Malaysian Danny Jee, new Blackball International board member, says sport needs a break post-pandemic

Efforts to popularise blackball in Malaysia suffered a miscue as the Covid-19 pandemic saw lockdowns imposed, resulting in pubs closing.

However, all is not lost for the sport as Malaysia has been named Blackball International’s latest continental member, while Malaysian Snooker and Billiards Federation (MSBF) committee  member Danny Jee is now a board member of the world body.

Jee’s appointment was announced earlier today.

“We’ve been promoting the game at pubs where it is widely played. This was during pre-Covid-19 days,” said Jee, MSBF’s head of sports that oversees British pool and blackball.

“In the past, people used to play according to house rules (rules set by the pubs). We are happy to say that now, at least 90 per cent of the pubs have adopted Blackball International rules.”

Jee said it was an honour for Malaysia to be part of the international body and to represent the region.

“Blackball is actually not new. It’s been played for over 20 years in Europe, and many championships have been organised. In Asia, however, it’s mostly been snooker and American pool.

“Also, many see this as more of a pastime than a sport in Asia, especially in Malaysia. We are trying to change that perception,” added Jee, who is in the food and beverage industry.

But it has not been smooth sailing on the green baize as blackball, like snooker and pool, is often viewed as entertainment instead of a sport, especially by the local councils. This, despite billiards and snooker being listed as sports under the Sports Development Act 1997.

This is because cue sports are largely played in pubs and bars.

“And because the sport is mostly played in pubs, it’s a double whammy for us. Even if the National Security Council eventually allows the sports industry to reopen once this lockdown ends, I doubt we can carry out our activities, because when you open a snooker or pool hall, you are given an entertainment licence, and that doesn’t come under sports.”

Jee and his team, however, are not allowing such setbacks to disrupt their plans in organising tournaments in a bid to raise the profile of the game and to attract more sponsors.

“Moving forward, we want to organise national and regional level tournaments. The world championship will be held next year, and I hope we can eventually send our players.”

Jee admitted such plans would very much depend on the pub scene in Malaysia – which looks bleak at the moment.

Social activities would only be allowed in the final phase of the National Recovery Plan, which is targeted by the end of the year.

“The reality is that pub owners and operators are already hanging on by a thread. A huge number could be out of business. We now need to see how many pubs will reopen, the rules relaxed, and how many of these pubs would still want to have pool tables in their premises.

“Some may be forced to downsize and replace the pool tables with more chairs and tables. This will surely affect our plans to promote the sport. We are also not sure what the rules are in organising tournaments in a pub and will have to wait and see.

“We will still get the ball rolling and work along the way,” Jee added.