While the World Snooker Tour (WST) is so visible around the world, snooker’s world governing body the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) remains a driving force that underpins the growth and globalisation of our sport.
The WPBSA plays a crucial role in the global governance of the sport, not only the professional game, but also the development of the amateur game and the creation of so much activity around the world, activity which stretches all the way from complete beginner, to coaching, training, officiating, and all the way through to full time professional players and champions.
The WPBSA is responsible for the governance of snooker and billiards worldwide. It owns, publishes and continues to refine the official rules of snooker and English Billiards. From the original rulebook created in 1875, to the most recent major revision to the rules in 2019, the WPBSA through its official Rules Committee chaired by senior referee Jan Verhaas, has overseen the key evolution of the rules throughout the history of the sport.
The WPBSA also deals with the sports conduct regulations, anti-doping and rules of discipline, which includes an integrity unit operated by WPBSA Vice Chairman Nigel Mawer QPM.
The WPBSA went through a major overhaul separating of the governance (WPBSA) and commercial (WST) elements of the sport back in 2010, WPBSA underwent its own significant restructure in 2020 to ensure that the professional players are independently represented by themselves. This led to the creation of the WPBSA Players body, an organisation run by the players, for the players, chaired by former world champion Ken Doherty.
Both the governance arm and the players body work on a not-for-profit basis, each responsible for specific areas of the sport. Through a prize money levy and income derived from other sources, WPBSA Players funds a series of key benefits and services for its Tour members, including mental health support through its key partnership with Sporting Chance, visa support, extensive travel and healthcare support and insurance. This support also extended to key financial support offered during the global pandemic in 2020.
Growing the Game
The WPBSA is also responsible for refereeing standards worldwide, through its work with national and regional federations, including partnerships and training programmes around the world.
Similarly, the body has also established a successful network of over 500 international coaches through its official coaching programme. Offering three distinct levels which cover from the basics of the game to advanced level, the programme is also recognised by leading independent accreditation body 1st4sport.
At the forefront of snooker’s global expansion, the WPBSA has established several key relationships around the world. Today, there are around 100 countries with the infrastructure for snooker national snooker championships and the WPBSA has provided key support for major international projects including the successful staging of the African Games and regional championships around the world, events which act at talent pathways for players to fulfil a dream and make it to the World Snooker Tour.
In Asia, the WPBSA launched its first overseas academy in Bangkok, through which several players have honed their craft and gone on to become professionals on the World Snooker Tour. It is a relationship that continues today, with the recent staging of the 6-Red World Championship and the World Women’s Snooker Championship only last month.
Similarly in China, through the strong relationship between the WPBSA and the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association, the sport has seen a snooker boom and several major tournaments held in the country over the past two decades.
Through its ability to work differently to a commercial organisation like WST, the WPBSA works with cities around the world, including for example the growth of the snooker city Yushan, home to the World Open.
Whilst the WPBSA is a shareholder in WST, it also owns, operates, and manages a key group of subsidiary organisations, each with a specific remit to develop different aspects of the sport.
These include the World Women’s Snooker Tour, established by Mandy Fisher in 1981 and which has grown from a handful of entries to a thriving international tour with approximately 170 players from 30 countries. In 2021, the Tour was granted full qualifying status to the WST for the first time, where four women have to date qualified to be professional players.
The World Disability Billiards and Snooker Tour, formed by the WPBSA in 2015, has also witnessed rapid growth with over 40 events held since its inception. With new tournaments set to be held in Ireland and Germany as the Tour aims to expand internationally, it remains the long-term ambition to see snooker return to the Paralympic Games for the first time since 1988.
For players over-40, the WPBSA is also responsible for the World Seniors Snooker Tour, which has seen a mix of former champions and talented amateurs given the opportunity to extend their playing careers beyond the professional tour. The organisation also plays a key role in working with several charities aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of snooker as a sport for an ageing population. The World Seniors Snooker Championship takes place here in Sheffield following completion of the Cazoo World Championship.
World Billiards is the organisation responsible for organising and promoting all English Billiards ranking events around the world.
World Snooker Federation
To help snooker to secure recognition at the Olympic Games, in 2017 the WPBSA established the World Snooker Federation (WSF) as snooker’s leading international federation at the home of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland. A body which offers membership for national and regional federations from around the world.
Each year, the WSF runs the mixed gender world amateur championships – held recently in Sydney, Australia – to include open age group and junior tournaments, each offering direct qualification to the WST. It is the vision of the WSF to continue to expand the boundaries of snooker at all levels with major open events around the world.
“An Inclusive Organisation”
Jason Ferguson, who this summer will celebrate 13 years as Chairman of the WPBSA this summer, remains as committed as ever to the success of snooker at all levels and is excited for what the coming years have in store.
“Firstly, I am very proud of the WPBSA, its Board of Directors and the Sport Development Team and those who work in our subsidiary organisations, all of which play a part to drive participation worldwide,” said Ferguson. “It is our responsibility to underpin the continued growth of the sport and provide opportunities for future talent wherever they come from in the world.
“Whether a player may be a complete novice, an elite amateur player, a full time professional, or retired, the WPBSA is an inclusive organisation and delivers opportunities to compete and be part of this great sport. We also provide support and accessibility for all the key stakeholders within our sport, including snooker facilities, coaches and referees, with key resources including our Club Finder and Coach Finder tools on our website.”
“It is an honour to serve as Chairman and the future of snooker excites me as much as it ever has. Our achievements to this point are significant, but nothing is more exciting than what is still to come.”