The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) is the world governing body for the sports of snooker and billiards.
The WPBSA has a wide range of functions that it is responsible for including:
- Global sports development
- Professional player support and representation
- Governance and integrity
- Rules and technical
- Grassroots and amateur sport development
- Coach development and referee training
The WPBSA was founded in 1968, at which point it took over as the controlling body of the professional sports of snooker and billiards from the Billiards and Snooker Control Council (B&SCC). The organisation can however trace its roots back far longer, having subsequently acquired and transferred all rights dating back to the Billiards Association, first established in 1885.
From Williams to Ferguson
Rex Williams, a world billiards champion and the unsuccessful challenger to John Pulman for the world snooker title in the 1960s, had set up the Professional Billiard Players Association to give players more of a voice. The B&SCC stripped him of his world billiards title after he failed to take part in a defence of the crown within a stipulated five-month period. Williams’s PBSA staged their own event and were renamed the WPBSA.
Williams remained chairman of the WPBSA until 1987 and again took charge from 1997 to 1999, but in this period the original purpose of the governing body, as effectively a players’ union, had changed and it became a rules and regulatory body and promoters of the game’s top events.
When Barry Hearn took over control of World Snooker Ltd he called on a former chairman, Jason Ferguson, to preside over a very different WPBSA, which is now back to its original function as a players’ body and keepers of the rules, but also undertakes important work with the game’s grass roots.
Ferguson achieved a highest ranking of 28 as a player. As an administrator he has travelled the globe to spread the word for cue sports and is well suited to the political challenges of his role having previously served as Mayor of Ollerton and Boughton in Nottinghamshire, England.
He is joined on the board by up to four further directors at any one time, consisting of a minimum of two Player Directors.
Global Sports Development
As a world governing body the WPBSA has played an integral role in the development and popularisation of snooker across the globe, in particular since Jason Ferguson took the helm in 2010. Both at professional and amateur level, significant steps have been taken to provide opportunities for players around the globe to play our sport.
Asia in particular has seen unprecedented growth, initially in Thailand following the emergence of former world number 3 and three-time ranking event winner James Wattana during the early 1990s.
This boom led to foundation of the WPBSA’s first overseas academy, the Asian Academy in Bangkok, Thailand, which has since helped to nurture several players who have gone on to graduate to the professional circuit
There has also been a significant increase in the influence of China in snooker, in particular following the landmark success for Ding Junhui at the 2005 China Open, where competing as a wildcard entry the 18-year-old defeated the great Stephen Hendry 9-5 to claim his maiden ranking event title in Beijing.
This historic victory would ultimately spark a snooker boom in the country which continues to this day. The Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association has worked in partnership with the WPBSA on a number of initiatives – not least the WPBSA-CBSA World Snooker Academy in Beijing which opened its doors in 2013.
This top-of-the-range training and coaching facility established with technology partner Rigour uses their state-of-the-art ball replacement system both in tournaments and as a coaching aid. It offers not only a training base for China’s team of players, coaches and increasingly referees, but any leading professionals staying in Beijing or passing through. English professional Mike Dunn used it to good effect during his preparation for the 2014 China Open, which saw him reach a first ranking event semi-final.
Prize money has also continued to increase at ranking events staged in the country, with the 2018 China Open marking another significant milestone as the total prize fund rose to £1,000,000 for the first time, at the time becoming the only snooker event outside of the World Championship to do so.
Throughout his tenure, Ferguson has been active in linking professional snooker together with the amateur ranks, building close ties with national governing bodies around the world. In 2017 this was formalised with the official launch of the World Snooker Federation, the recognised International Federation of the WPBSA.
The WPBSA has laid the groundwork for another serious attempt at trying to elevate snooker’s prestige further still by getting it accepted into the Olympic Games
Inclusion at the World Games in 2013 and 2017, won by India’s Aditya Mehta and England’s Kyren Wilson respectively, represented a significant step and the WPBSA firmly believes that snooker can boast participation levels both in terms of numbers and countries that appear to meet the International Olympic Committee’s criteria at every level. With over 500 million TV viewers worldwide, more than 200 million players and in excess of 100 countries with national governing bodies, the WPBSA has long-term aspirations to obtain Olympic recognition.
The road is a long one, but young snooker players everywhere can cling on to the dream of one day having a gold medal hung around their neck on sport’s biggest and grandest stage.
Amateur Sport Development
The WPBSA has also invested significantly in key grassroots areas including women’s, seniors and disability snooker, demonstrating how few sports can be as inclusive as snooker and billiards
Learn more about this work and the subsidiary organisations of the WPBSA.
Professional player support
Alongside its role in developing the sport, the WPBSA is also responsible for providing benefits support to its members, made up of players currently ranked on the professional World Snooker Tour.
Since 2019 the WPBSA has introduced former professional player Neil Tomkins as its Player Relations Manager, a role that has seen him build upon the existing support offered and add further services and benefits accessible to all players.
The WPBSA also administers a Benevolent Fund, established in 1983, which helps players and their dependents who require financial support because of illness.
Governance and integrity
For snooker to continue to be one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, it must preserve its integrity and reputation. Gambling has been described as the greatest threat of our times to professional sport, and snooker can pride itself as having been at the vanguard of the effort to combat and deter wrongdoing and malpractice.
In 2010 the WPBSA agreed with incoming World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn that everything humanly possible had to be done for the game both to be clean, and also seen to be clean to the watching world with corruption a live issue across sport.
A new WPBSA Integrity Unit was formed, with the emphasis on a three-pronged approach to eradicating any betting-related corruption from snooker; intelligence gathering (including confidential hotlines), investigation, and prevention via education of players on the blanket ban on snooker betting at risk of long or life bans, and associated rules.
First headed up by David Douglas in 2010, the Integrity Unit is currently run by Nigel Mawer, a former Detective Chief Superintendent at New Scotland Yard. Activities cover a range of disciplinary issues, from early concession of frames and breaches of social media protocol at one end, to serious investigations and sanctions over breaking the betting rules at the other, either through in-house panels or outsourced independent tribunals.
The WPBSA’s work in this area has received international recognition as an example of how sports should tackle anti-corruption strategies. The WPBSA has been promoted by the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) to many sports around the world.
Rules and Technical
The WPBSA is also responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the Official Rules of the Games of Snooker and English Billiards under which both sports are played.
In August 2019 the WPBSA published its most significant update to the Rules for several years, a project overseen by the WPBSA Rules and Technical Committee chaired by leading official Jan Verhaas.
Coach Development and Referee Training
Over the past decade the WPBSA has developed a network of over 500 officially accredited coaches across the globe. A project led by WPBSA Head of Coaching and Training Development Chris Lovell, the current coaching programme is delivered under a clear three-tier structure which ranges from a community-based Level 1 qualification to a specialist Level 3 qualification for advanced candidates.
Learn more about the WPBSA Coaching programme HERE.