By LEE HORTON
PSA bosses have warned their players: Say anything we don’t like and you’ll be in bother.
In an amazing iron-fist email sent to players today, PSA senior management have demanded that their members stop using social media to comment about topics they deem may bring the game into disrepute.
And they warn: disciplinary action will being taken against any player who breaks their strict set of rules.
The email, sent from the PSA tour director Claudia Schurmann and believed to have been signed off by PSA Chief Executive Officer Alex Gough, tells the players that they are bound by the PSA Social Media Code of conduct.
It is document designed to protect the squash brand gagging any player from criticising almost anything about the game. It does not ban players from Tweeting, but spells out a vast range of areas that they must not comment on.
Several players who contacted SquashMad.Com described it as almost Stalinist in its conception.
The email demanded that no person subject to the PSA Social Media Code of Conduct shall publish or cause to be published (by whatsoever medium); stating four strict rules.
- Criticism of the character of a tournament referee or official or criticism of the manner in which an official has handled a match in which the player has taken part, or any other game under the control of the PSA.
- Criticism of PSA World Tour events based on location, prize money, directors, staffing or any other element which can be interpreted as having a negative reputational impact on the prestige of the event in question.
- Discriminatory or prejudicial comments about any individual involved in the PSA World Tour, be it players, administrators, volunteers or staff, based on the grounds of age, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation or colour or any other comments which may be interpreted as bullying or victimising.
- Comments which can be interpreted as bringing the PSA World Tour, an individual event or the sport of squash, into disrepute.
The warning comes only days after PSA player Ben Coleman (below) was told to apologise on social media site Twitter for comments he made opposing equal prize money for men and women.
Coleman sparked lively Twitter debate, none of it offensive, sexist or bullying yet was ‘advised’ by a senior England squash official to retract his honestly held beliefs. He then re-Tweeted a statement drafted by the official. SquashMad.com attacked the decision to censor him as an unmerited gagging order stifling free speech.
The PSA email made it clear that their comment ban was aimed at activity on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn.
In the week before World No.4 Nick Matthews releases his much anticipated book “Sweating Blood: My Life In Squash” , the PSA edict makes no reference to any sanctions in place to discipline authors of newspaper articles or books.
In an email to SquashMad, Gough gave his reasons for contacting players signed to the PSA. “Our aim is to educate players on the dangers of social media mis-use, educating them on best practice and setting standards for players to follow which is the case in almost every professional sport at present.”
This is a very sensationalist article on what is essentially the updating of the PSA code of conduct to include social media.
Pretty much every organisation on the planet has a code of conduct for its members or employees and they have all recently been updating them to include social media.
It seems perfectly reasonable to me that if you wish to be a member of the PSA and reap the benefits that this provides, you should also refrain from saying or doing anything that harms the organisation and its members. No one is forced to join the PSA and this simply gives the membership the opportunity to sanction anyone who makes comments that are discriminatory or prejudicial. No one on the PSA wishes to be associated with these kinds of views so it is only right that we protect ourselves from them.
Further more, how can there be an “iron-fisted” approach by the management of the PSA? They are employees of the PSA, empowered by the membership to run the organisation. They do not have the authority to force any rules or regulations on the players as they are employed by the players!!
On a lighter note, I did find it amusing that you claimed “Several players who contacted SquashMad.Com described it as almost Stalinist in its conception”. Ignoring the obvious fact that several players using the exact same phrase is extremely unlikely to say the least, this still seems very unlikely considering they should all be aware that this is simply the modernising of existing guidelines issued by one of their employees. This hardly meets the requirements of a Stalinist concept, unless there is another Stalin that I am unaware of, famous for his bureaucracy rather than his totalitarianism?
This is a very poor article on what has otherwise been an excellent new site.
Jonathan…Squash receives little or no national press or TV coverage. Outside the squash fraternity, its players are virtually anonymous.
Other sports promote and thrive from their personalities.
The PSA rule book is attempting to mirror more successful organisations already swamped with publicity and media attention. Restricting the views of players who already have little or no public voice would not appear to be clever.
Item 3 in the list of dos and don’ts is sensible, lawful and must be followed to the letter.
The rest, we would suggest, renders any player neutered from sensible, constructive and interesting comment.
Please read the wording and apply it to real life situations. They are catch-all edicts guaranteed to strangle the life out of any debate.
TV commentators, court side fans and the tea lady could all post views criticising a poor marking decision, a slippy court, an aggressive opponent, abusive fans etc. Everyone can have their say on social media…but not the players.
If you believe this the way forward and a device to assist the promotion of the sport then that’s fine.
For us, as long as the players stay the right side of legal, controversy is all part of sport and should be aired.
That said, we are delighted you are enjoying our new site. The response from squash fans and players has been incredibly encouraging. We appreciate your comment and welcome criticism and support in equal measure.
I get that the PSA need to have some guidance on how its members should be publishing, but these rules are over the top IMO.
I know I tune out when athletes in other sports have to repeat the same cliches because it tows the official line or they fear retribution. I liked that squash was a minority enough sport that the players were Tweeting as themselves as individuals rather than PSA co-branded personas.
Now all the tournaments will have excellent floors because players are not allowed to state otherwise, and there’s unanimous support for equal prize money because players are not allowed to say otherwise and the refs have a tough job, but got every call right because players are not allowed to say otherwise and so on…
“Constructive Criticism” is an essential ingredient of Progress. Despite the enormous leap of how Squash Media has advanced over the past 3 or 4 year, thanks largely to Ziad Al Turki, there is still scant coverage in the National Press. This is NOT due to the present PSA hierachy, but IS due to many years of utter ineptitude that was their unfortunate inheritance. No place in the Olympics is just part of the collateral damage caused by a century of inadequacy. Of the millions of Squash players Worldwide in 185 countries, less than 50 “Professionals” actually earn a reasonable living from the Sport, logically suggesting that “Squash is not a smart career move”! Thankfully, the passion in players outplays the logic and we have a Tour for the best players in the World. Now imagine their frustration when high costs and poor rewards create a situation that hampers progress despite talent.
Whilst I agree that lashing out on Twitter is not acceptable in some cases, the “rumble of discontent” should, nevertheless, be recognised by the PSA and viewed with a more open mind. Faults, Wrinkles, and Problems DO exist, otherwise we would be in the Olympics, the Press,we would have better sponsorship, better venues, and players on the Tour rewarded better than at present.
Poorly thought through by the PSA. The tweets I read didn’t give me the impression that anyone was even that offended by Ben Coleman’s opinion and it did raise a lively debate which was interesting.
Part of the attraction of squash is the passion of its players – why else would anyone put the kind of effort in that the sport requires, in return for very little money? I think it is the wrong path to seek to follow other sports in an attempt to put squash on the same footing. What we want is a sport that is recognised on the world stage, but which retains its individuality and unique value, unfettered in so far as possible by beaurocracy or unecessary rules.
Squash is just beginning to make the kind of waves that could achieve this. I think the PSA needs to recognise that its role is as important to that achievement as that of its players.