ESPN Picks Guinness Over San Miguel for Asian 9-Ball Tour

In what may well be regarded as an unprecedented move ESPN has picked Guinness over San Miguel Beer for its annual Asian 9-Ball Tour which has been sponsored by San Miguel since its inception in 2003 and provided a major boost to the regional network's viewing audience.

Anchored by such San Miguel Beer endorsers as Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante as well as the pool stars from Chinese-Taipei the Filipinos have helped promote the sport and its growing following on television. The ESPN decision to move to Guinness is regarded as a blow to San Miguel Beer.

However, Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today learned that the decision was made known to San Miguel Corporation, one of the Philippines' flagship business enterprise just as its officials were set to discuss terms of their sponsorship renewal and naming rights for 2007. ESPN sent SMC a formal letter informing them that SMC could no longer sponsor the Asian 9-Ball Tour because the sports network had entered into a partnership with Guinness which is considered a competitor.

Every effort to contact Mon Reyes of SMC who is reportedly in charge of the event proved futile. Reyes did not answer or return calls or text messages nor did he answer calls to his office since last Friday when Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today learned of the major development. Efforts to reach other senior San Miguel officials also proved useless while one or two others said they didn't know anything.

The recognized godfather of Philippine pool, Aristeo “Putch” Puyat told Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today that he personally accompanied ESPN's top executive Richard Young to meet with San Miguel Corporation chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco to seek his support for the Asian 9-Ball Tour which was launched in 2003. Puyat indicated he was upset over the manner in which ESPN had treated San Miguel Corporation.

Efren “Bata” Reyes who returned yesterday morning after pocketing $30,000 in the Derby City Classic where he won the one pocket division, finished second in the Banks tournament and captured the “Master of the Table” title won seven tour stops since the inception of the Asian 9-Ball Tour and has remained its biggest draw since the tour opened at The Pool Haven in Singapore in 2003. Last year Reyes won the Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta legs to help the Philippines achieve a clean sweep while Reyes emerged as overall champion of the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour.