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Matchroom Acquires U.S. Open

After several months of questions and speculation, the mystery surrounding the future of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship has been unveiled. British event producer Matchroom Sport, promoters of the Mosconi Cup, World Pool Masters and World Cup of Pool, has taken over ownership of the world’s longest-running major pool tournament.

According to both Matchroom Sport president Barry Hearn and Brady Behrman, son of the late U.S. Open founder Barry Behrman, a deal was signed that gives Matchroom “complete ownership” of the 42-year-old 9-ball championship.

“There are probably only four or five major pool events out there,” said Hearn in a phone interview with BD. “They may not all even necessarily be profitable events, but they have history and profile. One of them is the U.S. Open. I think Matchroom has most, if not all, of the others. We like to have control of a brand, and our brand is 9-ball.

“We are going to take a historic event and make it mainstream,” Hearn added. “That is our charge.”

Hearn confirmed that the Matchroom-produced 43rd U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship would not take place until 2019, and that the event will shift to Las Vegas and boast an increased prize fund.

“We’re going to smash it up right from the start!” Hearn said.

“This relationship is not about ownership or money,” said Brady Behrman, who assumed control of the U.S. Open with sister Shannon Paschall following Barry Behrman’s death in 2015. “It’s about the event itself and growing pool. Knowing that our father went down this path, and knowing how he cared for the event, the fans, the players, the industry and that he wanted the event bigger and better, there is no doubt that Matchroom will carry on our father’s legacy.

“My dad once said before a finals match, ‘These players should be playing for $100,000, but I can’t do it alone.’ With Matchroom, we’ll see increased prize funds and international expansion of content syndication for the Open, which ultimately grows the event, the purse and the nostalgia of the U.S. Open.” Behrman said he contacted Matchroom in January to gauge their interest in taking over the event.

“Shannon and I are both very busy in our own businesses,” he said. “And we wanted to ensure that we take the steps necessary to elevate the event our father produced for 40 years in an effort to give the players, fans and sponsors something special, something monumental. We can’t make that happen. Matchroom’s vision aligns perfectly with our ideals.”

In fact, Barry Behrman had contacted Hearn nearly four years ago with a similar offer.

“Barry contacted me a few years ago about the Open,” Hearn recalled. “He was enthusiastic and loved being the front man for the event. He wanted someone else to assume the risk, but at the same time he wanted to maintain control. I considered it briefly because I’m a pool fan. But it would have been financial suicide.

“This time it was the right time and the right place,” he added. “The Barry Behrman legacy will live on. We’re going to rename the trophy the Barry Behrman Trophy.”

Questions about the future of the U.S. Open surfaced in February when Behrman informed the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, site of the U.S. Open for the past three years, that the 2018 event would not be held there. The Sheraton had been holding the week of Oct. 21-27 for the annual tournament. Accu-Stat’s founder Pat Fleming, who had taken over as the event producer for the past two years, said in February that talks with Behrman had gone nowhere and that his future as part of the event — as event and/or live stream producer — was unclear.

Based on that uncertainty, and with the Sheraton about to release the October dates, Fleming announced plans to produce his own international 9-ball event at the Sheraton in the U.S. Open’s stead. [See side story below.] Meanwhile, Hearn pointed to the U.S. Open’s potential as one of the factors in procuring the historically rich tournament.

“The value of the U.S. Open is its history,” the promoter said. “Our goal is to make the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship a global event.

“The sports business is all about perception” Hearn continued. “Perception to the broadcasters and audience and to the public about how big an event is. How big an event is and how it is perceived is all in your hands. When we do big boxing events, the perception is that if you don’t get a ticket on the first day, they’re gone. That snowball works. In darts, we sell 11,000 tickets in 10 minutes. We’ve built the perception that these are must-see events.

“In pool, you can show up whenever, or if, you feel like it. That’s a killer. The Mosconi Cup now shows what you can do in pool. You can create that demand and that perception. In pool in the U.S., there has never been that fear factor that you might miss out.” While increased prize funds and first class production are important, what Matchroom brings to the U.S. Open’s future is broadcast reach that the event has not yet enjoyed. Accu-Stats-produced broadcasting of the U.S. Open over the years has satisfied fans willing to pay to view the event, and rights deals did deliver packaged content to parts of Asia, but the addition of the U.S. Open to Matchroom’s vast portfolio of sporting events ensures a wider audience.

“The U.S. Open will be part of our Sky package,” said Hearn, whose Matchroom Multi Sport portfolio (of which pool is part) recently inked a new seven-year broadcast deal with the European sports cable network. “So, Day One, I know the U.S. Open will be broadcast live in 35 countries.”

And in the U.S.?

“I’m hopeful for the U.S. broadcast market,” he said, adding that the U.S. Open will be aired live in the U.S. in some form or fashion. “We’re almost there. What is changing the dynamic is the packaging of Matchroom as a company. We come in with 12 different sports and 2,000 hours of live coverage. There’s a movement in the digital marketplace. Whether it is ESPN Plus or Turner Broadcasting, there is a need for programming and heightened interest in niche sports.”

Neither side would discuss details of the U.S. Open’s sale, other than to say that the Behrmans were paid a nominal license fee, with potential to share in future profits.

“It’s important that people understand that we didn’t sell out,” Behrman reiterated. “We want to see the U.S. Open grow and go on forever. Reaching out to Matchroom was the best way to make that happen. They will do incredible justice for the event, and for pool in the U.S. and internationally.”

According to Hearn, as part of the deal, Behrman and Paschall will have input, but Matchroom will have the final say on event decisions.

“We will keep the family as part of the event,” Hearn said, “But we have the freedom of ownership to say, ‘This is the way forward.’”

Hearn added that particulars about the U.S. Open under his stewardship are still being worked out, but international qualifiers will be part of the equation.

“We will make the U.S. Open truly global,” he insisted. “I want players from around the world. More importantly, I want people around the world talking about the U.S. Open.

“We have an ego as well,” Hearn said. “We like to grow events. Can we ever get to a $1 million prize fund? One thing players know is that with Matchroom you get paid and you get top money.” As big as the U.S. Open is in America’s pool history, Hearn insists there is much work ahead.

“This is a big job to be done,” he said. The U.S. Open is 42 years old and it hasn’t grown. How do you fill an arena for the U.S. Open like we do for Mosconi? We need the event to be inspirational. We need to inspire. We have to have kids saving their money for their entry fee or to make the trip to Vegas to watch the U.S. Open.

“Do I expect the U.S. Open to be profitable from Day One?” Hearn wondered. “No. But I will spend the money to make sure the U.S. Open is produced properly on Day One. And I’m confident that over a three or four year period we will end up with a major event.”

Fleming Announces New Event in U.S. Open Time Slot

The Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va., will, indeed, host a major pool tournament in late October for the fourth consecutive year. But it will not be the 43rd Annual U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship. Accu-Stats founder and promoter Pat Fleming said he has signed a contact with the Sheraton to run his own international tournament on the dates previously held for the U.S. Open.

Fleming announced his intention to run an event called the U.S. International Open, Oct. 21-17, 2018, at the Sheraton. He did so without knowledge that U.S. Open owners Brady Behrman and Shannon Paschall, the son and daughter of late U.S. Open founder Barry Behrman, were in the midst of selling the U.S. Open to Matchroom Sport.

“The dates were saved with the Sheraton for Oct 21-27, 2018,” said Fleming. “The [World Pool-Billiard Association] blocked those dates on their calendar. We also made some commitments with hotel for risers and such.

“I had to make a decision on the hotel,” Fleming continued. “They loved our event.”

Fleming said he send the Behrmans an email stating his intention to move ahead with his own event.

“I have the support of Diamond Billiard Products and WPA sanctioning,” Fleming said.

Fleming said he plans to restrict the field to 128 players. The prize fund will pay 32 places, and the payout will be the same as the 2017 U.S. Open: $40,000 for first place and $2,250 for 24-32. As with the U.S. Open, the entry fee will be $1,000.

“We will still be paying a quarter of the field,” Fleming said. “And, we will grant free entry to the most recent 10 U.S. Open winners. Players who won prior to that will pay a $500 entry fee. We still want the past champions in the field.”

Partypoker set to sponsor Mosconi Cup XXIV

Matchroom Multi Sport is delighted to announce Partypoker as the title sponsors for the 24th annual Mosconi Cup at Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas from 4th to 7th December.

Partypoker.com is one of the oldest, most recognized and trusted online poker brands. Launched in August 2001, partypoker.com is one of the pioneers of the online poker industry.

The partypoker Mosconi Cup returns to Las Vegas this winter as Team USA look to finally wrestle the famous Cup back from the hands of the Europeans. Renowned coach Johan Ruijsink has taken over the reigns as captain for the hosts, who hope he can have them same impact on America as he did with Europe while Marcus Chamat’s men are out to continue to reign supreme on pool’s greatest stage.

Managing Director of partypoker Tom Waters said: “I am very pleased to announce this partnership with Matchroom Sport that sees partypoker sponsor the Mosconi Cup this December. Partypoker players will have the opportunity to win a trip of a lifetime to Las Vegas. More details will be available soon on partypoker.com!”

Matchroom Sport Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted partypoker will once again be title sponsors of the Mosconi Cup. They have a long-standing relationship with both Matchroom Sport and the tournament, which is undoubtedly the greatest show in pool.

“This is one of the most eagerly anticipated partypoker Mosconi Cups for years. There is a strong feeling USA can turn the tide in Las Vegas and reclaim the famous trophy from European hands. The stage is set for a thrilling week and we are delighted partypoker are on board once again.”

Partypoker Mosconi Cup XXIV takes place from Monday, December 4th until Thursday, December 7th and will be broadcast live throughout on Sky Sports in the UK. The tournament will have a wide international TV reach, with details of global broadcast partners to be announced in due course.

Tickets for partypoker Mosconi Cup XXIV are available now at www.mosconicup.com. Tickets start from $48 per session with season tickets comprising all four sessions from £161. Premium and VIP packages are also available.

BCA Hall of Fame Banquet Ticket Deadline

Chicago — The ticket deadline for the 2013 Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame Banquet, which will honor women’s champion Jeanette Lee and Matchroom Sport president Barry Hearn, is rapidly approaching! The United States Billiard Media Association, which produces the annual banquet with the BCA, announced that the deadline to purchase tickets is Tuesday, Nov. 26. Tickets WILL NOT be sold at the door.

This year’s Hall of Fame Banquet, staged during the 2013 Mosconi Cup, will be held at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Monday, Dec. 2 at 6:30. Action on the first day of the Mosconi Cup will be completed by 4:00 pm, ensuring that all the players from Team USA and Team Europe will be in attendance as Hearn, creator of the wildly popular USA v Europe team 9-ball tournament, is inducted into pool’s most exclusive club.

The evening will begin with the Bass Pro Shops Cocktail Reception at 6:30 pm. Bass Pro Shops is a major sponsor of Ms. Lee.

Tickets for the 2013 BCA Hall of Fame Banquet are $95 per person, and can be purchased at www.USBMA.com, or by calling 312-341-1110 ext 229.

The 2013 Hall of Fame Banquet is sponsored by: Bass Pro Shops; American Poolplayers Association; Aramith, Billiard Congress of America, Championship, CueSports International; Diamond Billiard Products; Imperial Int’l; PartyPoker.com; Predator Products; Simonis; Tour Edition Cloth; and Tweeten Fibre.

Black Widow & Barry Hearn BCA HOF Bound

Jeanette Lee

Jeanette Lee

Broomfield, Colo., August 21, 2013 — The Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame is honored to welcome two of pool’s most media-savvy personalities in 2013. The United States Billiard Media Association today announced that women’s champion Jeanette “The Black Widow” Lee and British promoter Barry Hearn have earned induction into the sport’s hall of fame by becoming the 61st and 62nd members.

Lee, 41, will enter the Greatest Players wing of the BCA Hall of Fame, while Hearn, 65, will be honored for Meritorious Service. Both will be formally inducted during ceremonies on December 2, 2013, at the Mirage Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas.

In the closest Hall of Fame voting ever, Lee edged Finnish star Mika Immonen in a special runoff election. The two champions were tied after the initial ballots were submitted. In the runoff, Lee and Immonen went head to head, where Lee surpassed her male contemporary by just two votes.

Matchroom Sport selects Manila to host 2006 World Pool Championship

After the last two years in Chinese-Taipei and Kaohsiung, Matchroom Sport has decided to push the envelope and stage the prestigious World Pool Championships in Manila this year, marking the first time that the annual event will be held in the Philippines.

Matchroom Sport, headed by its chairman, British millionaire Barry Hearn, and Media Director Luke Riches will join ESPN Star Sports executives in Manila next week to finalize deals of what is reportedly a done deal.

While hosting the World Pool Championships is a costly endeavor, the positive media opportunity is expected to be more than worthwhile, especially since pool-crazy Filipinos would love to see 1999 champion Efren “Bata” Reyes, 2004 winner Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan, 2002 runner-up Francisco “Django” Bustamante and promising stars such as “Marvelous” Marlon Manalo match their skills against the finest players from Chinese-Taipei, the U.S. and Europe, along with emerging talents from Japan and South Korea.

Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today was informed that the top prize will be the biggest in the history of the World Pool Championships, running into six figures.

No venue has been selected as of yet, but candidates include the Philippine International Convention Center, the World Trade Center and billionaire Henry Sy’s Mall of Asia.

U.S. Retains Mosconi Cup

In past years, it was the heavyweights who carried Team USA to victory in the annual Mosconi Cup. But on Sunday night it was the “support” squad that pushed the Americans to their ninth Cup title in the 11-year history of the tournament.

Wins by Cup rookie Gabe Owen and previously snakebitten Charlie Williams gave Team USA the wins it needed to seal the 2004 title, 11-9, over a game European squad.

Leading 10-8 entering the final session at the Grand Hall of the Hotel Zuiderduin in the Dutch seaside village of Egmond aan Zee, Owen, the 26-year-old winner of the U.S. Open, scored a critical 5-2 win over Germany’s Thomas Engert. The win pushed the U.S. to the hill in the race-to-12 Ryder Cup-style team tournament.

But fiery Euro captain Oliver Ortmann staved off elimination with a nearly flawless performance in a 5-1 drubbing of Earl Strickland.

With a capacity crowd of partisan European fans screaming for more, snooker legend Steve Davis squared off against Williams. The 27-year-old Floridian had ended his streak of six consecutive Cup match losses on Saturday, but was still considered an underdog against the seasoned six-time world snooker champion and Mosconi veteran.

Playing loose and smart, Williams took advantage of several Davis missteps to forge a 3-0 lead. Davis fought back to 3-2, but scratched on a kick attempt following a Williams safety. Williams ran out to put the Yanks a single game from ultimate victory. In the final game, Williams once again buried the Brit with a safety, and Davis’ miss on a 3-9 combination attempt gave Williams an open table. Williams eased his way to a dead-on 4-9 combination and whacked it in to seal the Cup for the defending champions.

“I’ve had nightmares about the final 9,” joke Williams when asked if he had dreams of pocketing the winner. “I had a chance to be the last player last year and blew it. And I knew then that I might never get that opportunity again.”

“I’m so proud of these guys,” gushed U.S. captain Johnny Archer. “Earl and I didn’t play well this week, and everyone else just picked us up and carried us home.”

Leading the way for the Americans were MVP Rodney Morris, who was unbeaten in five matches, and Owen, who won four of five attempts.

The Mosconi Cup will return to America in 2005, assured Matchroom Sport promoter Barry Hearn. Hearn said that the likely site would be the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

World Pool Championship Highlights to Air on Fox Sports Net

August 11, 2004: Matchroom Sport, promoters of the World Pool Championship announced that Fox Sports Net, America’s widest reaching sports network, will be broadcasting four one-hour highlight programs of the 2004 World Pool Championship throughout October. The WPC features 128 players from over 40 countries competing for pool’s most coveted title.

Fox’s broadcast represents the most extensive coverage yet in America. The Championship gets aired at 6:00 pm on Sunday evenings throughout October. Program one goes out in Sunday the 10th and action continues on the 17th and 24th, culminating in the closing stages on Sunday, October 31st. *

Commented Matchroom Sport Chairman Barry Hearn, “After showing a one-hour highlight of the Mosconi Cup earlier in the year, Fox have caught the pool bug. With a regular time slot in October I am sure that the World Championship can attract the type of viewing figures that will lead to more and more quality pool on the network.”

Fox Sports Net to air Mosconi Cup on April 4

Matchroom Sport, producer of The Mosconi Cup, has taken another step forward in its mission to pave inroads for pool in major media outlets by striking a deal to air a one-hour highlights package from the 2003 Cup on Fox Sports Net.

The program will air at 5 p.m. in all time zones on Sunday, April 4.

The move is significant for big-time tournament pool, which until this deal with Fox Sports Net had relied almost exclusively on the ESPN family of networks for national TV exposure. Fox Sports Net reaches 81 million homes, according to a release from Matchroom.

“This represents real progress for the Mosconi Cup and men’s pool in general,” said Matchroom Chairman Barry Hearn. “This is Fox Sport Net’s first broadcast of one of our pool events, and they’ve started with the very best.

“Hopefully, this will be the start of something big, and we will be coming up with some more ideas for Fox Sports Net to look at in the future.”

“I am happy to be in business with Barry Hearn and Matchroom Sport,” said George Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Programming and Production for Fox Sports Net. “It is a great opportunity to get world-class events that will make for wonderful programming on FSN.”

With a ten-year history behind it, The Mosconi Cup has developed into one of pocket billiards’ most exciting events, as two six-man teams from Europe and America go head-to-head in a Ryder Cup-style format.

Following nine successful years in London, the 2003 Mosconi Cup was staged at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev., where it was received by sell-out crowds, including some representatives of Fox Sports Net.

Featuring legends of the game such as Earl Strickland, Steve Davis, Johnny Archer and Ralf Souquet, the contest went right down to the wire before Team U.S.A. pulled out an 11-9 win.

MGM Grand To Host Mosconi Cup

As promised by Brit pool promoter Barry Hearn after Europe upset the mighty U.S. squad in the 2002 Mosconi Cup last December, pool fans in America will get their chance to play the boisterous hosts when the 2003 version of the raucous Europe vs the U.S. team event comes to the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Dec. 18-21.

“The Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas is something that the world of pool has been collectively dreaming about for a long time,” said Hearn, the former snooker promoter, whose Matchroom Sport sports promotion company launched the Ryder Cup-style 9-ball tournament in 1994. “I’m delighted to say that it is now a reality.”

Hoping to create the type of interest that Americans developed for the America’s Cup sailing race after the U.S.’s years of dominance was ended, shockingly, in the early ’80s, Hearn plans to hype the 2003 Mosconi Cup to pool fans and general sports fans in the U.S. According to Matchroom publicist Luke Riches, a 30-second commercial promoting the Mosconi Cup will air some 100 times on Fox Sports World during broadcasts of the World Matchplay Darts tournament (a Matchroom promotion) in September.

Additionally, said Hearn, Matchroom will be offering special fan packages to pool followers in both Europe and the U.S., in an attempt to recreate the wildly enthusiastic soccer-style fan atmosphere that has rattled the rafters of York Hall for the past five years.

“We want as many fans as possible to come and join in this celebration of the great game,” Hearn commented. “We’ll be announcing some very affordable travel packages very shortly.”

Matchroom also announced that, for the first time in the event’s history, the teams will be led by non-playing captains, similar to the Ryder Cup golf format. While teams have yet to be confirmed, it is expected that Team Europe will return almost intact, with Germany’s Ralf Souquet, Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, Nick Van den Berg of the Netherlands, England’s Steve Davis and Finland’s Mika Immonen defending their crown. It is anticipated that newly crowned world champion Thorsten Hohmann, of Germany, will be added to the squad, replacing countryman Oliver Ortmann. Ortmann, captain and emotional leader of the 2002 champions, may be tabbed as the team’s non-playing captain in 2003.

According to Riches, the American squad is still taking shape, and a final announcement of the six-man team is not likely before the United States Professional Poolplayers Association (UPA) Atlanta Open in mid-October.

Mosconi Cup Gets First-Ever U.S. Airtime

Expect to see Johnny on your television at the end of December.

Expect to see Johnny on your television at the end of December.

The Mosconi Cup will be broadcast for the first time in the United States this year courtesy of ESPN2. Coverage, which will feature tournament highlights, will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2002. The Mosconi Cup takes place Dec. 19-22 in London.

Matchroom Sport Chair Barry Hearn said, “This is great news for American pool fans who will at last get the opportunity to sample the unique atmosphere of the sport’s greatest event.” Hearn voiced the hope that the event would draw large numbers of non-pool-playing viewers.

Hearn also discussed the possibility of moving the Mosconi Cup to the United States in the future. “Hopefully this will be the start of a beautiful relationship that will see the Mosconi Cup taking place in the United States and being broadcast live from coast-to-coast.”