PLAYERS AND REFEREES: COLLISION WARNING
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.
VIAGRA ON THE MENU
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.
IT’S A COVER-UP
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.