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Pool in Saudi Arabia? It’s about more than just money, says Matchroom’s Emily Frazer

Emily Frazer, CEO of Matchroom Sport, is taking the World Pool Championships to Saudi Arabia this week
Emily Frazer, CEO of Matchroom Sport, is taking the World Pool Championships to Saudi Arabia this week

It’s not just boxing, golf and tennis – now nineball pool is headed to Saudi Arabia, which is set to host its first World Championship this week.

It’s part of a 10-year deal between the kingdom and promoters Matchroom Multi Sport which is about more than money, says CEO Emily Frazer.

MH: Picking Saudi Arabia has angered some fans, but why is the region important to the sport?

EF: The World Nineball Tour has always set out to be a truly global tour and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has shown a tremendous appetite to stage events. You can see with the influx of sporting organisations coming to KSA, it is becoming a thriving sports hub on the international stage.

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Of course there is a monetary aspect to coming to Saudi, but as a promoter it is our job to create opportunities for our players to make this their full-time career, and moves like this, generating our biggest season prize pot ever, is doing just that.

MH: What understanding do you have of how players feel about playing in Saudi?

EF: Players were hugely excited when we first told them that we would be coming to Saudi Arabia. These players travel the world to play against the best players on the biggest stages, this is a fantastic platform for them to showcase what they can do.

I think players are also aware of their commitment to investing in grassroots sport, of which they of course want nineball pool to be a part. World Nineball Tour is proud to be part of the Saudi Vision 2030 and be at the centre of a campaign to improve diversity and inclusion across sport and dismantling participation barriers. Our players are as passionate as us about growing the sport and sharing why we love nineball.

MH: What is the future of pool with huge events like this becoming more common?

EF: This is absolutely the standard we want to be setting in terms of scale, participation and prize money. We already have some huge events in Vietnam, UK, US, the Philippines and across Europe.

The sport is growing year on year and now that we have a full roster of 128 World Nineball Tour pros from over 40 nations, there’s no reason why the tour can’t keep expanding and more events like this becoming the norm. Federations and governments are now coming to us to host events because of the global nature of the tour.

MH: Where do you see the game at the end of the decade?

EF: We are very much still in our infancy within the UK but have a huge global audience, especially in Asia and USA. I would like to think that by 2030 the audience levels across Europe will have greatly increased as well.

I hope that participation levels are at an all-time high and I personally hope that we have many more female tour pros playing alongside our trailblazer, Pia Filler. The possibilities are endless for Nineball Pool and the game doesn’t discriminate at all. We already have support from huge broadcasters such as Sky Sports and there’s no reason why we can’t keep growing to become a mainstream sport globally.

MH: Is there still a commitment to traditional audiences like the UK?

EF: Absolutely! We are expanding the tour but the UK will always be a huge market for us. Matchroom Multi Sport is a global company but it is hugely important that we keep providing nineball events on home soil.

We already have the UK Open Pool Championship which we have just hosted for the third time and is a mainstay of the tour and a fantastic event. The flagship event of the tour, the Mosconi Cup, where Europe and the US do battle over four days, will also be in the UK every other year. This year’s event in Orlando sold out of priority tickets in less than an hour and we expect the same next year back here.