Peter Gilchrist hopes for one governing body for billiards

The 48-year-old explained that in order to attract the best tournament fields, as well as sponsors, billiards needs to be governed by one world body.

Peter Gilchrist (right) with Soheil Vahedi of Iran and India's Pankaj Advani at the inauguration of IBSF World Billiards Championship 2016 in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Peter Gilchrist believes that he is not good enough to compete on the snooker circuit. He has, however, made a mark in the World of billiards. Gilchrist captured his first World title in 1994, defeating the celebrated Mike Russell in the final. He repeated this thrice more, the latest coming last year, where he shut out Indian star Pankaj Advani in the points format summit clash.

“When I was young, I played a bit of snooker, but I found it too difficult. There were far too many good players. Billiards only has a handful of exceptional players,” Gilchrist said, on the sidelines of the IBSF World billiards championship here.

In 1999, the health of his chosen discipline took a hit when tobacco major ITC was banned from holding sponsorship rights. Many players, including Gilchrist, were forced to take a big pay cut. “When I won the World championship in 1994, I got 10,000 pounds. This year, the World championship winner got around 3,500 pounds. If anything, the prize money should have gone up. The ban on ITC definitely hurt our sport,” he said.

Gilchrist, an Englishman, had to supplement his income. “I ended up getting into coaching, just to make a living. I went to Qatar and Singapore. Things worked out quite well for me,” he said.

Around a decade ago, Gilchrist accepted an offer to represent Singapore. “When I was a coach in Singapore, I was asked if I wanted to represent Singapore. I had lived there for about three years by this point, and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of life there. I gave up my British passport and became a Singapore citizen. That is the best thing I have ever done. I have a young daughter. She travels a lot between England and Singapore,” he said.

The 48-year-old explained that in order to attract the best tournament fields, as well as sponsors, billiards needs to be governed by one world body. There are currently two associations which call the shots — International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) and World Billiards Limited (WBL). “At the moment, we have two versions of the World Championship. When you have only two-three good players in one tournament, and then another two-three in another tournament, it becomes very difficult to get sponsors. If you get all the best billiards players in the world at one venue, it will make for good viewing. I’m hopeful that (IBSF Vice-President) Jim Lacey can link the two bodies together,” he said.