Squash Mad

How squash is coping with Coronavirus pandemic

As many nations order courts to close, some UK clubs carry on with hygiene advice for members
Squash Mad Reporting Team: ALAN THATCHER, JAMES ROBERTS, ALEX WAN

Squash clubs across the globe are taking a mixed approach in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some are closing their doors completely, while others are staying open and trusting members to follow health and safety guidelines.

Following the postponement of the PSA World Tour until the end of April, and the likelihood that the move will need to be extended, most national federations across the world are adopting government instructions or advice to close down sports facilities and avoid social gathering.

In the UK, most national squash federations have cancelled forthcoming tournaments but left local leagues to the jurisdiction of county or regional associations. Many counties have ordered an immediate cancellation of fixtures as teams prepare for end-of-season showdowns to resolve championships, relegation and promotion issues. Others are allowing clubs to continue. Some team members are desperately trying to find ways to squeeze in fixtures.

Many clubs have chosen to enforce a complete shutdown and have closed courts and social facilities, which will result in significant revenue losses.

However, others are staying open and instructing members to follow advice about hygiene.

Freelance coaches will also face a considerable loss of earnings.

We have received a number of responses from clubs, coaches and federations in different parts of the world.

We will happily provide a platform to share information to help clubs survive these unprecedented times.

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An Australian reader writes:
I imagine Australia is reacting the same way that most countries are. Council-owned facilities are closing, privately owned ones are staying open. No telling how bad it is going to get here. Quite impressed how many “experts” are popping up…

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England Squash’s response to the COVID-19 situation

To the England Squash community: At England Squash, the safety and wellbeing of the squash community is of utmost importance to us. Given the evolving COVID-19 situation, we have listened to advice from the Government, and Sport England and are basing our response on the best interests of everyone involved in the sport.

To highlight some of the action we are taking:

17.03.20: England Squash coaching courses: All England Squash coaching courses have been postponed until 24th April.

16.03.20: Premier Squash League (PSL): All remaining PSL matches including the semi-finals, relegation and promotional play-offs and final are suspended.

16.03.20: England Squash junior circuit: All sanctioned competitions are suspended until 24 April.

16.03.20: Masters Inter-County Championships: The event has been postponed subject to further review/reschedule.

16.03.20: England Squash Squads: All England Squash talent pathway and performance squad sessions are cancelled. This includes all Aspire, England Potential, England Development, England Academy and Senior England Squads.

13.03.20: Junior 5 Nations: The event has been cancelled due to withdrawal by participating nations.

13.03.20: National School Championships finals: Following a significant number of schools withdrawing, we are postponing this year’s finals (18-20th March) until further notice. We will be looking at rescheduling the finals whilst also taking into consideration the upcoming exam periods. All competing schools have been emailed.

13.03.20: PSA World Tour events: All PSA World Tour and PSA Challenger Tour events taking place up to and including the week commencing April 27 will not take place during this period.

Please note that there are no plans, at this stage, to cancel small scale activity, including coaching courses. Decisions relating to county league competition and other localised team squash will be made by, and are the responsibility of, county associations and local organisers.

We encourage everyone involved in squash in England to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of infection by following Public Health England and government guidance. Information on the current recommendations is available on the NHS.UK website and the Public Health England blog.

The England Squash team remain available 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday; please do get in touch if you have any questions or concerns: [email protected]

Thank you for your continued support.

Keir Worth, CEO, England Squash

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England Squash advice on community squash:

For those who wish to continue playing squash, we encourage clubs and players to please follow the guidelines on social distancing provided by the UK Government.

We would encourage all players to follow the widely available guidance of public health with regard to maintaining good hygiene to avoid spreading of the coronavirus virus. Information on how to do this is provided on the NHS.UK website, with additional information available on the Public Health England blog.

All players, coaches and referees are responsible for their own squash equipment and we would encourage everyone to ensure they are clean and not shared with other people.We strongly advise clubs and venues to ensure washing facilities have appropriate provision of hygiene products.

The Government has advised that hand hygiene should be strongly promoted and encouraged, and equipment and facilities should be thoroughly cleaned and wiped down as usual following use. Materials including posters for Public Health England’s campaign to help stop the spread of viruses can be downloaded from their resources website.

If any players, referees or coaches are feeling unwell, please follow the Government’s advice to self-isolate and therefore do not take part in squash-related activities or visit squash facilities. 

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Squash Canada statement:
In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19), and after consulting with authorities and host organizing committees, the Squash Canada Board of Directors has taken the difficult decision to postpone five Canadian Championships scheduled in April and May 2020.

The organization recognizes the importance of the Championships to the athletes. The decision has been taken reluctantly, but it is, however, taken foremost with the interest of the health of athletes, officials, volunteers, staff and all involved. It is also made as a socially responsible step given the current situation that is on an unfortunate escalating daily trend.

Contributing to the decision was that three of the Championships were ‘open’ events that included international entries, predominantly from the United States but also from different countries around the world.

Squash Canada will continue to monitor the situation and liaise with authorities and its host organizing committees to do everything reasonably and safely possible to re-schedule this season’s remaining Championships later in the year.

The following Championships are postponed until further notice:

Canadian Doubles Championships, Toronto, ON, April 2-5, 2020
Canadian Junior Championships, Victoria, BC, April 23-26, 2020
Canadian Mixed Doubles Championships, Markham, ON, April 23-26, 2020
Canadian Squash Championships, Niagara on the Lake, ON, May 5-9, 2020
Canadian U23 Championships, Niagara on the Lake, ON, May 7-10, 2020

Participants will be fully refunded respective entry fees. Squash Canada will assess the implications of postponement on various national and international team selection processes, and will communicate any amendments to criteria as may now be required. If and when Championships are rescheduled, Squash Canada has determined that participants’ age eligibility as at the original scheduled date of the event would apply so that no athlete loses the opportunity to compete in a given age division.

The organization shares in the disappointment but hopes participants will understand that its decisions are rooted in prioritizing the health and well-being of members, visitors and their families.

Dan Wolfenden, Executive Director, Squash Canada

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Squash BC (British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada):

Dear Squash Community,

Please be advised that all sanctioned tournaments and leagues have been postponed indefinitely.

Squash BC continues to monitor the latest advisories on COVID-19, specifically from the Public Health Authority of Canada (PHAC), the Canadian Sport Institute (CSI), Squash Canada and the Sport Medicine Advisory Committee, who Sport Canada has designated as ‘the’ expert group to advise Canadian sport at the national level. The Canadian Sport Medicine Advisory Committee will issue an update every 48 hours

Squash BC values its players, coaches, officials, and volunteers and are putting our squash community’s health and safety first.

We will collaborate with clubs and leagues to support postponed events.

Nancy Thompson, Executive Director, Squash BC 

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Lynne De Wet, Racket Sports Director at the ACAC Club at Short Pump in Richmond, Virginia, USA writes:
Our club ACAC Short Pump, which is one of a chain of 12 clubs in the USA, closed on Monday and the hope was that it will open after a week, but I doubt that. We have two singles courts and a doubles court.

As regards remuneration, the company will be paying 75% of my hourly rate and no money for commissioned lessons which we usually get at a 60% rate.

Pretty much all the clubs with squash courts are closed in Richmond, Virginia.

This is a tough time for all full-time coaches.  

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Edgbaston Priory Club, Birmingham, England:

The senior management team will continue to meet daily at 10am to review operations in light of the official advice and the rapidly changing situation and will provide updates to members.

Please keep in touch with our daily updates via email, social media and via the Reception team.

CHANGES TO OPERATIONS
The following changes have been made to our opening times and services:

OPERATIONAL HOURS:
The Club will change its operational hours to 6.30am to 9pm
The Bar will open from 7am to 9pm
Food will be served from 10am to 7pm (last orders at 6.30pm)

SQUASH:
All adult coaching is cancelled until further notice
In line with the advice to schools, junior coaching will continue for the rest of this current term until further notice.
Club Squash and Racketball Nights are cancelled until further notice. However, the courts will be available to book.

Mike Edwards, Head of Squash and Racketball at Edgbaston Priory, added:
We are postponing and cancelling all events which promote groups of people until the beginning of May, to be reviewed again further down the line.

Not associating staff with any group fitness or coaching is a key message from us, other than with kids – and this will change when schools close as well.

I have sent this link to all my coaching team:

https://www.gov.uk/self-employment-and-universal-credit

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From Tunbridge Wells Squash Club, Kent, England:
Dear members: Following the announcement by the Prime Minister that people need to avoid any non-essential contact with others, it is with a heavy heart that the Committee feels duty-bound to recommend that members not play squash at the Club until further notice (or meet at the Club for any other reason).

In line with our understanding of the announcement, all coaching, competitions, leagues and social groups at the Club will stop with immediate effect. The bar will remain closed.

We are not telling members that you must not play, but it is possible this will become the case as further clarity or instructions are provided by the government or England Squash.

We hope that you understand why we have decided on this course of action and very much hope that the Club will be able to get back to normal before too long.

Any cancellation fees for courts cancelled in the coming days will be reimbursed. In the meantime, the Committee members hope that you and your families stay safe and well.

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Our Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor Alex Wan writes:
I think it’s crazy the UK is not doing anything – the whole theory of having everyone infected to get immunity. I am no scientist but even they have admitted it’s a risk.

Malaysia is on lockdown – all offices, schools, shops are closed 18-31 March for now. No Malaysian is allowed to leave the country – including those who commute every day into Singapore for work and school.

Obviously, no training, no tournaments, etc. In fact, a day before the lockdown, both the national junior and senior squash teams were sharing the gym with a track and field athlete who was later diagnosed with the virus, so the entire team was home quarantined for two weeks.

In Singapore, things are a lot more controlled now and courts are still being booked and used.
Personally, coaching sessions are picking up too as people seem to be easing off the whole panic. But control measures continue to be taken – one way traffic into squash centres, temperatures taken, etc.

Here are my personal thoughts on the whole situation:

I hope people will make calculated and sensible decisions when it comes to playing squash. We are dealing with a global pandemic that is far bigger than squash and in fact, even my own life.

If this thing is not contained sooner, we are just losing more lives and dragging out the whole saga longer than it needs to be. As the economy crashes further and further, it also makes it harder for squash clubs to survive and there will be a lot less courts for us. So let’s be sensible. Take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and think before we play.

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Squash Mad correspondent James Roberts writes:
I spoke to the Head of Revenues of a large Council yesterday. He says details and eligibility for the business grants coming via Business Rates are still to be worked up but he’s confident squash clubs will be eligible.

This would mean £10k to those in receipt of small business rates relief and £25k to those with a rateable value of £51k and under. Not clear yet how multiple property holdings are dealt with, i.e. whether a chain like David Lloyd would receive one grant for the whole business (which would be pretty useless!) or one per property holding.

Not clear yet how clubs with discretionary relief through charitable status will be handled either. Still, these grants could prove vital to sustaining clubs through this crisis and out the other end.

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Crusaders Squash Club in South Africa: Covid-19 Crusaders Committee Decision:
In light of decisions taken by our government, Squash SA and many other sporting bodies we as the committee have decided to postpone all organised internal squash events with immediate effect.

The bar will no longer be opened and the water fountains will be closed. Casual squash can still be played at your own risk and online bookings will guide you with regards to numbers at the club.

We will encourage no unnecessary socialising in groups and also to bring your own drinks (water bottles) We will keep you informed as things evolve, so please be safe. This is not about you getting sick, it’s who you can make sick!

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GET IN TOUCH: Feel free to comment below to share your experiences and ideas. As well as the serious stuff, let’s hear how individuals are staying sane and safe while self isolating, for example. If you would like to submit a separate article, please email [email protected]

 

 

 

Posted on March 19, 2020

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About The Author

Alan Thatcher

Founder of World Squash Day, Squash Mad and the new Squash 200 Partnership, building clubs of the future. Founder of the Kent Open and co-promoter of the St. James's Place Canary Wharf Classic. Author and Public Speaker.

3 Comments

  1. Daniel Massaro March 19, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    I can not understand how it is possible to enter a squash court and have “social distancing”. Even tennis would struggle by touching the tennis balls.

    I can understand vital situations where social distancing is impossible, neglectful and on balance of risk, too damaging.

    There is not one piece of research that has been published that says “social distancing” is ineffective. That is because it is effective. It stops the potential chain . It is the advice of the UK government and today was posited as absolutely VITAL in reducing this to 12 weeks (amongst self isolating and other advice). The ‘National Effort’ as Chris Witty (chief medical advisor) described. We do not know if we have it or not. Symptoms may not show in the strong. Yet you may pass it on to others.

    Yes this is stressful, rubbish, economically awful, but there are far far worse depths we could go than this if this thing spreads out of control.

    A game of Squash? Coaching? Sorry – must wait

  2. James Roberts March 20, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    A good debate taking place via the England Squash Club Connect Facebook page, following ES appeal for information from clubs as to support required.

    If you are involved in club squash in England as a committee member, coach or volunteer, please make a request to become a member and answer the qualification questions. You will then be able to contribute to this debate.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/englandsquashclubconnect/

  3. Pete McGavin March 20, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    I strongly agree with Danny’s comment.
    Our club has cancelled leagues and team matches
    We can’t stop individuals playing if they
    want to but I have urged them not to. Sadly
    some are taking fact that LC still open as
    an endorsement of safety of playing.
    Pete McGavin
    Rushcliffe SC

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