBS general secretary Michael Al-khoury that they would not be able to compete in the event. The players submitted a petition to WPA president Ishaun Singh but did not receive a reply – the ACBS ban was extended instead.

Cuesports Singapore president Christopher Chuah told ST it sought legal advice on the matter and approached ACBS several times to resolve the matter amicably and “to request for the legal basis for their complaint and to afford Cuesports Singapore an opportunity to present its defence to the charge”.

With no response from ACBS and their flights and accommodation already booked, the players decided to travel to Chinese Taipei hoping for a last-minute reprieve.

Yapp, who was also excluded from the WPA-sanctioned Maldives Open in April, shared that they ended up playing in a non-WPA sanctioned handicap tournament, and found local players to train with instead.

The longer-term ramifications could affect the 27-year-old, who is 16th in the WPA world rankings. He said: “I typically play in more than 10 ranking events a year, and I’m worried if the suspension goes on, I cannot play in as many top events as I was planning to.

“This will affect my world ranking and in turn affect my spexScholarship as a key performance indicator for me is to be in the world’s top 16.”

ACBS’ suspension of Cuesports Singapore and its players comes after Matchroom decided in December 2022 to not seek WPA sanctioning for its events following 20 years of partnership. This was in response to WPA’s refusal to formally recognise the Matchroom Nineball Rankings as the official rankings for 9-ball, said Matchroom founder Barry Hearn.

The fallout triggered a series of events and statements from Singh and Matchroom managing director Emily Frazer.

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In a podcast in August, Singh acknowledged Matchroom has excelled at promoting and marketing pool, but accused it of wanting to replace WPA and also including in its player contracts a clause that allows it to dictate where they can or cannot play.

He said: “Members are obligated… to follow these rules we have. So, countries will be facing these kinds of things if they support non-sanctioned events.

“One of the items (in the general assembly on Oct 7) will be to enforce the rules that we have with players. If they play in non-sanctioned events, they won’t be welcome in WPA events.”

This sparked a strongly worded open letter from Frazer to the players on Sept 1 insisting that they are “always welcome at our events” while accusing WPA of using “bullying tactics”.

In a statement issued the same day, WPA said that no decision on restricting players taking part in non-sanctioned events has been made.

In response to ST’s queries, Frazer said Matchroom does not see itself as the new world governing body for pool, defining its role as developing professional 9-ball pool, with WPA the custodian of the amateur game.

“There is no reason why both the pro tour and amateur game cannot co-exist,” she said. On its contract clause, Frazer said it is “simply to protect the individual events” and its brand and “bans have never been on the table”.

Cuesports Singapore chief Chuah said that if the rules are enforced, it would severely limit the events which pool athletes can participate in, as it compels them to choose either WPA events or non-WPA ones.

In response to ST’s queries, Singh said WPA has not replied to the Singaporeans’ petition as it is “hard-pressed for time due to a fair number of major events”.

He explained that under the rules of the World Confederation of Billiards Sports – the International Olympic Committee-recognised umbrella organisation for carom, pool and snooker – when any division suspends a member or athletes, the decision will also be honoured by other divisions.

Admitting that these procedures would be a “nightmare” for players, he said: “Yes, players should not be punished for the wrongdoing of their national associations, but they have the power to force their associations to correct their mistakes.”

With regard to the dispute with Matchroom, Singh reiterated WPA is not pushing for change at the general assembly, nor seeking retaliation based on Matchroom’s decision to not seek WPA sanctioning.

However, he added that with the “sizeable” number of events Matchroom is hosting or co-hosting, as well as the clashes with WPA’s other events, “it has become more relevant to consider enforcing these rules”.

“We have reached a stage where Matchroom has now made its position and intentions very clear. We therefore don’t have the luxury of time for mediation and are forced to act as soon as possible,” he said.

Will there be room for reconciliation? Frazer told ST: “Never say never, but at this stage, we’ve exhausted all options.”

Despite the uncertainty, Yapp will continue to play in Matchroom events. He said: “If the latest development means our options are limited, then it’s a step back for the sport and the players… I hope they can come to a mutual agreement.”

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