As is every year thanks to my BCA membership, I was once again treated to the SGMA’s annual participation report for pool and billiards. And, as is tradition, the report is anything but rosy. Numbers were once again down across the board.
To start, we can look at the “full participation” numbers. This is anyone who picked up a pool cue at least once in 2011. This is really a garbage number, because it does not give any sort of realistic picture of how many people play pool. Hitting a few balls at a friend’s house once in 2011 shouldn’t count as participation, but I’m not the one writing the report, so there it is. It does provide a nice baseline I suppose, but ultimately it makes people believe the industry is far larger than it is.
Full Participation Numbers (1+ times per year)
Translation, the overall number, including the most casual of casual players, has dropped by 27.9% since 2007. This is obviously a bad number, but as mentioned previously, from a true participation perspective, this doesn’t really paint a clear picture. Instead, we need to look at the true core participation numbers. These are people who have played pool at least 13 times per year. These are people who have a true interest in the game. Unfortunately, the picture is far more grim than the “all participants” number.
Core Participation (13+ times per year)
Over the past 5 years, core participation has dropped by 22.7% since 2009 and 40.2% since 2007 to a total of just over 12 million people. Segmenting the the core further does not paint any rosier of a picture. Those who played 13-24 times per year dropped 22.1% from 2009 to 2011:
Regular Participation (13-24 times per year)
2007: Not Available
Then there’s the hardcore players. The industry’s bread and butter. The people that play at least 25 times per year. They dropped 23.1% to an astonishingly bad 7.792 million.
Frequent Participation (25+ times per year)
2007: Not Available
So what’s the reason for the decline? Age. In 2007, core players 45 and older represented 26.5% of the total core. In 2011, that number jumped to 37% of the total core. Pool continues to get older and their aren’t younger participants coming in to the game. In 2007, kids under 17 represented 14.8% of the core participation. In 2011, it dropped to 9.8%.
Without sounding too insensitive, the core of the billiards industry is dying. The industry needs a constant influx of young players to replace the ones that pass. If we don’t start bringing youth to the table, the industry will continue to fade. And I swear, if one person blames the decline of the industry on video games, I’m gonna have a conniption. That industry isn’t exactly healthy either (not to mention that video games were around and highly accessible 20 years ago during the golden years).
Source: SGMA Single Sport Participation Report Billiards/Pool (2008, 2010, 2012)Google+