By: Markus Noé
Just over a week ago pool players and fans had to absorb another bitter disappointment as the highly anticipated Corner Bank 10 Ball series has been postponed. This announcement was just days after a press release came out finalizing details such as dates and payouts. It was released that there would be five qualifying tournaments with $25,000 added in each event and one grand finale with $100,000 added.
Of course this caused a big stir to professional pool players and fans alike as there is simply nothing comparable out there today. The Corner Bank 10 Ball series was immediately going to be one of the most prestigious circuits in the world guaranteeing $15,000 for first prize for their five qualifying events. With $100,000 added in the grand finale I would assume the projected first prize would have been somewhere between $30,000-$40,000 but those numbers never came out.
For those that remember the original plan was to hold the first World 8 Ball Championships since 2012 at the Corner Bank. The World Pool Association does not raise the money or look for the venues themselves, they rely on a group of investors or an independently wealthy person like Manny Pacquiao to come up with the required amount of money to be allotted a World Championship sanctioning. So what has happened outside of 9 Ball, is that the World 10 and 8 Ball have had years of gaps in between events if no one wants to basically donate nearly $300,000. As we all know, last year Pacquiao hosted the first World 10 Ball Championship in the Philippines. He put up the money and the W.P.A took a percentage as "administrative" fees, and they got to call their tournament a World Championship.
The Corner Bank apparently had a similar group of investors interested in doing the same thing except this was going to be for the 8 Ball. It was the biggest announcement for North American pool players in decades, as there has been no World Championship held on the continent since the 1990's. It was about a month after this announcement that the organizers stated they would be stepping aside to let China take over the World 8 Ball Championships as they had made a 5 year commitment with a prize pool of $300,000 for both the Men's and Women's divisions.
It is still unclear whether the W.P.A gave the World 8 Ball to the Corner Bank and approved a press release or not. If they did then it is still unclear why they would be entertaining other offers after they have given the World Championship to another bidder. I stated in a previous article this would not happen in any other sport. I understand the investors behind the Corner Bank bid wanted to have an event they could build off of for years to come and a future bid against China would have been hard or impossible to match so we collectively sighed and allowed ourselves to understand.. That being said this was handled poorly at all levels and did nothing but get the hopes up for players and fans. There has still not been a date added to the W.P.A calendar for World 8 Ball Championship for 2016.
A few months later once the 10 Ball circuit was announced it was easy to make the connection of what was going on. The organizers were planning to parlay the money from the defunct World Championship bid into this circuit, which is fine and provided a great deal of excitement. With still less than a decade of experience in this "pool world" I am not one of these jaded guys that scoffs at every big announcement. I was generally excited to hear the owners of the Corner Bank and the group of investors were still interested in doing something great for pool.
That being said even at the original announcement once the numbers came out I had questions. For instance co-owner and television personality Jim Wych talked with Billiard Digest(BD) and spoke of "investors" not sponsors. There is a big difference, as an investor plans to build the product and eventually profit from it, which is something myself and Erik Hjorleifson here at Cue Sport Nation are big proponents of as we believe for the game to grow promoters need to make money. A sponsor is someone who simply wants to add money to the prize fund and have their company name branded all over the event and are not trying to profit directly from the event.
From a media perspective there has been a lack of transparency in these proceedings. I cannot call up these investors and asked them what went wrong because they have not been identified. I cannot ask the owners of the Corner Bank because they apparently wish to not comment as I have tried to reach out. So far they have been picking and choosing who they speak with and the reality of the billiard media outside of Cue Sport Nation is no one else asks the tough questions. There is a thought that if you criticize a promotion that it is bad for the game overall but I would point out the NFL, Baseball, Hockey and all the major sports to those who think like that. All these sports have had major controversy and have not only bounced back but have done even better since. This stuff is just a part of doing business - but that topic is for another article.
Combined with the Grand Finale there was going to be $225,000 in added money, a substantial investment. Let's imagine that Cue Sport Nation is the investor for this circuit. The entry fee for these events were slated to be $250, which means if they get a full field that is $32,000 in entry fees if it was a real successful circuit. And if each field maxed out including the final that would make $192,000 which is still in the red financially speaking.
With these events being hosted in a pool room the age old problem of seating for spectators comes up. Logically the amount of paid spectators to each event would be limited making it hard to make money that way. Next would be stream revenue which I assume they calculated in this. We had one promotion called Bonus Ball whose business plan was strictly geared to revenue from stream purchases and we all saw how that worked out. If money could not be made on streams or spectators was there talks to have this tour air on a television network? Did the investors have a deal with the Corner Bank for a percentage of their sales during these events? These are all standard questions that would be asked by other sports journalists in other sports but are almost impossible to get a straight answer from pool promoters which I believe is inadvertently hurting the image of our sport as a whole.
As an investor these would be big questions I would have and if they were not addressed properly I would pull out my money as well. From an outside perspective and of course because of transparency issues I lack all the details, but from the looks of it these investors would have to fork out $225,000 a year minimum to keep this circuit afloat. If they would have continued on with this circuit in my opinion it would have been nothing but a one off "make a wish foundation" wish for pool players, which does not help the sport or the investors long term . This has brought me to the conclusion that this circuit has been cancelled rather than postponed.
Jim Wych and John White own what is known as one of the nicest pool halls in the country and are both well respected throughout the sport. They are both accomplished players and Wych is a well known T.V personality for Matchroom Sports events. I wish them all the best and whenever they make their next big announcement Cue Sport Nation will be there to freely promote it like we did the World 8 Ball and the 10 Ball announcements. I would imagine a valuable lesson in business has just been taught here about having all your ducks in order before making a splash like they did. At the end of the day there is a right and wrong way of doing things.