Tag: Nigel Mawer

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…

Gloucester Winners to Qualify for WSF Championships

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is delighted to confirm that there will be an extra special incentive on offer for each of the six winners at this month’s inaugural Parris Cues Champion of Champions event in Gloucester.

The all-new invitational event will be played on 20-21 October 2018 and see the most successful four players from each of our six regular group events (1-2, 3, 4-5, 6, 7 and 8) dating back to 2015, compete to become the Champion of Champions in their classification group and be presented with the new Nick Oliver Trophy.

As first announced to the players at the recent Open Disability Snooker Championship, we can today confirm that courtesy of regular WDBS sponsor 360Fizz, our new champions will also be offered the incredible opportunity to compete at next year’s WSF Championships in the United Arab Emirates, organised by the World Snooker Federation (WSF).

First staged in Malta earlier this year, the WSF Championships is an international event which provides the world’s best amateur players the chance to compete for a place on the World Snooker Tour and places at other prestigious international events. Next year’s event will be played at the Dubai World Trade Centre for the first time from 28 March – 7 April 2019 and will also incorporate a Seniors event and the World Women’s Snooker Championship.

Following an agreement reached with the WSF and the support of 360Fizz, WDBS will fund the entry of each of the six winners in Gloucester, together with the reasonable cost of flights and hotels for the duration of the period that the players are competing in the event.

WDBS Chairman Nigel Mawer said: “I am thrilled to be able to make this announcement on what is a significant day in our journey. Since our formation in 2015 we have been committed to providing opportunities for people with disabilities to play snooker competitively, not only against each other but also in major able-bodied tournaments and through our membership of the WSF we are able to do just that.

“Already at this year’s WSF Championships in Malta we met players from Iceland and Israel who were competing with disabilities and today’s announcement is a fantastic incentive for each of our 24 players who will be competing in Gloucester this month to be able to join them in Dubai.

“I would also like to thank our sponsors 360Fizz who have been such strong supporters of disability snooker so far this season and we look forward to working with closely in the future.”

Jonny Welch of 360Fizz added: “I am proud to be able to play a part in helping these incredible players be able to compete at such an important international tournament as the WSF Championships. It has been a pleasure both for me personally and for 360Fizz to support WDBS so far this season and I would like to wish all of the players competing in Gloucester for these places in Gloucester the very best of luck!”

The Parris Cues Champion of Champions will take place at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester on 20-21 October 2018. Further information including confirmation of the 24 players who will be competing at the tournament will be released shortly.

Learn more about the WSF Championships: https://www.worldsnookerfederation.org/u-a-e-to-host-wsf-championships-2019/

Berrisford Joins WDBS Board

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is today delighted to announce that Simon Berrisford has been elected to the Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Nigel Mawer and Simon Berrisford

WDBS Chairman Nigel Mawer with Simon at the Crucible Theatre

Simon joins the existing board of Nigel Mawer QPM (chairman), Clive Brown and Bob Hill, bringing his wealth of commercial experience and unquestionable enthusiasm for the role to the WDBS as we look to build upon the progress made during the past two years.

WDBS Chairman Nigel Mawer QPM said: “I am very pleased that Simon has agreed to join the WDBS Board. He has been a great advocate for disability snooker and the WDBS as well as a big supporter of our events.  As well as having a background in snooker, Simon will be an asset in taking forward the search for sponsors to support the work of the WDBS as it continues to grow.”

As a fully qualified Level 2 WPBSA World Snooker coach, Simon will continue to support WDBS coaching days, providing guidance and advice to people with all disabilities.

Simon is a fully qualified WPBSA World Snooker coach

Simon will also play an active role in attracting new partners to the WDBS. Through the event sponsorship provided by his existing companies including J&S Trading and 888lcd.co.uk, Simon has already contributed significantly to the running of tournaments for an extended period and this will continue to be the case going forwards.

Simon Berrisford said: “I am very proud to have been chosen to join the WDBS board of directors.  Since my first involvement in early 2017 I have been immensely impressed with this sector of the sport, in particularly with the competitors themselves.

“The WDBS is progressing at a phenomenal rate.  I hope that my inclusion within the board will push disability snooker to further levels and beyond.  There is no limit to what both the WDBS and its competitors can achieve.”

Simon and the rest of the team will be at this weekend’s J&S Trading Northern Classic, to be staged at the Elite Snooker Club in Preston this coming weekend of 2-4 February.

Learn more about the WDBS Board of Directors HERE.

WDBS Calendar 2018

2018 calendar of events graphic

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has today confirmed its calendar of events for the first half of 2018.

Last year saw five competitive snooker events staged for people falling under up to 36 different disability profiles, a total which is set to be equalled within the first six months of 2018 alone.

With interest continuing to grow both within the UK and internationally, we will continue to provide tournaments for players with physical, learning and sensory disabilities.

Physical disabilities

People with physical disabilities, including wheelchair and ambulant players (Groups 1-5) will have opportunities to play at two new venues in 2018 as we head to Preston and Bruges for the first time.

The first WDBS event of the year will be played at the Elite Snooker Club in Preston from 2-4 February for the J&S Trading Northern Classic, before we stage our first ever event outside of the UK, the Belgian Open from 23-25 March at The Trickshot club.

Sensory disabilities

The first event of the year for deaf and visually impaired players (Groups 7-8) will be the Parris Cues UK Open, which again will be held at a new venue to the WDBS as we head to Barratts Snooker Club in Northampton.

Home to current top 16 professional Kyren Wilson, the venue boasts over 20 snooker tables and like all WDBS venues is fully accessible.

We will also return to the Cueball Derby for the Paul Hunter Disability Classic between 18-20 May following last year’s tournament which new winners across all participating groups.

Learning Disabilities

We will also stage competitions for Group 6 players at all events alongside our regular Friday open days, subject to sufficient entries being received.

Six-Red ChampionshipWide shot of multi tables at WDBS event

We will also return to Redz Snooker Club in Cwmbran for the Welsh Open from 29 June – 1 July following a successful inaugural event at the venue last year.

The event will again be open to players from all eight WDBS classification groups, who will compete against each other with matches to be played under the Six Red format of the game.

WDBS Chairman Nigel Mawer said: “Last year was hugely encouraging for WDBS as we hosted a record number of events and so we are looking forward to be able to offer even more opportunities for disabled people to be able to play snooker competitively in 2018.

“We are particularly looking forward to our first tournament in Belgium, which is another significant development as we look to expand our global presence and attract further international support.”

If you would like to support the WDBS team as an event sponsor please get in touch via our contact form for more information.