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The State of Pool. ~ Darren Appleton {Part 1 of 2}

I’ve been playing pool professionally since the age of 19, and felt I’ve seen it all. But in recent years the game has become frustrating, and this is why:

I feel there is no structure or direction in the sport, because each event in each country has different organizers that enforce different rules. To be a successful sport, all organizers need to work together under one roof and play under one set of rules.

The current state of pool has no set calendar; events are scheduled at the last minute, and when dates are decided, no one seems to check the calendars to see if it clashes with another event in another country — let alone the same country.

Pool today, it seems, is a free for all: Do what you want, when you want.

This would not happen in a successfully organized sport.

Pool is a global sport and could be in a much better state than it is now with the proper marketing and organization. The potential market is huge, but it needs to get in order. For me, to achieve what we want pool to be starts at the top with the WPA, and they should be running everything from amateur to pro level.

At the moment, the WPA is being controlled by independent organizers. These organizers have no contracts or rules in place in order to sanction an event, so they get to run the event how they see fit and the WPA has no say in this.

It’s something I don’t understand, and never will.

Not only is the WPA mistreated, but it also falls onto the players. We as professional pool players receive last minute notice of when events are scheduled because of the lack of communication.

The only events I feel are properly organized are the Matchroom Events; World Cup of Pool, World Pool Masters, and Mosconi Cup.

Matchroom does everything right — from marketing, to communicating with the players —hence why they have been so successful. People working for Matchroom understand how to run a successful event, and therefore there is a mutual respect between the players and Matchroom Sports.

Sadly, the organizers of many events worldwide have no respect for the players in regards to rules or communication, which is why there is so much conflict.

To improve the game, the WPA should be starting at a grassroots level to make the game grow.

I know many players that could potentially be professional but can’t afford to attend professional events because the lack of money in the game and the expenses to attend the events. Unless they have a backer or sponsors, these players’ talents never get seen and they get disheartened. I find many of them are forced to be part-time local players with nine-to-five jobs.

In my opinion, if every league and/or player in the world paid a small (one dollar) membership fee per year to the WPA, it would generate millions of dollars to pool for the top level.

At the same time it would benefit grassroots and league players because they would become members of the WPA. In return, they could get news feeds, see the top professionals, follow their favorite players, see a unified tournament calendar, get local professionals from their region/country for presentation nights or exhibitions, clinics, etc.

The game would be easy to follow, and would give an incentive to players that want to improve and to aspiring players that wish to be professionals. The game would be more relatable, and everyone would work as one.

I feel nobody outside of the world of pool knows anything about pool — sometimes even at a league level.

If I asked 100 league members who the current world champion is, the majority probably wouldn’t know, and this is extremely sad.

Like I said before, the sport needs to be marketed properly, starting from the top. When I was a league player at one point in my life, I paid league fees every year. I would be happy if just one dollar was going to a world association, because it would open many doors for pool. Especially at a beginner’s league level, where there are thousands of leagues worldwide and millions of players.

It can be done.

I hope one day someone with the right vision, hunger, and ambition will do this type of thing. It’s the only way to make pool a big sport and give the next generation a chance to make a living playing pool.

Darren “Dynamite” Appleton, from Pontefract West Yorkshire England, was into sports from a young age. A 15 years old his cousin was a professional English 8-ball pool player, and that’s how Darren got started. He joined a pool league with his brother, and never looked back. He went to national level very quickly, and turned professional at 19. He was number one in the world for six years in English 8-ball won over 200 tournaments—including over 30 major titles. In 2008 he started playing the tournament circuit full time. He won the world 10-ball that year, and the doors started opening up. He’s won world four world championships in four different disciplines; “I’m the only guy in history to win the 10, 8, and 9 and 8-ball world championships.” He is a five time Mosconi Cup champion, two time Challenge of Champions winner, two time US Open champion, plus many more. He now lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Angie. Photo: Flickr/daBinsi Editor: Hannah Blue

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