The high-profile sport of billiards will be demoted to Tier B by the Hong Kong Sports Institute from April 2023, costing them not just millions of dollars in funding but also their occupancy at HKSI. Sources have told the Post billiards is facing the chop because it did not meet the required funding criteria as an Asian Games sport. “It is disappointing because we can’t work out why they’re doing this a year after it was announced that billiards will return to Doha Asian Games in 2030,” the source said. Cue Sports (billiards and snooker) have been a Tier A sport with HKSI since 2009, but were dropped from the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, and the 2018 in Jakarta. Billiards and snooker were part of the Asian Games four times from 1998 to 2010, where Hong Kong snooker star Marco Fu Ka-chun led a haul of four gold, three silver, and three bronze medals. According to the institute’s funding criteria, Asian Games status is a prerequisite and the sport must reach a 10-point benchmark through international success at junior and senior levels. With two prominent snooker players in Fu and Ng On-yee and women’s world No 2, plus a number of talented juniors, the sport has had no issues meeting the benchmark in previous years. Billiards was threatened twice, in 2013 and 2017, but was lucky enough to survive both times. When billiard sports were approved in 2017, the requirement for Asian Games was worded as “taking part in three Asian Games/Olympic Games since 1997”, whereas the modified one states “needing to have taken part or have the chance to take part (2026/30) in 3 AG/OC between 2010 and 2030”. Billiards is not currently included on the list of the 2026 Asian Games in Nagoya, Japan, and falls foul of the new criteria. There are nearly 1,200 elite athletes in 20 Tier A sports including cycling, fencing, swimming and table tennis, in addition to 13 Tier B sports (dance, judo and golf), and six Tier A Disability, and two Tier B Disability, with around 530 full-time athletes. A total of 39 elite cueists fall under the HKSI umbrella, which comprises 21 elite full-time athletes, two elite part-time, two junior full-time, six junior part-time, and eight potentials – with 13 receiving elite monthly funding packages, including Fu and Ng. A full-time athlete under the elite A+ category (Olympic medallist) receives a monthly training grant of between $41,030 to $48,240. An elite A athlete (Asian Games medallist) receives a monthly grant of between $32,700 to $38,540, while elite B+ athlete (National Games medallist) receives between $22,820 to $26,960 per month. The allocation from the Elite Athletes Development Fund (EADF) is Hong Kong Sports Institute’s main source of income. In its 2020-21 annual report, HKSI said the EADF received HK$737 million, of which $153 million was designated for direct financial support to athletes. A further $498 million was directed to elite training programmes. By gaining the Elite Tier A status, a sport will receive all-round support from the HKSI, including coaching, training facilities, sports science and sports medicine, education and vocational skill training support for their athletes. The Elite Vote support lasts for a four-year period, with an interim review conducted every two years. Should billiards be downgraded to Tier B, they risk losing 75 to 80 per cent of funding, while players will lose 50 to 60 per cent of their training grants, in addition to training and logistical support from HKSI – a huge blow to the sport’s future in Hong Kong.