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Lining up another shot at Olympics breakthrough

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-03 09:41
Jason Ferguson. [Photo/IC]

Snooker boss says China can provide big boost for making game more global

World snooker chief Jason Ferguson blames poor governance in the billiard sports community for his game being denied entry into the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Now he hopes to enlist China's aid in relaunching a stronger bid for 2032.

"Paris for me was a golden opportunity wasted," Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards Sports Association, told China Daily ahead of the China Open tournament in Beijing.

"It's disappointing for me as a promoter and the head of snooker's world governing body to see billiard sports fail to meet the standards of management that I expect.

"For me, the 2024 bid was very weak. It was controlled by all the other cue sports; we had little involvement."

In February, the International Olympic Committee revealed that only four sports-skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and breakdancing-would be considered for inclusion at Paris 2024, rejecting a November proposal for the entry of snooker, pool and carom billiards.

The World Confederation of Billiards Sports, the umbrella organization representing all cue sports, managed and presented the bid in a way Ferguson said was not compelling enough.

"The WCBS, in our view, is not fit to carry our sport into the Olympic Games. We believe major reforms are necessary," said Ferguson, who resigned as WCBS president in August 2017.

With friction simmering within the multiple cue sports body, China has emerged as a potential game changer to shoot pro snooker out of the management wrangle and into Olympic contention, said Ferguson.

"It's huge," the 49-year-old former pro player said of China's role in contributing to another Olympic bid.

"China is a very strong nation in terms of IOC support, and I think China could lead our Olympic bid. In fact, if we take the people at the top of the table today, we have the WPBSA, the CBSA (Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association) and Xingpai Group. That team could drive our Olympic bid for snooker."

With competitors in the US market vying for entry into the 2028 Games in Los Angeles, Ferguson believes the 2032 edition will open up a more realistic opportunity for cue sports.

Rooted and nurtured in England and featuring complicated scoring, snooker has experienced massive worldwide growth in recent years, with China at the forefront.

Under a joint effort between the WPBSA, CBSA and table manufacturer Xingpai, China now hosts four of the World Snooker Tour's 19 ranking events and two invitational tournaments.

Among the 128 players competing on the tour's 2018-19 season, 24 are from the Chinese mainland, trailing only England's 55.

The ongoing 64-draw China Open tournament, inaugurated in 2005, has become a flagship event offering the second largest prize pool of 1 million pounds ($1.3 million) after the annual world championships in Sheffield, England.

Snooker has been a regular part of the program for the World Games, a quadrennial event for non-Olympic disciplines, since 2001. Its latest show was at the 2017 edition in Wroclaw, Poland.

"The barrier for us to develop our sport, where snooker is not there yet, is the Olympics because funding is given to the Olympic events," Ferguson said.

"We could manage without the Olympics, but we will always have barriers in our way. My vision is to remove those barriers in order to develop the sport globally ... and the Olympics is the tool that can do that."

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