It’s a well-worn cliche, but I really am over the moon at the moment. After plenty of talks and negotiations, to have finally signed a five-year deal to play Chinese 8-Ball is a weight off my mind and, more importantly, an exciting new chapter in my life.
I thought it wasn’t going to happen at one stage, and that the negotiations would collapse. Having won the International 8-Ball Masters in China in January, I did not want that to happen because it’s where I see my future in the sport.
So I am delighted to have signed with CWH Promotions, a big sports management company, and now I cannot wait for my first visit to China.
I’m very pleased with the deal, and it will mean at least three trips per year over there although, realistically, it will be nearer five to 10. They will include exhibitions and promotional events with the likes of Stephen Hendry and Ralf Souquet.
It’s a great opportunity to get my foot in the door with these top players and impress over there. And, in all honesty, this could not have come at a better time for me. English 8-Ball is not in a great state at the moment, with too much in-fighting and politics going on, so the chance to build a career over in China is one I’m relishing.
Part of the deal will be my own Chinese 8-Ball table, which will be set up in my club in Stoke. The whole concept is a cross between pool and snooker, with all the equipment somewhere in between too (as mentioned in my previous blog), so the chance to put in as many hours of practice as I can will be extremely beneficial.
I will still play in the IPA Tour events over here – I’ve signed to it for this year – and fulfil my exhibition commitments, but China will have priority over everything else from now on. It is, quite simply, massive for my career.
Being involved with a superstar like Hendry will help raise my profile, and having Joy Billiards behind everything is very encouraging. They have huge resources in China and have an exclusive deal with CCTV5, one of the biggest channels over there, to screen our matches. They want me to be as famous as possible and will do all they can to make that happen.
It’s a lucrative deal for me, and there is potential for spin-offs too. I’ve had a cue especially made, and the Chinese had never seen anything like it before – it is somewhere between a snooker cue and a 9-ball cue, and hopefully there could be some endorsement deals to come from that.
Chinese 8-Ball suits me more than any other sport I’ve ever played, and the rules suit my game perfectly. I definitely think it’s the way forward, and for 8-Ball in this country to go forward, they have to implement the Chinese way.
I’ll do my best to promote it over here, too, and I’m sure having the table in club will arouse a lot of interest. And I have no doubt pool players over here would love the game.
The reason Hendry retired from snooker was to focus on Chinese 8-Ball, and I’m delighted to be a part of that. I’m just itching to get started.