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Singapore’s Aloysius Yapp, players in limbo after world pool body issues ultimatum

Singapore’s top player Aloysius Yapp is used to hunting down solutions on the pool table but the former world No. 1 now faces his toughest challenge – choosing between playing in World Pool Association (WPA) tournaments, or risk losing his Sports Excellence Scholarship (Spex Scholarship) and the right to compete at the SEA and Asian Games.

On Oct 8, WPA, the international governing body for pool, issued a memorandum to all players after its general assembly in Qatar.

As previously reported in The Straits Times, WPA and event promoter Matchroom Multi Sport Limited – which were partners for 20 years – are embroiled in an ongoing dispute that has seen players, including Yapp, banned from competing in tournaments.

In its latest statement, the WPA said that all players will be given five months to choose if they will continue representing their national federations under WPA or to participate in only non-WPA events and tournaments. WPA added that players competing in non-WPA events from March 2024 will lose ranking points and will not be allowed to participate at national, continental and global level event under the WPA.

This means that Yapp and his Singapore teammates will have to choose between playing in WPA tournaments or non-WPA sanctioned events, including tournaments organised by Matchroom. Those who choose Matchroom events will not earn WPA ranking points and will likely be banned from competing at the SEA and Asian Games.

However, assessment for Sport Singapore’s (SportSG) Spex Scholarship – which Yapp has been a part of since 2020 – is based on WPA rankings.

When contacted, world No. 27 Yapp, said: “It is quite unfortunate that it has to come down to this. But I am going to let this stuff be handled by Cuesports Singapore. What they just told me is to just focus on playing in whatever tournaments I can play in right now.”

“I would love to be able to continue to participate in the major Games and to represent Singapore also, but I really don’t know how it is all going to end up right now.”

At present, Matchroom offers more opportunities in terms of number of tournaments in a calendar year and bigger prize money. Some of its prestigious tournaments include the US Open, European Open, World Cup of Pool, World Masters, and newly-organised World 9-Ball Tour.

Yapp’s biggest paychecks have come from Matchroom events – his runner-up finish at the 2021 US Open saw him pocket US$25,000 ($34,200). In 2022, he earned more than US$20,000 from events like the World Cup of Pool, World Pool Masters and Premier League Pool.

This season, he earned US$13,000 after finishing third at the US Open 9-Ball Championship.

Pool player Sharik Sayed noted that he will see a dip of about $30,000 in earnings if he sits out of Matchroom events. He said: “If I play in WPA only, of course, I’m gonna lose out on competition experience and if I participate in fewer events, the amount of prize money I earn will probably be lesser. We just want to play everything but players are being penalised for a problem between organisations.”

Cuesports Singapore is currently under suspension by the Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS) for hosting the 2022 World Billiards Championship and Singapore English Billiards Open without sanction from ACBS or the International Billiards and Snooker Federation. ACBS is recognised by WPA as the governing body for pool in Asia.

The ban was initially imposed from March 24 to Aug 31, and ACBS extended it for another six months from Sept 1.

Cuesports Singapore president Christopher Chuah told ST that it is currently in discussions with SportSG to decide on the best way forward.

Chuah said: “We can’t say that we have taken an official position on this issue. Ultimately, it is a player’s choice as to what tournaments they want to participate in.

“Although we are mindful, for example, in the case of some of our national athletes, where a Scholarship and other funding are tied to WPA rankings, of course, their decisions may have ramifications for them. But we will need to revisit this issue depending on the feedback we get from the players and the discussions we have with SportSG.”

In response to queries from ST, a SportSG spokesperson said: “We have advised Cuesports Singapore to engage WPA and encourage them to collaborate with partners in finding an amicable approach that benefits everyone, including players.

“We will continue to partner Cuesports Singapore to ensure that its high performance initiatives and national athletes are supported. We are monitoring the situation and will be in close communication with Cuesports Singapore and our national athletes.”  

While the Singaporeans players are still in limbo, others like American pool star Shane van Boening have chosen to go with Matchroom.

The former world champion and world no.1 said on social media: “We will see what the future holds for our sport... I wish everybody the best of luck on deciding what is best for them in these rough times.

“I don’t feel that anyone should be able to tell a player what they can play and I don’t worry for me but I do for the players that don’t have the same support from sponsors that I do... hopefully this nonsense will change soon!”