Sunday, March 26, 2023

EXCLUSIVE: Gough escapes with a warning after PSL inquiry into bust-up with referee

England Squash make secret ruling after PSA chief’s bust-up with ref Whiteley
By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)

ALEX GOUGH, the PSA chief executive, has been handed a warning by England Squash and Racketball after complaints about his behaviour during a Premier Squash League match earlier this season.

Gough was playing for Chichester away to Surrey Health on November 5 when spectators claimed he mouthed obscenities to referee Malcolm Whiteley and also produced obscene hand gestures.

England Squash held an investigation after receiving written complaints from witnesses who were upset that children in the front row could hear the alleged swearing.

However, in a remarkable decision, ESR refused to make their findings public. Their head of competition and events, Chris Nutley, who runs the PSL, told Squash Mad: “This is an internal matter and the results will remain confidential.”

Mr Nutley had earlier ignored several requests for information from Squash Mad.

However, sources within the PSL have revealed that England Squash have written to Mr Gough (pictured above) and “reminded him of his responsibilities to act within the spirit of the game and be mindful of the fact that a mixed audience is likely to include children”.

The statement, seen by Squash Mad, adds: “After considering all the information and reports it has been concluded that there is insufficient evidence in regards to the accusations of swearing and hand gestures towards the match referee and no further action will be taken.

“Details will be kept on file for a further 12 months should any further incidents be reported.” England Squash’s attempts to keep the results of their decision a secret will be met with incredulity by many players and observers.

The governing body’s attempted cloak of secrecy is in complete contrast to a recent disciplinary decision against young England player Charles Sharpes, which ESR made public. He was banned for two months following a controversial British Under-23 final match against Ben Coleman, a ruling that was publicised by England Squash.

Gough, a former world ranked number five player, lost his match 3-1 to Ben Ford and denied swearing at Whiteley. He said: “He was upset with me speaking to him. I categorically did not swear at him.”

Mr Gough opened the door put his head out and said: ‘It’s because of people like you that squash didn’t get into the Olympics.’

However, Whiteley said: ”At five all in the first game I called a couple of lets that Mr Gough felt should have been strokes. He obviously wasn’t happy with those decisions.

“He opened the door, stepped out and said ‘Do you actually know the rules of squash?’. I could and possibly should have given him a conduct stroke but decided to give him the benefit as it was early on in the match.

CLAIMS: Ref Malcolm Whiteley

“In the second game we had similar issues. Ben appeared happy with the decisions but again Mr Gough opened the door put his head out and said:

‘It’s because of people like you that squash didn’t get into the Olympics.’

“I admit I was extremely angry with that comment. I felt like ripping my shirt off and giving him a slap. But that was a momentary emotion. I have worked hard to become a good referee and calmed myself quickly and ensured the game went ahead.”

Shortly after that flare-up came the alleged incident of swearing and hand gesturing.

Whiteley continued:” Out the corner of my eye I saw Mr Gough put his hand high on the back-wall glass appearing to wipe sweat from his hand. The crowd then erupted and many people told me he called me a ‘F***ing W**ker’ with the appropriate wrist action. They said it was disgusting, although I couldn’t be 100 per cent sure what was said and done.

“I couldn’t take action if I was not completely sure. Everyone else saw it but I wasn’t totally sure so I had to continue with the game. Maybe he was being clever doing it while I was not looking at him. He knows all the tricks.”

Squash Mad last week emailed PSA press officer Nathan Clarke for a response. His reply yesterday (Monday) said: “Having seen the documentation myself, I wouldn’t construe it’s contents as that of a warning letter.

 “As you rightly say the ESR investigation has concluded and Alex wasn’t found to be guilty of any alleged offence – and as is standard procedure in most sports organisations, his appearance before the panel will indeed be kept on file.”

Action picture of Alex Gough courtesy of

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  1. Not being transparent in a situation like this is really strange and not good for our sport. What Mr Gough did was just not acceptable and of course he should get a proper reprimand.
    I’m not after Mr Gough but I think that it’s vital for our sport to be cristal clear about what is and what is not accepted on the court.

  2. This decision suggests that the witnesses are deaf, blind, untruthful, or perhaps simply have a dislike for the Welsh ! ‘Closing ranks’ at the highest level is not uncommon in business, Politics for example ( with North Korea being a recent exception ! ), but, I agree, it is not healthy in Sport. What action, if any, is the Chichester PSL Team management taking over this issue ?

  3. Quite obviously, it appears, the Olympic nightmare is still haunting the Sport. So, what is being done about THAT ? Vero was unsuccessful, but got paid, fortunately by a generous benefactor as I’ve been given to understand. No heads have rolled, no-one had a drop in salary, no statement from Vero, the WSF, or any other Governing Body about the next attempt, if there is to be one ! This is SO not football ! Blame cannot be entirely allocated to the present heirachy, there is a legacy stretching back many years, and, unlike Commercial Businesses, crucial roles do not appear to be dependent upon performance or productivity. Bullet-proof jobs are not healthy for the progress of an organisation. The same may be said of the IOC, that unwaveringly rattles along a wavering path of mysterious decisions, while the Athletes around the World suffer, or benefit, from actions that frequently lack logic.

  4. Absolutely, Mark. It was a most unfortunate criticism to level at someone, considering Gough’s position. I’m sure he must be very embarrassed. I wonder if he has apologised to Whiteley.

    But, squash should not be licking its wounds. There is a good chance that the sport could still be included in 2020. The crucial thing is to identify the problems that are an obstacle to inclusion (IOC politics aside) and do something effective about them NOW.

    Organisations always seem to behave like this. The no letting policy during the Hong Kong Open was a good example, I think – this seems to have been intended to cut down delays by encouraging players to play the ball. Much needed, but it only caused havoc for two reasons: the PSA clearly hadn’t tried it out first and just rolled the policy out in a major tournament and they clearly didn’t tell the players!

    This is typical of the way large organisations operate. They close ranks in order to maintain control. We need to send out a clear message that this is neither good enough, nor what we want in squash. What everyone wants is for the sport to progress and a closed shop mentality will always stand in the way of that happening.

  5. Of course no one wants to damage the sport or individuals.
    But what major organization would tolerate behavior that besmirched their reputation and then simply hush it up and sweep it under the carpet?
    The only heads that roll in Squash it seems are the ones that go against the administrations policy/ambitions. I don’t recall Dave Pearson acting out in public but he ain’t the England coach any more. Who’d he annoy? And is it typical of ESR to let the ‘Coach of the decade’ go?
    Participation numbers in British squash are down –
    whose head is going to roll for that. Can you hear the scuffling of feet closing ranks? Open and honest policy will include more willing minds and at the same time the adoption of meritocracy as a system will remove dead weight and keep those who are motivated/productive focused.
    I believe in constructive criticism not just sniping – but it’s tough when the politics involved appear to be the politics of cronyism rather than evolution.
    I hope I am proven wrong.

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