On several occasions now I have heard British journalists use the phrase "behind the eight ball" in the sense that someone is so far behind that they are unlikely to succeed in their task. This is the danger of using sports-derived phrases from a different culture.
The phrase almost certainly derives from the game of pool, which although played in the UK is very much a minor game compared with snooker. To be behind the eight ball in pool means that your cue ball is in a very difficult position from which it is next to impossible to escape. The equivalent in snooker would to be snookered.
Journalists, who are my bete noir at the moment, are lazy, poorly educated copycats.