It’s been all-change in the world of eight-ball pool lately and, in my opinion, a change for the better. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes, and that has resulted in a rival breakawaytour to the IPA, formed by the EPA. You’ll be pleased to hear that I’m still with the IPA, and I believe this is the way forward and that we’re in for some very exciting times in the next couple of years.
Under chairman Kevin Barton and vice-chairman Morray Dolan, things are looking very different on the IPA. They’ve done a fantastic job to keep the tour going, and they want to give it a new identity and stamp their mark on it. That has seen us play on different tables, with different-coloured cloths and with a new, premium set of balls. The balls are the same weight, but a different colour. I really like the changes and I know most of my fellow pros are happy with them, too.
We’ve also got Paul Mount involved. He runs the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester and he is heavily involved with the IPA. He has a lot of good ideas and is striving to attract new sponsors to our sport, and that can only be good. There are also firm plans to hold a World Championship in Gloucester in October.
With new people running the IPA set-up, and with new ideas and lots of positive changes, plus some very high hopes of increasing our TV coverage, the future looks brighter than it has ever been, and certainly since I’ve been involved.
Of course, it is a massive shame that it’s come to this. The breakaway tour has put a massive divide in pool. With more than 300 professionals, wouldn’t it be great to have one tour? It would be huge, with big prize money and lots of TV coverage. But while that’s not to be, the way forward is definitely with the IPA. We have the best players, we have TV covering our events, like at the Professional Eight-ball Masters in Gloucester in March, and a great new arena down there in the south-west. The World Championships in Blackpool last year was, in my opinion, not the best. I think it’s been going downhill for a number of years now. The IPA is definitely the premium tour out there.
The Masters in Gloucester was an unbelievable event, very well run and, of course, it was great to be back on TV. As for my own display, well, that’s a bit of a sore subject! Against Lee Clough in the last 16, I was 7-6 up and feeling good. But Lee then produced one of the best clearances I have ever seen to make it 7-7, and then he went and cleared up off the break in the next. What happened in the next frame was truly ridiculous! He’d cleared up his balls, went for the black but missed – only for him to fluke it into the corner pocket! From being 7-6 up and thinking about victory, I never had another shot. Fair play to Lee, he went on to lift the title – keep an eye on Sky because it should be on TV soon.
Finally, a word of thanks to my sponsors Home Leisure Direct, who I continue to enjoy working with and who offer me fantastic support. These really are exciting times indeed.
Speak to you all soon.