BERLICUM/UDEN – Dutch billiards, still without any prospect of reopening billiard halls and restarting competitions, is considering the only possible alternative these weeks: organising tournaments. The Masters, known as the Dutch three cushion championship for the national top sixteen and a yearly highlight on the calendar, is coming closer. The international success of the Duke Challenge, with the new format of playing, received a lot of positive reactions. For the summer (June), when allowed by Dutch government, first the European three cushion Championship is planned. And for the second part of the year, the World Cup in Veghel and the World championship organisations for ladies and juniors are already casting their shadows ahead. Carl Verhoeven, manager of the most modern billiard centre in Europe, has serious plans to break the long silence.
The owner of SIS Billiards Experience Centre in Brabant even thinks beyond his own country: ”We must show the world that we can organise in Europe as well. Think for instance of a Europe League for teams or a Champions League, where the best players of each country play in nation team. Look for good sponsors, give it visibility to the outside world. All together, we can achieve lots of wonderful things.”
The discussion was already held among players and organisers during the Duke Challenge. The idea was to find five, six European organisers and set up a cycle of Challenge tournaments. ”We must think more professional in our sport”, Verhoeven realises. ”Why can’t we set up what they’re doing in Korea. Money makes power and respect.”
The best Dutch example is the BEN Foundation (Billiards Events Netherlands) led by Harry Mathijssen and Ad Smout, the organisers of the Masters, the Dutch Cup Final, the World Cup in Veghel and, this year, the Duke Challenge. The two-man partnership was founded in 2013, first only as the organisers of the Masters, later growing into what it is today. Harry Mathijssen: ”It’s a matter of investing, looking for sponsors, starting at the bottom with a modest budget. The KNBB, the billiard federation, has inspired us enormously in our activities. Compared to ten years ago, we all are ten times more active. With Jumbo, our huge sponsor, we could now organise the Duke Challenge in this format and with this fantastic location. It is great to know that Carl (Verhoeven) also launched his plans now. With his billiard centre, he has the facilities (streaming, infrastructure) to organise big events.”
Carl Verhoeven thinks big, but doesn’t get carried away in his ambitions. ”Right now, when things are so difficult for all of us, we have to join forces. My first priorities are the training centre for young billiard players, an initiative of the Dutch three cushion section in which we participate with our centre. The plan is to work with special coaches and every fortnight, 4 to 6 lessons for every player. We have been able to start this initiative together with the federation, because we have been recognized as a top sports location. In addition, we want to set up two tournaments: the idea is, for example, a Dutch Survival with 32 or 64 players. And later a kind of Challenge Cup like the Duke with an open registration of about 100 participants and with higher prize money than we are used to in the Netherlands. We also have to be progressive and map out a route.”
”What I want to propose: set up a cooperation with the European federation. Call in a marketing agency, like they do in Korea, and look for a few international companies that want to give their name to it. We only have a small company, but we do give it a try to make it bigger and more professional in the Netherlands. My illusion is that we will not let ourselves be knocked off our pedestal by the Asian powers. Billiard players want to get back to play, so let’s come into action as soon as possible.”
Harry Mathijssen: The KNBB, our federation, tries to come back to normal soon, but is bound by the COVID measures. Anyway, I think it’s great that Carl Verhoeven has these ambitions and is thinking about a European league. We were on the right track, the Duke Challenge was a wonderful start. The players and watchers on tv were enthusiastic. Marco Zanetti even spoke about a bigger cycle than only in the Netherlands with the Jumbo boss, Karel van Eerdt, who was enthusiastic and watched the last few days in the stands. I only can applaud it. The more organisations, the better it looks for the players and the audience.”