Squash Mad

As we warned, Squash 57 rebranding exercise is laughed out of court

Does racketball need a new name?

Does racketball need a new name?

Clubs, coaches, players and racket manufacturers all refuse to play ball with name change

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

As we warned the other day, attempts are being made to officially rebrand racketball as Squash 57. The news was officially announced today by the World Squash Federation to a chorus of disbelief and derision from clubs, coaches, players and manufacturers.

The WSF today issued a media release announcing the proposed name change after working on these plans with England Squash, who recently dropped the name “racketball” from their title.

Racketball players and racketball manufacturers are furious at the proposals and say they will refuse to abide by the decision.

Enthusiastic racketball players maintain that they will continue to keep calling their game by its familiar name, while many leading manufacturers claim not to have been consulted and are refusing to change their branding guidelines. With thousands of pounds/dollars’ worth of product already in circulation in the marketplace, they claim that cost of rebranding is prohibitive, as well as being hugely confusing to consumers.

Coaches also claim the name might be confusing to newcomers, and club officials are complaining in unison about the cost of changing the name on their signage, club websites, stationery.

British racketball champion Tim Vail, from Hampshire, said: “Not a fan of this idea to be honest. I can’t ever imagine calling myself a “squash 57” champion.”

The news has been greeted with disbelief, both in comments on the original Squash Mad article, and remarks on social media questioning the reasons for the proposed change. One club chairman described the move as “swivel-eyed lunacy”. 

Aberdeen Squash and Racketball Club chairman Mike Hegarty said:

“Our primary concern is the apparent ‘closed door’ behind which this liberty with our sport was taken. The suddenness of the timing and the lack of detail in the public announcement provokes an element of fear that thorough canvassing of affected parties was not carried out. The use of the non-specific terms ‘international federations’ and ‘equipment manufacturers’ in the press release does not suggest that there are any backers willing to put their name to this rebrand. Certainly now we are left reeling as to the possible implications of a decision we had no ability to influence, and no doubt various national federations are now receiving questions which they were unprepared for.

“It is extremely disappointing to see Racketball treated as very definitely secondary to Squash and as something of an inconsequential plaything by World / England Squash. Racketball is of course an invaluable stepping stone into squash, but it is also a legitimate sport in its own right. We take exception to the suggestion in the press statement that the sport is only ‘popular in England’ and ‘will grow to complement squash in many other countries’. There have been tireless efforts domestically and in many countries to promote Racketball which deserve recognition.

“The other major concern of ours: who is going to pay for the rebrand? We estimate the cost of redesigning and replacing our graphics, club decorations, signage, barware and advertising to be north of £4,000 even relying on volunteer hours. We could refurbish two of our courts for this money. It is obvious by omission that World / England Squash expect us to fund this ourselves. As if to rub salt into this wound, we have been offered absolutely no justification as to why we should invest this money or assurance that there will even be a payback.

“Our expectation is that World / England Squash will offer visibility and transparency of their decision making process alongside credible market research supporting what we can only interpret at this stage as swivel-eyed lunacy.”

Squash57

The WSF release is published here:

Racketball, a form of squash sport played on a squash court which has grown significantly in popularity in England and has begun to take hold elsewhere, will be rebranded as Squash 57 in an initiative spearheaded by the World Squash Federation.

It was earlier this year that the WSF, in partnership with England Squash, signposted a change of name for the game, which is played with a larger ball and a shorter racket. The new name focuses on the key difference to squash – the larger ball, which has a maximum diameter of 57mm (compared with 40mm for a squash ball).

The game is a popular introduction to squash and can keep generations of players fit and active, and playing on court well into later years.

Following consultation including a questionnaire to more than 20,000 England Squash members, focus groups, and consultation with other stakeholders including international federations and equipment manufacturers, the new name has been selected.

The rebrand will ensure that the game is seen as part of the squash family, whilst also eliminating any confusion with ‘racquetball’, a primarily North American game played on much larger courts with no tin and a different type of ball.

WSF Chief Executive Andrew Shelley said: “There is no doubt that the game, already popular in England with 12,000 weekly participants, will grow to complement squash in many other countries.

“Whilst current players will doubtlessly still call Squash 57 by its old name, the change has formally been made. As it grows, Squash 57 will be seen more clearly as a discipline of squash, and may even give us greater chance of adding it to major events such as the Commonwealth and other major Games in future.”

England Squash CEO Keir Worth added: “We support the WSF’s position and hope that an increased synergy between squash and Squash 57 will broaden appeal and create a stronger playing community. We are excited to be working in partnership with the WSF and will drive Squash 57 to the widest possible audience.”

The game will become Squash 57 from 1st October and the Squash 57 registered logo, which is available for product and general use, is shown above.

 

 

Posted on August 30, 2016

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About The Author

Alan Thatcher

Lifelong sports journalist and squash lover. Event promoter, coach, author, voice artist. Founder of World Squash Day.

11 Comments

  1. Richard Millman August 30, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    I strongly recommend that people take a step back and give the new name some time to be accepted.

    This is an idea that could launch what is a very good sport onto the global market and eventually lead to it becoming a part of PSA with a world tour.

    As Racketball it had zero chance of doing that.

    Wise heads will bide their time before condemning this decision.

    Richard Millman

    • Marc August 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Hi Richard

      I agree that we needed a new brand if the game is to be marketed internationally (namely the US, which I appreciate is by far the most important market, which you will know better than I). It’s just that Squash 57 doesn’t appear to resonate with anyone. How do you consult with, apparently, 20k England Squash members and still come up with something which is being roundly ridiculed? With the biggest playing base in the UK, it needs the Racketball-playing public behind it. It just feels like yet another own goal.

      Marc
      Chair, Yorkshire Squash and Racketball

      • Ted Gross August 31, 2016 at 4:54 pm

        Marc,

        I’m convinced that the best name for the sport in the US is ‘Short Court Racquetball’.

        Not sure how committed the powers-that-be are to introducing the sport here though, as it is difficult to even get balls in the States.

        Best Regards,

        Ted Gross
        Daily Squash Report

    • Gene Hayes August 31, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Richard, very well said. People do need to give it some time to digest the change and to think outside of the box. While the recent article which references the open letter from Hannah Colby to England Squash has excellent points about things which must too happen to grow the game, etc., those certainly could coexist with the vision of this rebrand.

      First of all, British people should apply some leanings from the past on this one. Are you not appalled that “football” in the USA is a completely different game? Actual football is called soccer, as you well know. I particularly refuse to call it soccer, and prefer to call “their” game American Football (a bit of a compromise). While American Football is now played in a few countries around the world, its name is confusing and annoying.

      Now, there is already a well established sport called racquetball (note spelling) played in many countries (Canada, US, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia). Court dimensions are 40 x 20 feet, there is no tin or service lines, ceiling is in play, and the ball bounces about 8 times more than that of Squash 57. Racquetball has its own federation (http://www.internationalracquetball.com/) and they too are fighting for Olympic inclusion.

      It is hard for someone in Great Britain to see the need for a name change, but since I travel all over the world playing squash and squash 57 (where I can), I can attest of the need to be united, as squash 57’s rules, strategy, technique is much better aligned with squash than it is with racquetball (which I too play when absolutely necessary–not by preference as it is completely different). Perhaps there is no need for a name change in Great Britain and some neighboring countries which don’t have to deal with the confusion of having a namesake sport which is totally different.

      My feel is that this will be a long term win for those who love squash and its younger, but able brother, now called Squash 57–I truly believe that they are siblings, while racquetball (as explained above) is a very distant cousin.

      Cheers,
      Gene

  2. Andrew August 31, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Presumably the Squash 57 name is to try to link it with the game of Squash. Racketball is a different game to squash; requires a slightly different set of skills. Racketball is a good name. Surely the marketing and promotion of the game of Racketball is the issue. Why connect it to squash?
    It has gradually gained popularity with the UK players who are in general ex squash players and older. I presume we are talking about trying to make it an alternative option to squash for Juniors.
    I DOUBT ANY OF THEM will think this is a good name.

  3. Jojo August 31, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I’ve played squash since I was 8, and racquetball since my early 20’s. I’ve competed in both. I don’t see why the name ‘racketball’ creates any sort of hindrance to the success of the sport. In fact, at my club, the game is now almost more popular than squash with many of the older members getting a new lease of life and seeing the fitness benefits of a game that can give them a better aerobic workout without the pressure on the body that squash creates.

    I think, yet again, the WSF and England Squash have demonstrated their utter incompetence – they’ve not considered the impact this will have on clubs/players or manufacturers. And the name itself is a joke. We’re a ‘squash and racketball club’ – I doubt we have ANY intention of changing our name.

  4. Phil Whitaker September 1, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Squash 57 – – – or – – – Squash Plus

    I contacted England Squash several times in the last year about the rumoured name change and never got a reply – and none of the many Racketball players at my club have been consulted at all, so thanks for that fellas. It takes a committee to think Squash 57 is a good name – I wonder if any of them actually play Racketball? Many players don’t think it needed renaming anyway, but I personally think it does to avoid confusion with racquetball and the awkwardness of saying ‘Racketball racket’ and ‘Racketball ball’!
    Surely we should have suggestions from the actual players themselves and perhaps a vote? There’s a lot of bright guys out there and I’m sure there is a better name to be found.
    For what it’s worth, my suggestion would be:

    Squash Plus

    which could also appear as:

    Squash+

    It reflects the similarity to Squash and also the fact that it’s played with
    a bigger ball and racket, appeals to a bigger audience and is more accessible.
    There would be very little needed in the way of rebranding, which clubs and manufacturers would appreciate and there would be no confusion as to meaning.
    What do you think – time for a peasants’ revolt?

    • Gene Hayes September 18, 2016 at 6:14 am

      Hi Phil, I think Squash Plus or Squash+ would have been a much better alternative. Too bad they did not listen to you!

  5. Freddy Ramirez September 2, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Name changes for rebranding racquet sports are not new here in the states, take Paddle Tennis for instance, which is played almost exactly like tennis. Now called “Pop” Tennis, because of the sound it makes on the paddle. So, it seems finding a connection to something particular in the form or format to make things stand out for promotion is key.

    Yet, adding a number at the end of “Squash” makes it sound more like a company or and address. That said, stranger things have caught on.

    It shouldn’t have been changed until they could have identified the traction for growth in my opinion, i.e. if the WSF had specific plans to introduce the game throughout it’s reach.

    I particularly see the game being an introduction to Squash here in the states, especially for those outside of the normal, Squash set. In the inner cities, kids are more likely to play handball and are more familiar with what a racquetball racket looks and feels like, making the transition easier and more instantaneous.

    If Public Squash can actually get their first court built, I can see “Squash 57” used to introduce local kids to the court, and maybe feed some of them into existing Street Squash type programs.

  6. Siobhan Garland November 14, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Squash+ much better than squash 57! Pity the powers that be never consulted the players.

  7. Antony Butler January 31, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    “That’s a fairly interesting concept you got there, Mike, but the competition is bound to say that it doesn’t add up to a can of beans.”

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