Corby Squash Campaign Gathers Momentum through Historic Team Match
By JAMES ROBERTS – Squash Mad Reporter
A squash team from Corby, a town in the East Midlands of England now approaching a population of almost 70,000 people, making it the largest place in the UK with no squash courts, will tomorrow travel to Brackley at the opposite end of Northamptonshire to play its first match in over 8 years.
This match is the result of the Corby Squash Campaign, which I founded last year to act as a catalyst to build interest in squash across the local area and hopefully then lead to some courts being developed in the town. Having lived in the area 25 years ago, I used to enjoy playing squash at the old Corby Pool courts, but this was demolished back in 2009 to make way for a shiny new Olympic sized pool as part of the town’s extensive regeneration plans. However, squash courts unfortunately did not feature as part of this replacement, and with no private members squash club in the town, Corby therefore had lost its only courts. When I returned to live in Corby, I was stunned to discover that Corby did not possess a single squash court, given its size and also ambitions to grow towards 100,000 population wise. This was a situation which I could not simply sit back and allow to continue …
The Campaign soon attracted the interest of our local MP, Tom Pursglove, who came along to a World Squash Day event we had organised at Uppingham School Sports Centre back in October, these being the closest courts to Corby. Tom was impressed watching the junior players being put through their paces and promised to support the Campaign in any way he could, which included asking a question on the floor of the House of Commons, which he duly did in November last year. Answering his question was none other than the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom MP, who mentioned the success of a squash club located in her South Northants constituency, Brackley Squash Club, suggesting that Corby players might want to come to Brackley ‘to get some training’!
One thing led to another and our friends at Brackley duly laid down the gauntlet! This meant that we had to raise a Corby team to take on Brackley. I currently play my squash at Market Harborough Squash Club just over the border into Leicestershire, which like Brackley is a thriving club with a growing membership base. The Club also competes in both Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Leagues, so we regularly visit the various clubs across Northants, meaning that I have got to know quite a few players, including some who live in Corby. We have therefore managed to assemble a group of 8 keen Corby based players to form a team, some of whom like me play at Harborough, but we also have others who play at Kettering and Uppingham.
One of the first things I did when I decided to start the Corby Squash Campaign was to design a logo. The logo is based on the Corby Council font, featuring a ‘swoosh’ emanating from the C, like in the Council’s logo but also featuring a squash ball of course. For us, this is important as this font features a lot on things that identify Corby as a town, such as the signage as you enter. This way, we already feel part of the town’s identity and the people who live here can instantly recognise that as well. The Campaign thus far has largely been run on social media to build interest and we have succeeded already in amassing good followings on both Facebook and Twitter.
Having the identity and logo has made it easy for us to then organise something all teams need – kit! For our match on Saturday therefore, we have team shirts which proudly display the Corby Squash logo, and are also personalised with the players’ names. The kit is produced by well-known squash and team sports kit brand, iPROSPORTS based in Sutton Coldfield and run by England Squash Masters team member, Andrew Murray. We were also delighted to secure sponsorship by iDARE SPORTS, the UK Distributors of the exciting and growing squash brand, Eye Rackets. IDARE has donated some of their products, which will be used in a prize draw for the players competing in the team match on Saturday.
The build up to this match has seen a flurry of media activity, including interviews by myself and the Chairman of Brackley Squash Club, Andy Bright, on BBC Radio Northampton, articles in the local paper, the Northants Telegraph, and a variety of other local publications. Andrea Leadsom MP, who will be the guest of honour on Saturday, was also asked about it by Stuart Linnell, the presenter of BBC Radio Northampton’s Breakfast Show, earlier this week. She obviously nailed her colours to the mast in terms of which team she will be supporting, but nonetheless wished our Campaign well and thanked Tom Pursglove for seeing fit to raise the issue of the lack of courts in Corby.
As for the match itself, we have 2 teams of 8, who will face each other in a traditional team match ‘strings format’. Each team has therefore ranked players 1-8, meaning there will be 8 singles matches. However, we have also decided to embrace some of the innovations that have recently been seen with squash scoring formats, following the example set recently by St. George’s Hill with their excellent ‘England v Rest of the World’ Test Match. Our team match will therefore follow the same format, with 3 game matches (not best of 3 – 3 games will be played per match), PAR scoring to 15, with each player’s points being totalled to count towards an overall team total, which will determine the eventual winning team. There is also a bonus point up for grabs per match for the player of the winning team. We were impressed with this format at the St. George’s Hill event and are sure that it will add some additional spice and interest to our event, as it did with theirs.
One thing for sure, and this is the case in any team squash event I have ever taken part in, is that although there will undoubtedly be a competitive edge to this team match, the accent this Saturday will be on the camaraderie and having fun. Andy at Brackley has also organised a proper trophy, so that will certainly up the ante in terms of the competition and spur everyone taking part to give their all for their respective teams. However, after the last ball has been struck, the points totalled and the trophy presented to the victorious team, we are 100% sure that everyone will remain good friends over a few pints in a local hostelry!
We are already talking about organising a return fixture for this match in the Spring, this time in the North of the County, and now that a trophy exists, it may perhaps become at least an annual event. What we do hope, however, is that it helps us to highlight the issue of the lack of courts in Corby and continues to build interest in our sport. At present, those of us who live in Corby and are passionate about the sport are prepared to travel to where we currently need to in order to be able to enjoy the game we love. However, without courts in the town, we are never going to be in a position to properly develop squash and encourage the Corby population to give ‘the world’s healthiest sport’ a try.
We must therefore continue our campaigning to obtain some courts. We have already held a number of interesting conversations about potential locations for courts and have some promising leads, but ultimately it will come down to raising the necessary finance and obtaining external funding partners. Until then, we will continue to raise awareness of the issue through our social media and general media activities and through further events like this team match. In addition, we will look to plan some events where non-squash players can participate and try squash for the first time – watch this space.
The campaign in Parliament will also continue through the good work of our local MP Tom Pursglove, who has promised to ask for a wider debate about the many health benefits of squash and how the sport could be further promoted and developed. We are therefore encouraging everyone across the country to get in touch with their local MPs to join this debate, whether they have concerns about squash provision in their areas, or can highlight beacons of success. This is a real chance to put squash in the spotlight given its many benefits and potentially provide some political momentum towards better funding and support for its development. Look out for further social media activity around this in particular, using the hashtags #SquashDebate and #SquashBenefits.
For now, we look forward to tomorrow’s historic match at Brackley and hope that we can at the very least do the town proud. A full match report will follow on Squash Mad that is for sure and may the best team win!
For ‘live updates’ about tomorrow’s match and to keep up to date generally with the Corby Squash Campaign, follow us on social media as follows:
Twitter: @jimbob1965 https://twitter.com/jimbob1965
Pictures by : James Roberts