Twelve years ago last month, I watched from non-plastic, comfy seats in Rotterdam’s spacious Luxor Theatre as Nick Matthew defended his world title on the glass court perched on stage.
The final lasted 93 minutes and there was no curtain drop at half-way, bar an injury time out to beaten opponent Greg Gaultier. This was all-action drama and tears flowed as Matthew came down the steps to embrace his family in the stalls.
This was sport on a different stage but one which fits so brilliantly for squash. And so the British Open has now followed the same route with its own curtain call, following Wednesday’s news that the venerable old tournament will move from its decade-long staging post in Hull to Birmingham.
This move undoubtedly needed to happen. When the late Assem Allam inked a three-year deal back in 2011 to bring the Open to Hull after a tumultuous spell when the tournament wasn’t played for two years, little did we know that it would reside in Yorkshire up until its final outing this year.
Allam’s much-needed backing and generosity most certainly gave the British Open stability, but at a time when sports are fighting for eyeballs (and its very future for that matter), the hope now is that the tournament can elevate itself with this Birmingham deal across two venues, which also includes the early rounds at Edgbaston Priory.
Staging the back end of the tournament at Birmingham Rep is a stellar move.
The right balance will have to be struck of course. The Dubai Opera House was an incredible venue for the PSA Finals, but didn’t quite seem to work. Perhaps due to the vast hall, stalls beneath the stage and late finishes.
The Rep has tiered and, more importantly, steeped seating and seems perfect to host squash and a gladiatorial environment fit for the sport. Roll on 2023.