Mosconi Cup 2020 – an opportunity for pool to reach the next level?

The annual nine-ball pool tournament between teams representing Europe and the USA takes place from 1st-4th December. Team USA are the current holders having retained the title in Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas with an 11-8 victory which also took them back into the lead in the overall standings at 13-12. Record opening day ticket sales for this year’s tournament signal a growth in popularity for pool but greater exposure outside of the arena is needed to push the sport on to the next level. How can the sport best harness the excitement of the Mosconi Cup to bring in a new audience of fans?

As the Mosconi Cup is team-based and pits nationalities against each other, similar to the Ryder Cup in Golf and the Weber Cup in Bowling, this event creates a completely different atmosphere from usual pool events. There is a certain fervour amongst the fans which isn’t quite as present in matches in which players are only trying to win for themselves. The pressure and responsibility on the players’ shoulders creates a palpable sense of tension and facilitates huge moments of drama and celebratory relief amongst the victors. The noise of the crowd and the passion of the players allows for the perfect introduction to the sport for new audiences, perhaps compared to the more reserved atmosphere of singles tournaments.

Although the event is most definitely focused on the team, it can perversely have a huge impact on boosting the profile of the individual. Scottish cueman Jayson Shaw, for example, can be seen as the Ian Poulter of the event who often thrives off the crowd noise and urges them to make themselves heard during his matches. Some feel his controversial antics, which include throwing his cue to the floor and celebrating wildly towards his opponent in 2017 as reported in https://www.express.co.uk/sport/othersport/, go against the spirit of the game but individual characters can sometimes elevate the popularity of it. To take another cue sport, for instance, Ronnie O’Sullivan as a personality has transcended Snooker and popularised the game for entirely new audiences. His popularity has brought added exposure to the sport through other media avenues like TV shows, book deals and online slot machines such as ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan Sporting Legends’ which can be found at https://games.paddypower.com/c/jackpot-king. The Mosconi Cup gives players the platform to make a name for themselves and the sport on both sides of the pond.

Barry Hearn, the cup’s founder, has clearly moved the sport on, with the tournament hosting its maiden event in Romford in 1994 but now hosting its centrepiece event in the grand surroundings of Alexandra Palace. The Mosconi Cup is televised to 139 countries worldwide whilst being free-to-air online to all other countries without television access, the commitment within the sport to reaching the widest possible audience is clear. Hearn has had success with reviving other sports, particularly darts, and his focus on audience participation and building atmosphere will continue to open up pool as a sport ‘for the people’.
Picks have yet to be made for this year’s tournament but returning legends are likely to include Shane van Boening and Skyler Woodward (twice MVP at this tournament) for the USA and Joshua Filler for Team Europe, who is the current world number three in the rankings at https://wpapool.com/ranking/.

As anticipation builds for the year-end tournament, pool will hope to harness the excitement to entice a whole new cadre of fans to the sport.

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