Tag: Chris Hornby

WDBS & Me: Chris Hornby

This summer marks five years since the formation of World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) and today we continue our look back on the journey so far by hearing from Chris Hornby, one of the people to have been involved from the very beginning.

Having joined the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) at the start of 2015 as its Sports Development Manager, Hornby was tasked with helping to re-energise snooker at amateur level – including disability snooker.

A Blank Canvas

Prior to the birth of WDBS, annual tournaments had been held for over 20 years by Disability Sports England, most recently in 2013 at the South West Snooker Academy. But with no event staged in 2014 and few other opportunities for people with disabilities to engage with snooker at any level, Hornby recalls how the initial WDBS team came together during the following year.

“I had been introduced at the Masters within my first weeks in the job to Tim Squires,” said Hornby. “He was a coach with experience of coaching people with disabilities and who would join the initial board. A few months later at the World Championship there was a further meeting with people who had previously been involved with disability snooker events, including Clive Brown who was clearly going to become a key member of the board with his tournament director experience.

“Together with my colleague Nigel Mawer QPM, Vice Chairman of the WPBSA, we both committed to be hands-on involved at this point, together with Tim and Clive. The board was joined by Bob Hill, at the time a qualified WPBSA coach with experience of coaching people with learning disabilities, as well as former Paralympian Jonathan Adams, who competed in the shot put event at the 2012 Games.”

With the team assembled, attention turned to laying down the foundations upon what Hornby describes as a ‘blank canvas’ with no established pre-existing administration in existence.

“It was unclear to us all without solid data if there would be enough demand for events,” recalls Hornby. “We decided to take a punt on putting on a trial event, with the emphasis on offering an open day purely for free coaching and practice for anyone with a disability.

“Jess Cook from Activity Alliance (then the English Federation for Disability Sport) was extremely helpful in the early stages of formation guiding us in the right direction and signposting key contacts. Through Activity Alliance we utilised an existing classification system to shape the first event.

“It was an exciting time to be able to grow something from scratch and five years on I am proud to have been involved in something so unique.”

To Gloucester

The trial event would ultimately become the 2015 Open Disability Snooker Championship, held at the South West Snooker Academy in November. For the team it was a voyage into the unknown in all aspects, with uncertainty as to the number of participants expected and from which classification groups they would represent.

“I remember sitting in my office thinking that we hadn’t got enough players to be able to separate the classification groups,” said Hornby. “Luckily, as would become a trend to this day, many players left it until late in the day and we had enough more players entered and we had the bare bones of an event.”

There was the added pressure of the planned filming of a piece by IMG to be broadcast during the subsequent UK Championship on the BBC, with no stone left unturned in the professionalisation of the event with bespoke t-shirts, medals, certificates and referees recruited to ensure its smooth running.

Ultimately however, the event would prove to be a real success and as Hornby recalls, came with a family feel that continues to this day.

“The open day went well and included a large group from Bristol brought by Bob Hill,” continued Hornby. “Their infectious smiles and the energy that they brought to the snooker room stood out. We had brought the World Snooker Championship trophy from the World Snooker office and the players loved getting their pictures with it.

“One thing we focused on – and still do to this day – is ensuring that each player is properly welcomed to the event as it may feel very daunting coming to your first event. Ruth Mawer (Chairman Nigel Mawer’s wife) was key in those early days and ensured that everyone was welcomed and comfortable within the venue. This is the basis to the family feel of the WDBS, getting to know individuals as people as well as players.

“The tournament itself was a success and IMG did a fantastic job of putting the piece together for television. What I hadn’t anticipated were the characters that we would meet, each with their own story and challenges, but fantastic attitudes to life and competitive edge. In particularly, Raja Subramanian who came all the way from India made the event international and gave it greater creditability. If the television piece hadn’t been so good, I don’t think that WDBS would have grown so much in those early days.”

While Subramanian had travelled across the world to compete however, his opponent in the Group 4-5 final was Tony Pockett, a player for whom his journey was far shorter, but just as monumental for him personally. Having heard about the event on local radio, Pockett entered the event at the last minute and would earn an emotional trip to York for the UK Championship with his performance.

“When he was presented with his medal at the Barbican Centre Tony started crying and was overwhelmed by it all,” recalls Hornby. “He came to York with his wife and he wrote to us afterwards thanking us and saying how much of a mental boost it had given him. He hadn’t played snooker for 10 years and it had been the first time he had been out of Gloucester for 30 years!

“This is what sport and snooker especially can deliver to people. Snooker is overlooked by many as a sport that can offer benefits to its participants but what WDBS has tried to offer its players over the last five years will hopefully at some point change a lot of people’s perceptions going forward.

Global Game

From the outset one of the long-term goals of WDBS has been to see snooker restored to its rightful place at the Paralympic Games, having been contested most recently at the Seoul games in 1988.

A key part of making this goal a reality is the further internationalisation of the WDBS Tour, which began with the introduction to the calendar of the Belgian Open in 2018 and having welcomed an increased number of players from outside of the UK, including Poland, India, Germany and Hong Kong.

Of course, the role played by China in the development of the professional sport over the past 15 years has been unprecedented and in 2018 Hornby, together with Nigel Mawer, visited the Chinese Paralympic Training Facility in Beijing, to meet with representatives of the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities (CASPD).

“Snooker in China in massive and they have fully embraced the sport,” continued Hornby. “The government and sporting authorities treat it with so much more respect than they do in the UK, investing and putting it into schools and higher education.

“We managed to get a meeting with (CASPD) and subsequently agreed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together on future projects for players with disabilities. To see the size of the facilities was fascinating and the WPBSA committed to supply some tables for training. We worked closely with the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association (CBSA) to ensure they were included in the agreement and could provide coaches if required.”

Each year CASPD organises a week of events to celebrate disability sport and offers a range of sporting activities. Part of this was to be a snooker open day at the CBSA Academy in Beijing, which took place while Chris and Nigel were present.

“It was arranged that CASPD would bus in two groups of around 20 people to the academy and we supplied five CBSA coaches who had been through the WPBSA coaching programme to deliver basic sessions,” added Hornby. “The majority of participants were new to playing the sport but quickly embraced it. CCTV 5, one of the main sport channels came and did some interviews and it was surreal to see our activities featured online the next day.

“The most memorable moment for me during the open day was a gentleman with one arm. He stood off from the tables and every time I tried to engage him to join the others on the table he declined pointing at his prosthetic. I remembered that I had brought a cueing aid device that one of our wheelchair players Mark Parsons had made for WDBS. I got the coach to show him how to use it and showed him pictures of players from the UK who play with one arm like Kal Mattu and John Teasdale and he eventually engaged.

“By the end we couldn’t get him off the table. We told him to keep the cueing aid, he was so happy and said he had enjoyed playing with the others. We told him when we return, we want him to be a top player and I hope that we will see him again in the future.”

To this day Chris remains a key part of the WDBS team and often a first point of contact for new players who contact us about competing in upcoming events, advising on classification groups and encouraging them to come along to weekends and take part.

Check back here at wdbs.info for more content this summer as we look back on our first five years…

Landmark Open Day Held in China

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) staged an Open Day at the WPBSA-CBSA World Snooker Academy in Beijing on Tuesday.

The event was attended by Nigel Mawer QPM, Chairman of the WDBS, Chris Hornby, Sports Development Manger of the WPBSA, as well as professional snooker coaches, disabled snooker fans and players.

The event was hosted by the China Administration of Sport for Persons with Disabilities (CASPD) and the WDBS. It was jointly organised by Beijing Disabled Persons’ Federation, WPBSA and CBSA, and supported by Beijing Rigour Culture & Media as well as the CBSA World Snooker Academy.

This is one of the rehabilitation fitness demonstration events organised by CASPD during the eighth Disability Fitness Week.

Officials from WDBS visited CASPD in Beijing in June to discuss potential cooperation projects, including this open day during CASPD disability week. This was supported by CBSA, who provided coaches for the day, and by Rigour Media who have allowed WDBS and CASPD to use their excellent facility in Beijing.

The theme of the day was to encourage disabled people, who may have never played the sport of snooker, to give it a try. More than 40 deaf and disabled people learned to play snooker through fun activities and exercises arranged by CBSA coaches.

One of the disabled fans said: “This is the first time I have participated in this kind of event and the experience was excellent. The environment is very good. Through the guidance of the coach, I have a deeper understanding of snooker. I hope there will be more events like this which allow more people to enjoy the unique fun of snooker.”

WDBS will work closely with CASPD and CBSA to look at longer term projects, potentially installing snooker tables at CASPD’s headquarters in the National Paralympic Training Centre in Beijing before branching replica projects out into other regions in China. It is hoped that this will generate enough competition to create National Championships for people with disabilities, who can then compete against other countries internationally. Rigour’s ball-tracking technology could even allow for long-distance competitions between British and Chinese disabled players.

WDBS has long term Paralympic ambitions and hopes to create opportunities for disabled people in China.

Media coverage

Major media outlets in Beijing gave the event significant coverage.

Disability Snooker Welcomed in China

Officials from World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) recently visited the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities (CASPD) to explore future partnership opportunities.

Nigel Mawer QPM, chairman of WDBS and WPBSA Sport Development Manager Chris Hornby met with Mr Wu Secretary of the Party Committee for CASPD and his team at the Chinese Paralympic Training Facility in Beijing. During fruitful discussions the parties discussed the significant growth of WDBS since its formation less than three years ago and how both WDBS and the CASPD can work together in the future to develop disability snooker in China.

Established in August 2003 as a non-profit organisation, the CASPD is responsible for the organisation of national level sport activities for people with disabilities including the following:

  1. Preparing the National Paralympic Team for competition
  2. To move disabled people into the community
  3. Classification of athletes for Paralympics Games
  4. Educating athletes through links with Beijing University
  5. Maintaining and managing significant facility
  6. Preparations for 2022 Winter Olympic Games/Paralympic Games
  7. Staging international disabled sport events

It was provisionally agreed that both parties are to work together with support from the China Billiards and Snooker Association (CBSA) to stage an open day at the Rigour Academy in Beijing for people with disabilities to try snooker and receive coaching from CBSA and WPBSA accredited coaches. This is to take place during ‘Disability Week’ on the 7th August 2018 and will be the first project of its kind in the region.

WDBS and CASPD will also continue work together on longer-term initiatives to include the installation of both full-size and ‘Little Star’ snooker tables at the Beijing facility to create opportunities for people with disabilities to play snooker. This project aims to engage both those playing for recreational and rehabilitation purposes, as well as creating a pathway for elite talent to progress to competition play.

Rigour technology

During their recent time in China both Nigel Mawer QPM and Chris Hornby also visited the Rigour Snooker Academy in Beijing to discuss whether Rigour’s industry-leading technology could be used to assist the global development of snooker for people with disabilities.

Positive discussions and technology demonstrations took place and both WDBS and Rigour Tech will continue their cooperation over the coming months.

David Baker playing snooker

Record Entries for Welsh Open

The inaugural World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) Welsh Open has seen entries from a record 40 players, more than a week prior to the original entry deadline.

Since its inaugural event staged back in November 2015, the WDBS has seen consistent growth in player numbers at tournaments staged for people with a wide-range of different disabilities over the previous 18 months.

For the first time, the upcoming Welsh Open, to be staged in Cwmbran at Redz Snooker Club from 30 June – 2 July 2017, will be open to players of all eight WDBS disability classification groups. With matches to be played using the Six Red format, the tournament will see players with physical, learning and sensory disabilities compete against each other across an initial round robin phase, with the top two from each group progressing to the knockout rounds.

Photo of Phillip Murphy playing snooker

Players not qualifying for the last 16 will be able to play in a mixed classification doubles tournament during the final day of the event in what will be another new WDBS initiative trialled over the weekend.

Once again, the event will be supported by St Helens based company J&S Trading, which specialises in recycling mobile phone parts and accessories. Through WPBSA World Snooker coach Simon Berrisford, the company has become a regular sponsor of WDBS events since the Manchester Classic in March.

WPBSA Sport Development Manager Chris Hornby said: “It is fantastic to see numbers growing as we put on more events.

“This will be a great learning experience for us to run our first event with completely mixed classification groups and we hope this can be become a regular fixture in the calendar. Hopefully it will be a real opportunity for players from all the groups to socialise and have fun, whilst there will also be a competitive edge.

“It is exciting to see the WDBS stage its first event outside of England and we hope that this is the first of many countries to be added to the WDBS calendar.”

All players, including those who have not entered the tournament are also encouraged to attend the Friday Open Day at the event, at which practice and coaching opportunities will be available.