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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Michaela Tabb: AZBilliards Interview.


Michaela Tabb is one of the most recognized faces in 9-ball for fans across the world who are able to watch the Matchroom Sport presentations of events like the World Pool Championship and Mosconi Cup competition. She is one of the top referees of professional 9-ball and recently refereed her first Snooker World Championship. Michaela took time from preparing for this year's World Pool Championship to answer a few questions for us.

AZB: Can you start by telling us about your refereeing career? How long have you been a ref and how many events have you refereed?
Michaela: I started refereeing Professionally in September 1997, at the St Andrews Cup - a 9 ball event run by Matchroom. I have since refereed nearly 30 major events including events in Europe, Canada, UK and I am going to Dubai later this year!
AZB: What would you say is the biggest event you have refereed?
Michaela: The biggest would be the World Championships Finals, but the hardest would be the Mosconi Cup!
AZB: What got you started refereeing?
Michaela: My husband and I run our own tournaments which are English 8 Ball and American 9 Ball amateur events. As funding is tight, I used to referee when it was required and so learned the basics that way. Matchroom were running their one day event in Glasgow in 1997 and Ross, my husband, phoned Sharron Tokley and advised her that I could referee for her, if she would like, and it would be financially better as she wouldn't have to pay accommodation and travel as I was on hand. I sent down a CV (Resume) and the rest is history...
AZB: Some of the fans over here in the states may not know this, but you are also a very accomplished player. Can you tell us about that?
Michaela: I play English 8 Ball pool with the reds and yellows on a 7 x 4 table. I started in a local pub because everyone else played and joined the Scottish Ladies International Team in 1992. I still play with them now and will in fact be travelling to play in my own World Championships the day after Cardiff's final! My biggest individual achievement was European Ladies Champion in 1998 in Gibraltar. It has to be said that refereeing has now taken my time up more so I have less time to practice...
AZB: Which do you enjoy more?
Michaela: I prefer refereeing now because my standard is not as high as it used to be as a player. In saying that, they are two very different things and both bring levels of satisfaction in different ways.
AZB: You don't have the benefit of going to instant replay on a call. Have you ever watched a match on tape later and saw that you had blown a call?
Michaela: Yes, I have made wrong calls and realized afterwards or due to someone advising me who had seen it - Sid or one of the commentary team. It for me is one of the hardest things about our job, we have to make a decision in a split second and we can't always be right... All we ask for is not to be considered a cheat, which unfortunately some people think you are. They are too small minded to realize that this is a career, not something we do for a hobby and that our reputations would be irrevocably tarnished for something like that...
AZB: Do you get nervous before a big match?
Michaela: At the Mosconi Cup, always... Also, the latter stages of the World Championships when it really starts to get exciting! You feel the pressure building up around you at these matches and you naturally get caught up in it.
AZB: Pool players are not known as the most even tempered people in the world. How do you keep them in line?
Michaela: We have the advantage of Matchroom and the WPA behind us really, which makes this one easy... All the players know that if they step out of line they will either be reprimanded by the WPA or not invited back by Matchroom and that's a pretty strong incentive. During a match if needs be, we would speak to a player in whatever shape or form we feel necessary, some it's a quiet word others it's a dirty look lol... The good thing is they all know that Nigel and I will not put with any of their c**p, so they don't tend to try it on...
AZB: Most of the fans in the states will only be familiar with your 9-ball events, but didn't you just ref a major Snooker event?
Michaela: Yes, I just made history by being the first lady referee to ever referee at The World Snooker Championships final stages and also at The Crucible! That was one of the greatest moments of my live because I have been a snooker fan since I was little girl.
AZB: How did that all transpire? You are not the image I have of the average snooker ref.
Michaela: That's exactly why that transpired! lol I was approached by the Chief Executive of World Snooker after the 2001 World Championships and asked if I would be interested in refereeing snooker. They wanted to change the referees profile by introducing ladies, younger referees and foreign referees. I was lucky to be headhunted following my involvement in 9 ball which is covered on Sky television.
AZB: When they showed the US Open on Pay Per View last year, there was a female referee that bore a striking resemblance to you. How did that make you feel?
Michaela: Luke, from Matchroom, actually emailed me about it because he had been there and he couldn't believe it! Apparently, she was even wearing a black and white top like mine? It has to be positive though, doesn't it? It's great that they like the job I do enough to want to copy it ... but why didn't they just ask me if I was available? lol
AZB: The men's pool scene is a mess in the states. How is it on your side of the ocean?
Michaela: In the UK, it is very structured now in the form of UKAPA in England and SAPPA in Scotland, they work together to promote the game in the UK. The UKAPA also have regular tournaments which are attended by a number of European players as well. In Europe they have a very structured set up with ranking tournaments, European Championships and also a Wheelchair division.
AZB: You have an internet site now at How did that come about? When you started as a referee, did you ever think you would have fans like you have now?
Michaela: My website came about by accident actually! I was posting on the Matchroom forum during last years World Champs and some Philippine fans said I should have a website. I acknowledged that I would love one, but didn't know that much about it - three of them offered their services for free! It is unbelievable really what has happened through Sky's coverage, and I would never have dreamt it, but I also won't take it for granted because it could end at anytime...
AZB: I understand you recently got married. And married a very well know pool player. Can you tell us about that?
Michaela: My husband, Ross McInnes, is one of the top english 8 ball pool professionals that the UK has known. We met when I started playing pool in 1991 and started 'dating' in 1993. We were married on 3rd May last year after nearly 9 years together - I wanted to make sure I could live with him first... :-) and we have a 6 year old, Morgan who is someone you should definitely look out for the coming years!
AZB: So, you are reffing the WPC in July. What is on your schedule after that?
Michaela: I am travelling to play in my own World Championships the very next day, I will have my cue with me in Cardiff to try and catch some practice when it's quiet... After that, the World 9 ball Masters is in Amsterdam which I am looking forward to! And then the snooker season starts again at the beginning of September, so it's all go... Refereeing is now my full time career, but I can't imagine a better way of earning a living - getting paid to do a job that I would do for nothing... :-))

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