All England Bar Billiards Association
The National Bar Billiards County Championships is believed to have started in around 1975. Each county selects their best 7 players to represent them each year at the County Championships. Details pre 1991 are a little incomplete, but Sussex were winners in 1975 & 1976. The late 1970’s and 80’s were dominated by 2 counties Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Bucks won in 1978 & 79 and had 3 on the trot from 1986 to 1988. Berks also won their first title in 1984 and retained it in 1985, and repeated the feat in 1989 & 1990. Other winners during this early period were Kent in 1979 & 1982, Sussex adding to the first 2 wins in 1981, and Oxfordshire who won in 1983. Northants and Hampshire both managed runners-up during this period in 1976 & 1980 respectively.
From 1991 the records are more detailed. In this year Berkshire did their own hat-trick adding to their titles in 1989 & 1990. 13 counties took part in the 1991 competition held in Harwell. The counties were split into 3 divisions, Berkshire, Kent, Oxon, Bucks & Surrey were in Division 1, Sussex, Northants, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire & Wiltshire were in Division 2, Leicestershire, SouthYorkshire & Somerset were in Division 3. Promotion and relegation would take place at the end of each competition for the following year, the champions of each division being promoted and the bottom team in Divisions 1 & 2 being relegated. Berkshire won by a point from Kent. Sussex won division 2 by 11 points and would replace Surrey in 1992. Leicestershire handsomely won Division 3. Peter Farrelly hit a 22,100 break, for Northants, which has not been bettered since.
Kent took their second title in 1992, this time Berkshire would be runners up. Chas Jones and Kevin Clark starred for Kent both winning 4 legs out of 4. Sussex were relegated a year after winning Division 2 and would be replaced by Hampshire who pipped Surrey by 3 points – Barry Radford and Tony Woolvin both unbeaten for them. Somerset won Division 3.
Berkshire convincingly won their record 6th title in 1993 by a massive 6 points from Oxon, even though Kevin Tunstall & Keith Sheard were both 4 wins from 4 with 12k+ averages. Tony Walsh was unbeaten for Berkshire. Hampshire did well to survive and relegate reigning champions Kent. Surrey beat Sussex to the Division 2 title, Simon Tinto and Greg Hughan both unbeaten for Surrey. Division 3 was won by Leicestershire.
Bucks won a very tight 1994 championship with the top 4 teams separated by just 4 points. Bucks only won 2 of 4 matches but a big 6-1 win over Berkshire was crucial as Berkshire only lost by 1 leg overall. Kevin Tunstall averaged 12k+ for the second successive year with an unbeaten record. John Burrows was unbeaten for the winning Bucks team. This put Bucks level again with Berkshire on 6 wins. Hampshire were relegated after 2 years in the top flight, and were unsurprisingly replaced by Kent who beat Sussex by 3 points to win Division 2. Sadly there was no Division 3 this year which was awarded to Cambridgeshire after Leicestershire, South Yorkshire and Somerset pulled out and unfortunately have not been able to return since.
Sadly in 1995 Wiltshire also dropped out leaving just 9 active counties and again 2 divisions. Berkshire were rampant and moved to their 7th title with a 7 point margin over Bucks. Tony Walsh and Paul Sainsbury were unbeaten for the winning team. Berkshire had an impressive 8,565 player average for a total score of 239,830 from 28 legs. In Division 2 Sussex were again runners up for the third successive year since relegation in 1992. Hampshire won it and would replace Surrey after a 2 year stint in Division 1.
Berkshire won again in 1996, but amazingly have not won again since. Paul Sainsbury was unbeaten for the second successive year along with Mark Sawyer. A strong Oxon team were second, 2 points shy of their second title and despite beating Berkshire 4-3. Kevin Clark had an amazing 13,788 average (3 wins out of 4) helping Kent to third place. Sussex finally won promotion from division 2 replacing newly promoted Hampshire.
Oxon ended their 14 year wait for the title in 1997, and have been dominant ever since. Kevin Tunstall and Dennis Atkins helped them on their way with perfect records. Berkshire were runners up followed by newly promoted Sussex in third. Northants won promotion from Division 2 helped by unbeaten records for Steve Biggs, Peter Farrelly and Chris Lawman and would replace Kent for 1998.
Oxon made it two titles in succession in 1998, but it was the closest championship in years with the top 4 seperated by just 3 points. Berkshire were actually level with Oxon but won 1 less match, and were runners up. Northant’s foray in Division 1 was short lived finishing bottom. Division 2 was even closer than Division 1 with 1 point separating the top 3. Kent pipped Hampshire and Surrey, Geoff Jukes from Surrey was the only unbeaten player on the day with 3 wins out of 3.
Newly promoted Kent shocked Oxon by winning the 1999 title especially as they were missing some of their stars. They beat Oxon 5-2 on the way to the title, which was crucial as they finished on level points. Sussex survived just, relegating a very strong Berkshire team who now found themselves in Division 2. Northants began a yo-yo effect between divisions as they won Division 2 again.
Oxon came back strong in 2000 winning their third title in 4 years. Sussex were close, finally living up to their potential, and a 4-3 win rather than the 3-4 loss to Oxon would have made them champions. Northants struggled in Division 1 and scored just 5 points. Dennis Atkins was unbeaten for the champions and 2 Sussex players, Barry Holt and lady player Sue Mariner also boasted unbeaten records. Berkshire couldn’t get out of the basement losing twice to Surrey, Cambridge were missing this year leaving only 8 counties present.
Oxon were decisive winners in 2001, 7 points clear of Bucks. Oxon scored 257,430, an incredible 9,193 a player. Sussex who came so close last year, had a disaster, losing 7-0 twice, to Bucks and Oxon, and their 4 year stint in Division 1 was over. Berkshire made it this time out of Division 2, and thankfully Cambridge were back and were able to beat rivals Northants, consigning them to bottom place.
An even more impressive 8 points was the margin in 2002, Surrey were the unexpected runner up, with their best ever finish. Bucks would be relegated after being in the top division for many years. Kevin Tunstall was again unbeaten along with Ray Sturgess. Hampshire and Sussex were level on points in Division 2 but the 4-3 win by Hampshire over Sussex proved decisive. Barry Radford and Paul Wing were unbeaten for the Division 2 champs.
It was 4 in a row (a new record for successive titles) and 6 in 7 years for Oxon in 2003. Berkshire ran them closer than in previous years but paid heavily for a 6-1 loss to their main rivals. Keith Sheard was the only unbeaten div 1 player. A very strong Sussex team won Division 2, Nigel Senior, Jim Millward and Mark James all unbeaten for Sussex. They would replace Surrey who slipped quietly out of Division 2 just like Sussex, a year after being runners up.
Oxon winners again in 2004, equalling Berkshire record of 8 titles. The margin of 8 points equalled that feat of 2002. They had 3 unbeaten players – Kevin Tunstall, and exiles Peter Farrelly and Paul Wing. Sussex were runner up albeit at a distance. Bucks won Division 2 at their second attempt, they also had 4 unbeaten players Steve Ellis, Ray Hussey and Terry Isard. Also John Burrows gave his last game to Dawn Flattery having won 2 out of 2. They would replace Hampshire who again struggled in the top tier.
Oxon’s run came to an abrupt end in 2005 when Sussex grabbed their first title for 24 years. Although Oxon beat Sussex for the 8th successive time, Sussex were incredible in their last 2 matches with 7-0 wins over both Hampshire and Kent. Mark James and Steve Mariner were the unbeaten players for Sussex. Amazingly since he captained Sussex in the 2001 disaster, Mark James did not lose another leg in the next 4 years winning all 14 legs he played. Having laid the 2001 ghost to rest, so to speak, Mark would retire from County bar billiards as a champion. A controversial rule change allowed B teams in the competition for the first time. Northants and Kent took up the invites swelling the field to 10. It would have been 11 but Bucks unbelievably dropped out of Division 1 at the last minute. Hampshire retook their place and although they again finished bottom they scored an impressive win over Berkshire but were a point behind Kent on the final tally. Northants A won Division 2, a great comeback after struggling for a couple of years without stalwarts Farrelly and Biggs and would take Hampshire’s place in Division 1 in 2006.
Sussex were hopeful to repeat their 2005 success in 2006 but had to replace Mark James and Jim Millward. Gareth Lloyd and Dave France were strong replacements but after a promising start the team didn’t hit the hights of the previous year and finished third. Oxon won again under captain Kevin Tunstall, who playing for Oxon for the last time before moving to Sussex for 2007. It would have been extra sweet for him as Oxon broke clear from Berkshire 8 titles with their record 9th triumph. They were convincing winners, beating Berkshire by 5 points. Jon Bamsey was unbeaten for Oxon, along with Under 25’s finalists Steven Sheard and Chris Reeves (Sussex) who would both be selected for England on the strength of their performances. Tony Walsh (Berks) and Chris Lawman (Northants) were also unbeaten. Despite Chris’ efforts Northants only just failed to stay up finishing 1 point behind Kent. Hampshire won Division 2 beating Cambridge who had their best ever performance finishing Division 2 runners up. Although Northants B dropped out, Berkshire, Oxon, Surrey and Sussex joined Kent in entering a B side. Kent took their place in Division 2 where they finished bottom, and the other 4 teams played the following weekend in Division 3. With the teams playing each other twice Oxon B added the Division 3 title to the A’s Division 1 win. Ray Sturgess won an impressive 6 out of 6. This was the first time Division 3 was held since 1993, and now there were 14 teams from 9 counties.
Looking back at the comprehensive records of the last 16 years of the championship, 4 players have recorded over 40 wins, they are Paul Sainsbury (Berks, 47 wins 16 losses), Kevin Tunstall (Oxon, 45 wins 15 losses), Keith Sheard (Oxon, 44 wins 18 losses) & Tony Walsh (Berks, 44 wins 16 losses). The first three boast impressive 9k+ averages, and all 4 boast 70%+ win rates - although Paul and Tony have had 6 of their wins (from 7 games) in Division 2. All of Kevin Tunstall’s and Keith Sheard’s games have been in Division 1. Another record worth noting is that of John Burrows, who boasts the only average over 10k for a player who has played more than 5 games. Terry Race is also unbeaten since 1991 with 11 wins from 11 (ave 8,926) and would have surely played much more had he made himself available for Sussex, but arguably Mark James’s final 14 successive wins for Sussex is even more impressive.
The 2007 championship will be held again over 2 weeks in September in Reading, Oxon are the holders, but 2005 champs Sussex will have to make room for Kevin Tunstall in their side. Berkshire will be in the mix also looking for their first title since 1996.
If anybody can help with records pre 1991, can they please contact Nigel Senior. Email address is on this site under contacts.