‘We could not ignore security reports’ says England Squash chief
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
England Squash, Squash Canada and US Squash have all confirmed that their decision to pull their squads out of the Men’s World Team Championship in Cairo was in response to security alerts warning against travel to Egypt.
The three nations have been joined by Germany and France, scene of horrific terrorist attacks on the night of November 13.
Keir Worth, chief executive of England Squash, revealed that the decision to pull out of the World Teams was a difficult one to make, but they could not ignore high-level security advice.
He said: “After speaking to the WSF to officially withdraw our team from the Championships there are a number of things I would like to make clear.
“Firstly, we are incredibly disappointed for the England players (Nick Matthew, Daryl Selby, James Willstrop and Chris Simpson) who are all really experienced travellers. They are players with hundreds of caps between them and, of course, England are the current world champions. Perhaps many of them (because of their ages) will not have the opportunity to play this event again.
“We also feel disappointed for the Egyptian Federation who stepped in at the last minute to stage the tournament.
“We also feel disappointment for the WSF. We are aware that they do not have huge resources. They stepped in and were able to move the event to Egypt after it was no longer feasible in Kuwait.
“Perhaps they underestimated the strength of feeling from many of the players.
“They took the World Junior Championships away from Cairo a few months ago and people are obviously nervous about travelling to Egypt.
“We sought advice from an independent security agency who look after various England sports teams’ travel and security operations.
“They provided their research in a report and we have consulted with a number of other nations.
“We have spoken to the WSF and requested details of the security arrangements. We have looked at the risks and the security on-site. They do not meet the necessary requirements.
“We do not feel the security plan was sufficiently detailed for all aspects of the event. It would be foolish not to take the advice of the agencies advising us on security matters.
“We have consulted with the players throughout and they have expressed their own concerns. We also have coaching and physio staff who would have been accompanying the players and obviously we took their views as well.
“Of all the group, Chris Simpson is the only one who is not a father. All those with families and young children have obvious concerns.
“We asked the WSF to postpone the tournament and hold it next year. We do not feel it needed to be rushed, which we felt it was on this occasion.
“As the game gets bigger, the game needs to adapt and as a sport we need the federations to work together more effectively.
“Let’s have an open forum and work together, with the PSA, WSF and the national federations all working in harmony for the good of the sport.”
Regarding the likely cancellation of the Women’s World Championship in Malaysia, Worth added: “If that deal falls through we will see what we can do to help. It is a real body blow for the players and the PSA Tour. I know Alex Gough and Lee Beachill, and the PSA Board, will be trying hard to find a solution and we will do all we can to help if required.”
Here are the official announcements from Squash Canada and US Squash, highlighting security concerns as their reasons for withdrawing from the Men’s World Team Championships. Both governments have issued travel alerts concerning trips to Egypt.
SQUASH CANADA – (Ottawa, ON) Squash Canada has announced that it has withdrawn the Canadian entry to the World Squash Federation’s (WSF) 2015 World Men Team Championship, scheduled December 12-18 in Cairo, Egypt, amid security concerns for its athletes and team support personnel.
The Government of Canada has a current travel advisory for Egypt, “advising against non-essential travel to Egypt due to the unpredictable security situation.” Squash Canada sought and reviewed security measures for the event, conducted a lengthy and comprehensive review of all information solicited from legal advisors, insurers and government agencies, and concluded that the inherent risk in the country cannot be mitigated to an acceptable level.
Four other prominent nations have likewise withdrawn in the last 24 hours – England [seeded 2], France , Germany  and USA .
The Championships were originally planned for Kuwait. On October 30th of this year, the WSF advised that Kuwait would no longer host the event. Weeks earlier, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had suspended the Kuwait national Olympic committee for the second time in five years. The WSF in turn suspended the Kuwait Squash Federation, and immediately relocated the event to Cairo, Egypt.
Since the announcement of the change in location of the championship, Squash Canada has implored the WSF to re-schedule and re-locate the event to a region which holds no heightened security risk, after which Canada would reconsider its participation.
Earlier this year, the WSF re-located the 2015 World Junior Championships from Egypt to The Netherlands due to travel concerns expressed by many of the participating countries.
“I assure our athletes and community that the decision was not taken lightly”, explained Squash Canada Executive Director, Dan Wolfenden. “We understand the years of commitment our athletes have made to the sport, the preparation they have put in, and the meaningfulness of wearing ‘Canada’ on their backs on the world stage. The safety and well-being of the team remained at the forefront of our difficult decision.”
It is a similar story from US Squash, who published the following statement.
US Squash has informed the World Squash Federation (WSF) today that it will withdraw from the 2015 World Men’s Team Championship scheduled to begin December 12 in Cairo, Egypt.
Notice was provided in a letter from England Squash noting that the U.S. as well as defending champions England, along with Canada, Germany and France would all withdraw due to security concerns.
In the letter, WSF was urged to re-schedule and re-locate the event.
Originally planned for Kuwait, the event was quickly relocated to Egypt several weeks ago after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Kuwait national Olympic committee for the second time in five years. The WSF in turn suspended the Kuwait Squash Federation, and sought a new host for the upcoming event.
Only days after the announcement to relocate to Egypt, the Russian commercial jet departing Sharm el-Sheikh was bombed, and soon after, the terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris and Bamako, Mali took place. Last week, the U.S. State Department issued an unusual worldwide travel alert for U.S. citizens through February 2016 due to possible risks and increased terrorist threats.
In reaching out directly to the Egyptian Squash Association regarding withdrawing the U.S. team, US Squash President and CEO Kevin Klipstein wrote, “We understand the considerable work and preparation involved in hosting this event, and had no intent on creating an inconvenience in any way…Given [the State Department’s] advisory and our general concern for the safely and well-being of the team, we made this difficult decision to withdraw.”
Earlier this year, WSF re-located the 2015 World Junior Championships from Egypt to Holland due to travel concerns expressed by many of the participating countries.