By: Eastern Eye Staff
Raj Hundal has unveiled a masterplan to revolutionise cue sports forever – with an innovative new league featuring the “crème de la crème” of world pool.
The 2005 World Masters champ gave Eastern Eye exclusive access to his business blueprint, which he hopes will rival the successes of similar franchise-based tournaments like cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
The flamboyant 35-year-old Hounslow-born potter is swapping his cue for a suit in a bid to take on rival promoters who “haven’t got a clue” about how to boost pool’s popularity.
“Our professional league will be the first of its kind. We’ve got players from all over the world, with continental regional teams. We have bonafide stars; the best of the best from the UK, America, Taiwan, China – the crème de la crème,” Hundal said.
“We’re innovating from the first shot. You’ll see something that has never been done before in any cue sport, let alone pool. I like to put my money where my mouth is. I now sit on the board (of the company) and captain one of the teams.”
Hundal is working with a Canadian firm and a silent partner to make his dreams of bringing pool into the mainstream in the same way darts has in recent years. Information about the name of the league and which players will be involved will be officially announced next year, he said.
The format, featuring five-man teams in singles, doubles and three-on-three 9-ball action, will have its all-star showcase promo in Toronto, Canada, in April/May 2017. The concept will then be marketed to interested TV networks and sponsors.
“Our first event will be used to develop a pilot and showcase the league. There’s no limit to where we can take it, but ultimately it will depend on money and sponsors.
“It depends on what the networks wants. Depending on that, we will pick the lengths of games and how many singles and doubles matches. We would definitely like three singles matches and at least two lots of doubles. And it’s all on our own money. I’m proud of that.”
Hundal, a former top three-ranked player and a winner in Cyprus and Sweden, revealed that he decided to turn his attentions to building his own empire after becoming disillusioned with the sport after 18 years on the professional circuit.
Never shy of giving his opinion, ‘The Hitman’ slammed the current state of pool and vowed to make things right for the “overworked” and “underpaid” players who are travelling the world for little or no reward.
“I got tired of playing in garbage events,” he explained. “The promoters haven’t got a clue, and you can print that. They don’t know how to make pool any good – and that’s the problem. Every year the crowds get smaller, and promoters either cut back, or cancel events altogether. Meanwhile, I tell these promoters what to do and they look at me like I have no idea.
“I’m the wolf, I know what’s happening here. Now it’s time to do it myself. A lot of players are tired now; call it slave labour, over-worked, extremely underpaid. They’re all trying to do something, but I’m lucky enough to be in that position where I’m with the right guys and can finally make a difference.
“Existing promoters don’t overly impress me. They’ve been doing the same thing for the last 30 years, same tournaments, same prize money even. I don’t want to call that failure, but it definitely isn’t helping to move the game forward.”
Hundal, who had represented both England (with snooker icon and friend Ronnie O’Sullivan, and India in the World Cup of Pool, said his proposed event will use special proprietary technologies that were built in-house specifically for the project.
Hundal explained: “We’ve been in development for almost two years now, creating the technology that’s necessary to innovate and make the game appeal to spectators. Comprehensive live statistics, a radar gun to regulate break speeds, overhead moving camera systems, an automated fantasy league, and much more. Everything is self-sufficient, design and produced in-house to create a great final product. We’ve even built an arena that is portable. We can take it anywhere in the world, and we’ve designed every nut and bolt.
“If someone called up and said come and do an event in say, the United Arab Emirates, we can. The reason I say that is because I have a Qatari player and a kid from Kuwait on my team, so there’s a chance that could happen.
Hundal said the he can’t wait to launch the project and finally get the spotlight back on the table again.
“The project has been kept secret from all but a few, but those who know about it love it. They know if I’m going to do something, it’s going to be good. It took a minute to get this all together, and it’s been a lot of work and hustle. We’re finally getting there now,” he said.
“Our arena isn’t going to be like any normal pool or snooker event either. It will have the atmosphere of the darts, a bit of music, shouting and screaming. Let’s make it exciting.
“I have the full support of the players. When I put my suit on, they don’t look at me like a promoter. I’m one of them. I’ve been a touring pro over half my life.”