Saturday, September 23, 2023

Blog: Selby stirs up a toxic argument

Daryl Selby dives against Karim Darwish in Hong Kong. Picture by STEVE CUBBINS courtesy of



Interesting to see Daryl Selby take issue with some points in a recent Squash UK Blog concerning the often-bitter divide between players and officials,  and then criticise  referees ahead of the forthcoming World Open in Qatar.

He told Rod Gilmour of the Daily Telegraph: “Refereeing is not up to the standard we would like. The game is getting faster and the referees simply haven’t caught up. They are not getting enough exposure and the WSF [World Squash Federation] are not helping themselves.

“The standard of refereeing has gone backwards in the last few years and we are seeing more and more games decided on very poor decisions.”

Selby felt aggrieved at decisions which went against him during last week’s Hong Kong Open second round defeat to Egyptian Karim Darwish.

After posting on Twitter that he had read my Blog report and apologised for not agreeing with most of it, we agreed to meet up to discuss the issue over a cup of tea, hopefully at or before Canary Wharf in March.

Daryl is quoted as saying that he would like to see funds become available to pay for a professional panel of tournament referees.

Much as I like the sentiment, I am not sure how much money would be required to tempt any sane adult into chucking in their job to become a full-time squash official. With current rates of “pay” around £30 a day plus expenses, it would need a large input of funding, or a massive reduction in prize money allocated to PSA members, to meet this requirement.

My own observations are simple. I have friends in both camps, but I feel that the relationship between players and referees, at most of the professional levels, is almost toxic.

As a tournament promoter, I dread the prospect of major matches being decided by bad refereeing decisions.

I am speaking, I guess, mainly from a PSA tournament perspective, because that’s where I have gained most of my experience in managing events over the years.

Daryl did not have room on Twitter to say what he didn’t like about my earlier column, but I will happily repeat this piece of advice to the PSA members. You own the World Tour, so you fix it.

It’s no good complaining about amateur officials, and demanding that they act like full-time professionals without making funding available for the necessary development work.

Lumping the responsibility on to the WSF also seems to be a failure to understand the extent of the PSA’s ownership of the Tour and the parts necessary to make it a success.

I can’t imagine sports impresario Barry Hearn, who has done wonders with televising darts, for example, staging a live TV show and relying on an outside organisation to provide  some of the ingredients.

Barry’s approach to sports event management is very clear:  Own the whole thing from top to bottom and make it work. Don’t franchise out the refereeing and then complain because somebody else’s abilities don’t match up to your own expectations.

I speak to pro players on a regular basis and the majority viewpoint expressed is that they expect all referees to be bad, all of the time. Their hope is that the mistakes even themselves out so that both players suffer in equal measure.

Commenting on another Telegraph squash blog post by Rod Gilmour, concerning squash’s bid for the 2020 Olympics, former referee William Winter blamed player behaviour for the sport’s failure in previous bids.

He wrote: “Current top squash players seem to have got the message so I do very much hope that the Olympics does at long last accept the sport. But we have to thank leading players from particularly Canada and Australia for their dreadful on-court behaviour for the delay.

“Jaques Rogge (a squash player himself) attended the Manchester Commonwealth Games (in 2002) and was appalled and astounded by the antics and arguing with referees.

“New decision making methods do appear to have reduced the arguing but I often wonder whether the players of that generation (Peter Nicol was a stand-out exception) realise that they were so guilty of such awful denigration of their sport.”

Well, that certainly presents two polarised views of the player-referee relationship.

Dialogue is clearly needed to begin a process that could heal the breach. My fear is that some PSA members might say to the current group of referees: “We don’t want any of you.”

If that is the case, where will they find the next generation of world referees?

And here’s a couple of questions for the referees: Why on earth do you do it? Why put up with all that abuse for little or no reward?

I recently asked some professional players if they would like to referee at the PSA Kent Open and receive the same fees and expenses as the qualified referees.

You can guess their response.


I saw an article in the States this week about NFL athletes apparently using Viagra as a performance-enhancing drug, employed to improve their circulation.

In the interests of research, i must admit to having used it in squash.

The problem is, it makes the racket terribly stiff.


One of my Gallery comments in the latest Squash Player magazine concerned racket-head covers.

One manufacturer recently told me they were a waste of money, as players rarely used them. He said he would rather ditch them altogether and offer customers a racket that was £3 cheaper to buy.

What do you think?

Are you for them or against?

Please let me know.

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  1. As expected, both sides, ie, players and referees, refuse to accept any responsibility for the mess. If I were to choose which party is MORE to blame, I would have to side with the players. Whether it likes it or not, the WSF is responsible for framing and amending the Rules of Squash. Just read the current rules, [and also the proposed latest version, if you have access to it], and , as a comparison, just go the FIFA site and read the Laws of Football. The immediate difference, apart from the number of pages, is the huge number of illustrations that clarify the text. In contrast, the Rules of Squash has no illustration, leave aside videos, which clarify the meaning of the numerous vague terms in the rules.
    The overwhelming number of on-court disputes are on account of such a lack of clarity in the interpretation of “weasel words” like “every effort”, “minimal Interference”, and the like. Unless the WSF gets serious about making the rules transparent using the help of actual match videos, players and referees will continue to talk to each other in different languages

    • Good points, as always. Richard Millman is actually working hard trying to produce a simplified version of the rules.
      Totally agree with the need for graphics and video clips to illustrate certain problematic situations.
      If squash players (and would-be referees) can’t understand the rules, then what hope do we have of widening the sport’s appeal on TV to non-squash players?
      Here in Kent we are trying to embrace the problem, and encourage players to take up refereeing. It would be nice to see more “senior” club/team players joining the process.

      • I actually think that the current rules are fine–what is needed is not more simplifying, but rather, a lucid explanation, with help of videos, of the exact meaning of certain terms and phrases.
        To give the most glaring omission–CLEARING is vital for free-flowing squash, but this is the area that neither players nor referees are ‘clear’ about, excuse the pun. Has any referee ever asked himself why the same Gaultier, Matthew or Mossad who has so many interruption-ridden matches with many players, has almost no problem he plays a Shabana or a Ramy? Terms like “blocking”, “affected/prevented swing”, “effort” etc are thrown around with a Humpty-Dumpty like insouciance. Is it any wonder that players feel incensed at the inevitable inconsistency of some of the decisions? ,
        Squash may be a simple game in essence, but with a myriad of complexities within. Over-simplifying the rules may end up in dumbing down the game to a level where the “chess” element is reduced so much that it ceases to fascinate.

  2. Blaming squash’s non acceptance into past Olympics on a couple players from Canada and Australia is one of the most ingnorant things I have ever heard. These are the players who helped revolutionize and raise the profile of the sport. Saying that the way they played was an awful denigration of the sport is ridiculous. It’s short sighted people like you who have helped stunt the growth of such a great game.

  3. There is no reason to blame anyone. Everyone is trying to be better at their respective job. Video replay is a huge advancement in the game. In my opinion referees have improved a lot. Players behavior has improved but there will always be controversy and that is part of the intrigue of the sport. Sports such as football(soccer) and basketball are in the Olympics and are full of physical play, questionable desicions and arguments with referees but continue to entertain and grow in popularity. There is no reason squash can’t do the same. I do take exception to comments that try to point the finger at one or two players as the reason we are still not in the Olympics. The past is the past, let’s hope the future has squash in the 2020 Olympics!

  4. Well here we go again!
    This is a never ending story and we keep ducking for firm actions. A couple of years ago I tried to initiate a drive towards fair play and my ambition was to keep it going BUT I guess I realized how naive it was when I saw some players using their “power” to intimidate refs to change decisions taken or driving some refs to the brink of tears.
    To see pros not recognizing a ball to be a double bounce or to start arguing about very obvious strokes. Opening doors and starting long arguments. Why not start trying to be generous? Why not start to be honest?
    We must be much tougher against players that “attack” the refs. As I see there should be a “no tolerance” approach.
    Take the refs out and let them handle it themselves? Well why not, but I guess it will be more talk than play.
    Change the culture from kids all the way up to senior pros to behave in a decent way, recognizing the fact that our sport is unique and therefore require players with unique mental abilities.
    Much clearer rules on Let/Stroke situations is a must. Yes, I know that most of you dislike the attempt in US to go for No Let/Stroke. I can only judge from my limited experience watching one tournament and it was great to see the added element of actually talking less and trying harder.
    NO that is perhaps not the answer but we have to do something about it.
    Another issue is of course the mere speed of the game. The rackets generate more and more power and takes less and less precision to hit the ball really hard. This of course creates added difficulties for players and refs alike.
    Is it time to slow the ball down even further?
    Is it time to go back to tighter rules on racket head sizes?
    The only message I want to send is that we must dare to look at ALL aspects of this problem if we really are serious about bringing our sport to a larger audience.
    I would though like to add that our sport is not and will never be a sport for the very big audiences irrespective if we talk about live or broadcasted in any way. We can though be MUCH bigger!!!
    Let’s aim for the Olympics in a really professional way! That must mean co-operating and sharing in many different forums.
    I would definately be prepared to sponsor our sport again but I must see an honest drive forward towards an agreed Vision for the future before I wire any money.

  5. The biggest challenge in squash refereeing is that even with the unattainable, the faultless official, some calls are fifty fifty. One of the two players will be likely to find fault. Could s/he have reached that drop shot? Did s/he prevent safe access to the front wall? We all know the situations. The resulting decisions have big potential to – almost justifiably – upset the player who loses the call. Three referees and video replays are a huge step forward, and represent progress from the official side. We also need progress from players. Without that – and how likely are we to see a change from players – there has to be a freely applied sanction for arguing.
    In rugby football the sanction is an often vital ten metres.
    How much arguing is there in rugby?
    Virtually none.
    In soccer sanctions are rarely applied.
    How much arguing is there in soccer?
    It is endemic.
    Players will shut up and accept perceived wrongs if there is a real threat of losing another point on top of the one they are arguing about.
    And if we stop stirring things up we may even get more consistent decisions.

  6. Yes some Australians were very badly behaved but officials also allowed J Power to swear on court. Officials must be able to silence a player who is constantly discussing decisions. The PST has moved forward whereas the PSA hasn’t.

  7. I think the responsibility mainly lies with the players. Seems to be the same culprits time and time again. The 3 referee system has taken a lot of the arguing out of the game but it has also taken the ability to warn / direct the players also regarding blocking etc.
    I notice the big differences from Scotland where I used to play all my squash to Italy where I play now. Before the standard of refereeing was annoying but not a problem. Here, where the players ask for EVERYTHING the standard of refereeing starts to play a big part in the outcome of the result. Simply 90% more decisions to make results in more errors from their part.
    With regards to the current PSA the refs just need to go out an make an example of Gaultier, darwish, mosaad etc. punish the blocking and we may see some free flowing squash worthy of the Olympics.

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