Malaysia to host postponed event in April with record prize fund
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Former professional player Azlan Iskandar has stepped in to rescue the Women’s World Championship, which was postponed in controversial circumstances in December.
Azlan is understood to have put together a rescue package in conjunction with the Malaysian sports ministry, and the event is now scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur from April 23-30.
The tournament was initially scheduled to be held in the city centre from December 11-17, with organisers apparently planning a public site close to the Petronas Towers.
However, the promoters, the Hallmark Group, failed to attract any sponsors and the event was called off at short notice, with furious players stranded in Hong Kong with flights booked to Malaysia that were worthless. Hallmark then infuriated the Malaysian government by claiming that the event had been cancelled due to ‘security fears’.
Former Malaysian international Iskandar (right), who reached the world top 10 in 2011 and now runs a sports events company called Sportspin, quickly and quietly began working behind the scenes to rescue the event, raising the necessary funds and meeting the event criteria laid down by the PSA.
According to the Star, Azlan, who retired from professional squash in 2012, confirmed that the tournament will be held entirely at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil.
The building was erected for the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the main show court is named after Malaysian legend Nicol David, who has won the world title eight times.
Sponsorship difficulties are nothing new for this event. Despite Hallmark being awarded the rights to the event for three years, Egypt stepped in to host the 2014 event in Cairo. The PSA are understood to have terminated their agreement with the Australian-based company.
The December postponement was the second in three years. The 2013 edition was moved to March 2014, when Malaysia again stepped in to stage the tournament in Penang.
Crowds of more than 4,000 flocked to the venue fired by the exciting prospect of seeing Nicol David win another title in her home town, but she fell in the semi-finals to Nour El Sherbini, who then lost in the final to England’s Laura Massaro.
PSA: Biggest prize in women’s squash
The PSA today released the following statement claiming the event will have record prize money for females, but without specifying the figure. The statement reads:
The Professional Squash Association (PSA) can confirm that an agreement has been reached with Sportspin Event & Athlete Management that will see the PSA Women’s World Championship take place in Kuala Lumpur this April.
The tournament, which will be the most lucrative in the history of the women’s tour, will be staged by Sportspin in association with the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM), at the Bukit Jalil Stadium from 23-30 April 2016.
“We are pleased to have reached a resolution with all relevant stakeholders that will allow us to stage the event this April,” said PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough.
“The PSA Women’s World Championship is the most important event of the year for our female athletes, and ensuring that they are presented with an opportunity to compete for a world crown has been foremost in our discussions with Sportspin.”
Sportspin Event & Athlete Management Director Azlan Iskandar said: “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with the PSA and look forward to staging the PSA Women’s World Championship in Kuala Lumpur this April.
“I would like to thank the Malaysian Sport’s Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, along with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and SRAM, for their support and collaboration over the past few weeks as we have worked hard towards putting together a framework for a fantastic event.”