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Carom Billiard - 3-Cushion - Bert's column (NED)

Matches that changed our game (3/3)

Posted by on March 7, 2019

Matches that changed our game (3/3)

© Kozoom

To refresh your memory: the first and second column with this name appeared in 2018. They told the stories of the 1978 match between Raymond Ceulemans and Boston Shorty, where deliberate defense was exposed as a losing tactic, and the 2013 semifinal of the European Championship between Caudron and Zanetti, where Fred ran 28 but Marco won.  

So, I still owe you that third match, that had such a major impact on our game. It was played in 1990, and the winner was Dick Jaspers. He had no trouble getting past the Swede Persson: 3-0 in sets, 1.286 for Jaspers and 0.758 for Persson. The location: Norrköping in Sweden, it was the fourth World Cup of the fifth BWA season.  

How on earth can THAT be an important match, you say? Good question. The World Cups started out as invitational tournaments, with 16 players. Twelve of them were professionals under contract with the BWA, four were organization wildcards. Four Belgians in Antwerp, four Japanese players in Tokyo, four Germans in Berlin, etcetera. A major change was made in 1990: Norrköping was the first ever World Cup that was open to everyone, with qualification rounds to decide who advanced to the main draw where they would join the seeded players. The new format was not an instant success: not a single (uninvited) German, French or Belgian player made the trip to Sweden. Two Dutch players did decide to try their luck: Louis Havermans and Dick Jaspers. Louis qualified, but lost in the main draw to Lieberkind. Dick survived the first round against Pilss, then lost to Zanetti.

We take it for granted today: a qualification tournament preceding a World Cup. It doesn't sound like much, but think about it. Every world championship since the one won by Edmond Soussa in 1928 had been invitation-based. Then came World Cups in 1986, and they were now the pinnacle of what a 3-cushion player could achieve. Again, invitation only. Norrköping 1990 marked the moment when our sport went from elitist to democratic. If you had black pants and shoes, a white shirt, a cue and a truckload of talent, you could now win a World Cup. 

Since 1990, 3-cushion has been blessed with many invitational tournaments. I would not dream of giving those a bad name. The Agipi, the LG+ Cup, the Lausanne Billard Masters, the Crystal Kelly and the McCreery have all enriched our sport and given us unforgettable moments. But the World Cups have remained open since Norrköping, and that's a good thing. It makes them unique, and it makes a statement: all players have equal chances, and you CAN climb the billiard ladder all the way to the top, if you are good enough. No matter which country you are from. No matter what brand of cue you play with. No matter who your personal sponsor is. Needless to say, we don't even LOOK at things like race, religion and gender. In my opinion, World Cups should stay that way: open. As a consequence, I think the UMB should be extremely hesitant to suspend players.   

That means a PBA player can have it both ways? Of course not. You can be as talented as Lady Gaga, but if you have a record deal with EMI, you can't release an album at CBS. You've decided to make your money elsewhere, so you are no longer eligible for World Cup prize money, plane tickets and hotel rooms. You can still win a World Cup, but you're paying your own way from now on. That's fair, isn't it? I would much prefer that "solution" to suspensions, since those also affect play on the national level.

The PBA, if it will all happen as predicted, takes us back to the early days of the BWA: contract players competing for cash, but with a financial guarantee upfront, making them half sportsmen, half employees. Naturally, Caudron will command a much higher salary than Tom, Dick & Harry, who also have a PBA contract. And naturally, Tom, Dick & Harry will never win any significant prize money in PBA tournaments. Not with FC in the field. There's not so much wrong with that situation, the best player should win the most money. But Tom, Dick & Harry, as a consequence, should be extremely hesitant to join that tour. There's no ladder to climb, there's no title to win, and the years they lose cannot be brought back or bought back.

Do I know a way out of this quagmire? Sorry, no. It's complicated. I am the first to sympathize with players who want to make an extra buck. But national federations, Confederations and the UMB (not to mention Kozoom) provide the infrastructure of billiards, as well as a prime source of income for the first echelon. These organizations are well within their rights when they ask of players to prioritize national, confederational and world championships and world cups over commercial events.    

The conflict we are watching here is like tectonic plates colliding. On the one hand, the billiard economy in Korea dwarfs Europe by 4 to 1, and the Americas by 20 to 1 at least. In terms of billiard tables sold, cues sold, billiard rooms opened, the world is a Korean cappuccino with a little Vietnamese milk and some Turkish sugar. Western Europe is close to being insignificant. On the other hand, in terms of titles won and the world ranking, Korea is still playing second fiddle. Jung Han Heo, Jae Ho Cho, Sung Won Choi, Dong Koong Kang, Haeng Jik Kim and Myung Woo Cho are fantastic, but Dani Sánchez, Torbjörn Blomdahl, Frédéric Caudron, Marco Zanetti, Eddy Merckx and Dick Jaspers are better and have more "star power", more commercial potential. Europe and Korea are like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in "The Defiant Ones", two escaped convicts. They are shackled together and only have a chance at freedom if they can agree about the direction to take.

For those who decide to sign for the PBA tour: I wish you good luck, hope you do well. You should realize this is not an idealistic initiative: it's a business plan and the PBA is not a goal in itself; it's a marketing instrument. The goal behind it is to sell billiard products in a chain of stores, sell billiard broadcasts to TV and buy up billiard rooms in Korea. You are not there to make money for you, you are there to make money for somebody else.

What is the significance of the Jaspers - Persson qualification match from 1990? Here it is: unlike the old BWA, unlike the new PBA and unlike any invitational tournament, World Cups are for everybody, they belong to us all. I still have hope it stays that way.  


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My Comments

The Defiant Ones
Great insights as usual, Bert. The thing is the relationship between players and the PBA is also like the Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier relationship. They’re both in it to make money. It’s not the PBA versus the players. They need each other. Good luck to all and let’s hope the UMB and Kozoom can feel good about relaxing their monopoly a little and add to, not subtract from, what’s going on.

Message 1/7 - Publish at March 7, 2019 11:17 PM

Half sportsman, half employees
Dear Bert

All of your arguments are correct. But isnt' it also today like this, that a professional player is an employee? Of course of himself and he acts like a one man company. In my opinion UMB has slept for several years and did only produce from the past year more interesting tournaments. So it was inevitable that an other association was founded and tries to generate money, for the players and for themselves. They were able to build a very interesting sponsorship which allows higher price money. UMB didn't offer that so far.

In other billard disciplines like Snooker "Match-Room" was founded and helped the sport to grow with players like Davis, Hendry, White and many others. The interest did grow fast and look what price money is paid today. And look at the interest worldwide. Much higher.

UMB should look to PBA as a partner and try to find common solutions. This will help the sport to grow. Bringing out sanctions is not good and will create a bad situation.

Message 2/7 - Publish at March 8, 2019 1:26 PM - Edited at March 8, 2019 1:27 PM

UMB never changed
I am glad to read what Prudenzano and Tanko commented here. Intellectual and neutral points!

There should be many reasons many players left UMB (they must be fed up with UMB in hibernation more than 30 years) and joined BWA.
BWA brought the hope CAROM could be a professional sports.
The collapse of BWA was caused by many different reasons including never-ending conflict with UMB.

UMB is still accusing BWA for the downfall of carom billiard in most European,American countries.
Such irresponsible and shameless attitude.
Now, again, UMB with Kozoom is only trying to protect their commercial interest.

If UMB and Kozoom is doing the right things, why afraid of PBA who will provide the carom world a second chance of real professionalization, similar to WPBSA of snooker?

Message 3/7 - Publish at March 9, 2019 3:40 PM

Question to Mr.Manen and UMB
Actually BWA had pioneered the Worldcup and it became UMB Worldcup after BWA disappeared.

Since then, the prize money of UMB Worldcups remained same for so many years.
Yes, it doubled last year and could be appreciated by players.
But compared other sports or realistically to other billiard (snooker,pool), can UMB proudly say " UMB made big accomplishment" ?

No need to take Lady Gaga case. Another world and nothing to do with sports.

Did IBSF (snooker world federation) suspend the snooker players who play in WPBSA?
If not, what makes UMB think they can enslave all carom players?

The ladders in current UMB ranking system?
Before criticizing other organization (even not started yet), look into yourselves.

Message 4/7 - Publish at March 9, 2019 3:58 PM

Is UMB a professional organization now?
When I watched 3CC Survival on MBC Sports TV in Korea, the commentator (Kozoom Korea boss) commented the players in 3CC are "PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS". How?

In this column, PBA is described as "PBA is a marketing instrument". For selling billiards products,
selling billiard broadcasts to TV, etc.

Isn't this what Kozoom is exactly doing now as the exclusive Marketing and Media Right contractor of UMB?

Kozoom is selling billiard products (cues, tables,cushion rubbers from UMB official sponsors) and billiard broadcasts of UMB events to Korean TVs?

Message 5/7 - Publish at March 9, 2019 4:22 PM

Right you are, but....
I suspect the goal of PBA is not to cooperate with Kozoom, but to monopolize billiards in Korea where the market is large.
It is quite suspicious they decided to work against UMB and World Wide Billiards, after the deal made with Galaxia SM and Eurosport, so I am not really sure if suspensions can be avoided, no matter how much we would prefer your above solution.
We' ll see what happens in the next days.
But when it comes to PBA, I am cautious for their motives. At least I know where UMB stands with all its pluses and minuses.
Sometimes is "better the Devil you know"....

Message 6/7 - Publish at March 9, 2019 4:24 PM

The goal of UMB and Kozoom
Whatever is written in this article (on purpose to defend UMB and Kozoom?), we all know that the goal of UMB and Kozoom seems evident.

They simply want to continue the monopoly.
We have seen enough of the capability of UMB during last decades.

Players should think what will be better for the future of this carom sports.
Of course, for some top players, long-term future is not such important while they only concern next a few years before they lose competence.

UMB and Kozoom articles say only a few top players announced they will join PBA Tour.

But, on the contrary, how many top players have declared they will stay with UMB only and give up any opportunity to play in PBA Tour forever?

Message 7/7 - Publish at March 16, 2019 4:19 PM

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