Friday, March 31, 2023

Nations Cup to trial new scoring system in New Zealand as SMM looks at innovative ways of promoting squash

New format trials eight teams of male and female players from the same nation
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

The PSA’s new marketing division SMM is set to trial new tournament formats with experimental scoring systems.

SMM has announced the launch of the SquashFORWARD Series, a collection of new squash events intended to trial changes to the traditional competition and scoring formats used at official tournaments, including those on the PSA Tour.

Kiwis Paul Coll and Joelle King will headline the new Nations Cup, which will be held between November 3-6 in Tauranga ahead of the New Zealand Open.

The Nations Cup will comprise eight teams of two players,  one male and one female, from the same country to add a new dimension to the typical competition structure in squash.

The inaugural edition of the new mixed team competition, run by Squash New Zealand, will also feature an alternative scoring format which will be determined following engagement with the squash community, who will be asked for their input in developing the sport.

Squash fans can vote on a series of proposed scoring formats, as well as make their own suggestions, via the voting form here.

“We’re excited to kick-start the SquashFORWARD Series with the Nations Cup and look forward to staging a pioneering event for squash in New Zealand later this year,” said SMM Director and PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough.

“We want to bring together the squash community and enable our fans and players alike to have a say in how we develop the sport to further increase the interest in squash.”

New Zealand’s Paul Coll and Joelle King show off their medals from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast

“We are really interested in trialling new scoring formats and learning how we can possibly create more critical points whilst preserving the essence of the sport.”

Squash New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Dowson said: “We are thrilled to host the Nations Cup, which will feature a number of the world’s best players from around the globe and acts as a fascinating pre-cursor to the New Zealand Open, which will follow the event and be the biggest squash tournament ever to take place in our country.

“With Paul Coll and Joelle King, New Zealand is able to field a strong team, so it provides another great opportunity for local sports fans to watch these incredible athletes on home soil when they compete for their country.”

The Nations Cup, which will take place at the Trustpower Arena, will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV, as will the New Zealand Open, which features a men’s and women’s PSA World Tour Silver event at the same venue and will be held between November 8-13.

Details regarding further events under the SquashFORWARD Series banner will be announced in due course.

Squash Mad Comment

Along with many other promoters, I have been looking at new scoring systems and innovative ways to promote events to add value for local spectators and make squash more appealing for TV networks and streaming companies.

I like this new SMM format with eight teams from different nations. It gives the host country, New Zealand, the opportunity to showcase their two outstanding players, men’s world No.1 Paul Coll and women’s No.5 Joelle King.

The same format could work in numerous other countries for one simple reason: home fans like to cheer on home players.

England no longer has any male players in the world top 20, USA has no male players in the top 30, and Australia, last time I looked, has no male in the top 100.

This makes it unlikely that any male players from these countries will make the business end of any major PSA tournament. However, a host nation could load the draw with two or more pairs in this new-style format to maintain home interest for fans and the media.

Just look at Scotland, with their male, female and mixed teams playing out of their skins to win three medals during last week’s World Doubles in Glasgow, with their top players Greg Lobban (world No.35), Alan Clyne at 48 and Lisa Aitken at 32.

Just imagine the fun if Squash Wales hosted a tournament with Joel Makin and Tesni Evans leading the way. And the same applies to India, where I am sure top promoter Ritwik Bhattacharya would love to stage a tournament starring Glasgow gold medal winners Dipika Pallikal Karthik, Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal.

When I rescued the British Open in 1999 and took it to Aberdeen, the whole marketing campaign was built around Scotland’s world champion Peter Nicol and world No.3 Martin Heath.

Having two local heroes featuring in a huge publicity drive, enthusiastically supported by national and regional TV and newspapers, helped to drive ticket sales, just as we saw with the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

And enjoying such massive home support inspired every Scottish player to elevate their performances way above their ranking levels.

In 1999, with just nine weeks to plan the event, we attracted 1,600 spectators to the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre, where Peter met his arch rival Jonathan Power in the final.

Sadly, Peter collapsed at courtside with food poisoning after the second game, but images of Peter were featured on the front pages of every Scottish newspaper the following morning, and the Scottish editions of all the major English papers, and led the news headlines on Scottish TV for several days.


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