Monday, July 15, 2024

England Squash launch participation scheme to combat fall in playing numbers

Essex juniors are growing in numbers
Essex juniors are growing in numbers

Sport England back new ESR Chief Executive’s plans for growth with renewed funding

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

Latest figures show that fewer than 200,000 people are playing squash in England every week, but plans to boost participation have resulted in renewed funding for England Squash and Racketball from Sport England.

England Squash & Racketball (ESR) have been given a one-year funded award from Sport England after ‘demonstrating significant progress’ over the past few months.

Sport England have adopted a “get-tough” policy with many sports federations in recent years, demanding significant results in return for continued funding. Tennis, as well as squash, has been warned that funding may be reduced unless participation figures improve.

International success, spearheaded by Nick Matthew and Laura Massaro becoming world champions at the same time, was obviously a key factor in funding for the elite performance department, but Sport England’s demand for change resulted in the exit of ESR chief executive Nick Rider.  

ESR_KeirWorthHis successor, Keir Worth (right), the former Head of Coaching and Performance, was brought back from a new job at British Shooting to oversee a complete restructuring of the ESR staff designed to improve on figures revealed by the latest Sport England Active People Survey, which shows that 196,500 people play squash or racketball at least once a week, down from 290,000 in 2010.

A statement from ESR said: The funding, announced today alongside publication of the latest Sport England’s Active People Survey figures, will help ESR to introduce a new participation strategy and continue the restructure of the organisation, a process started with the appointment of Keir Worth as Chief Executive Officer in June 2014.

ESR CEO Keir Worth said: “We are delighted that Sport England have recognised the recent progress we have made and will continue to support us over the next year as we develop our plans further. It’s been a difficult time for ESR with an organisation-wide restructure but we now feel that we’re in a really strong position to deliver change.

“However we are fully aware of the challenges we face and know we must continue to work hard to ensure that we deliver at the level required. While we are disappointed the latest Active People figures show a further fall in participation in squash and racketball, we are confident that the plans and new team we are putting in place, combined with the support of Sport England, will enable us to continue to make the progress required to reverse this decline.” added Worth.

The latest Sport England survey results reveal that 15.6 million adults now play sport at least once a week, an increase of 1.6 million since 2005. However, 58% of adults still do not take part in any sport or activity.

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