Squash Mad

PSA attack on WSF: The full document

Rings of fire: WSF president Ramachandran addresses the IOC in Buenos Aires

Rings of fire: WSF president Ramachandran addresses the IOC in Buenos Aires

As the IOC watched events unfold at FIFA, squash’s Olympic bid was marred by a tarnished leader at the helm

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

The PSA has accused the World Squash Federation of a “lack of institutional integrity” in a document that attacks WSF president Narayana Ramachandran for fouling up squash’s latest Olympic bid.

Ramachandran, who is involved in several controversial disputes in India, has been blamed for a number of issues concerning the Olympic bid.

He came under sustained attack during the WSF annual meeting in Nice, reported exclusively by Squash Mad.

Ramachandran was criticised for sacking Vero Communications from the bid, taking control himself, ignoring support from the PSA and other professional bodies, and overseeing a disastrous project that was doomed to failure because of his presence at the helm.

He has also been accused of seeking to build an empire that echoes that of suspended FIFA secretary Sepp Blatter. 

The PSA document maintains that “the IOC’s tolerance has plummeted for out-of-date and anything less than best practice governance, or a lack of institutional integrity among sports bodies”.  

In short, this section of the document is clearly claiming that the IOC was always likely to dismiss squash’s Olympic aspirations all the time a tarnished leader was at the helm of the bid.

Here is the document in full, produced by the PSA and several national federations who will be forming a Global Task Force to press for change throughout the WSF.

Situation Analysis: World Squash

Overview and Summary

This situation analysis is the result of a collaboration among the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and representatives from squash federations worldwide. It is considered a starting point in the conversation with stakeholders in the squash world to chart the future course for the sport.

The analysis demonstrates institutional weakness at the world level and concludes with the strong suggestion that a Global Task Force be established to draw on the experience from leaders in the sport with fresh ideas, working in partnership with squash federations, to more fully consider options for moving the sport forward in the most productive manner.

Current Situation

1: The International Squash Rackets Federation / World Squash Federation (WSF) has been the titular global leader for squash for more than four decades.

2: One of the designated roles, among many, and exclusively in the hands of the WSF, is representing the sport before the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

3: During the last several decades, despite an increasingly successful professional tour and having made enormous strides in both broadcasting and presentation, squash has peaked in participation and public interest, and has been unsuccessful on several occasions in gaining entry as a sport into the Olympic Games.

4: At the same time, many other sports have thrived in participation and corporate backing, most notably the “X-Games” sports, which have adapted promotionally to the current generational trends present worldwide.

5: There is complete consensus that Olympic inclusion would be a major positive for squash globally, in terms of awareness, funding and enthusiasm among potential corporate sponsors.

6: The process for inclusion has been challenging and continually evolving, and squash has historically struggled to successfully participate in this process.

7: The 2013 campaign for 2020 inclusion was undoubtedly the sport’s best effort yet, and may have succeeded if not for issues that wrestling brought up. As a consequence of the 2013 campaign, squash enjoyed an elevated level of respect within the IOC and international sports community.

8: A significant factor in this recent improvement was largely due to the messaging developed by Vero Communications and the progress, improvements and support provided by the PSA and several national squash federations.

9: Following the 2013 election of Thomas Bach as President of the IOC, and the 40 subsequent Agenda 2020 reforms adopted in 2014, further reinforced by FIFA’s 2015 troubles, the IOC’s tolerance has plummeted for out-of-date and anything less than current best practice governance or a lack of institutional integrity among the organizing sports bodies.

10: At the same time, WSF President Ramachndran’s grip on the WSF has tightened, seemingly to an unprecedented degree. Examples include attempting to advance the deadline for proposing motions at the 2015 AGM to exclude any challenges or “outside” motions, failing to approve the public circulation of the Tokyo 2020 presentation, last-minute agenda changes regarding consideration of important governance issues, not agreeing to share the WSF AGM attendee list in advance of the 2015 conference, supporting a motion to extend his own term as President, along with other motions such as “one country, one vote”.

11: This has occurred simultaneously with the escalation of his well-publicised troubles as the President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and inherent conflicts of interest (a press book provides background on allegations of corruption, motions for Ramachandran’s ouster as the leader of the IOA at a Special General Meeting, and a judgment against Ramachandran by the Indian courts stripping him of a 2011 award on the grounds that he did not meet any of the criteria necessary for the recognition.

12: Even if viewed in the best light with no presumption of misconduct, his present circumstances must be viewed at a minimum as a serious distraction from his role of representing the sport of squash, and certainly as an embarrassment to the sport during this important time.

13: After the 2013 Olympic failure, Ramachandran refused to further engage Vero Communications (who subsequently successfully represented surfing to Tokyo 2020), despite Vero’s offer to continue on very reasonable commercial terms.

14: Since that time, the perception persists that Ramachandran has acted virtually alone, and without any professional, appropriate and objective guidance despite numerous recommendations and offers of help, in pursuit of his singular focus on gaining entry into the Olympics, and has failed to include any other parties in the process. Having failed to secure Tokyo 2020’s recommendation for inclusion, he led the most recent move to attack IOC leadership, demanding an explanation for why Tokyo 2020 did not propose squash.

15: In the absence of WSF conflict of interest policies, competent governance, or any sense of accountability of the President to the membership, and an increased frustration within the WSF membership, motions to improve governance were proposed prior to the 2015 AGM.

16: It has become increasingly clear, with the circulation of the draft WSF 2016-2020 “strategic plan” that the WSF has no coherent approach to governance reform, plans to address core challenges faced by the sport, or willingness to recognise previous failings which have contributed to the lack of traction in the Olympic process.

17: Examples of these challenges and shortcomings include the lack of coordinated sharing of best practices, programs, technology or infrastructure, very limited options and offers to host World Championships, the declining number of courts in most countries, and no measures of participation globally.

The current draft of the WSF strategic plan reveals no progress in building the institution in any way, including finances, infrastructure, governance, mechanisms for collaboration and best practices or technology, and further, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the true mission and purpose for the organisation.

In response to all of the above, the only other world body, the PSA, in partnership with squash federations from every continent, plan to create a Global Task Force.

Its role will be to further analyse the current situation, to assess appropriate roles within squash globally that are required to build a solid foundation for growth in the sport, and propose changes to WSF leadership, governance and strategy.

NOTE: We look forward to readers commenting below. We welcome views from players, administrators and squash enthusiasts alike.   

 

Posted on November 7, 2015

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About The Author

Alan Thatcher

Lifelong sports journalist and squash lover. Event promoter, coach, author, voice artist. Founder of World Squash Day.

21 Comments

  1. Peter Bryttne November 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I must admit that I was completely unaware of the situation with WSF and its president.
    Creating a multi-talented task force is probably very wise. My only concern is the objective of this initiative. The list above contains so many issues but I cannot see that overriding commonly accepted one. The Totem Pole of squash that we (players, parents, club owners, sponsors, politicians, media etc etc) can gather around to generate maximum power globally.
    Before finalizing the setup of the members of such a task force you should have a very open discussion on what the desired common objective should be. The it’s time for defining outputs, plans and finding the right people to do the job.
    I really wish you all the best!!!

  2. Dre November 7, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    It is by results any organisation and it’s leadership will always be judged by it’s membership and other interested vested bodies, will look and ask what is happening internally to the WSF, that it cannot for at least 5 Olympics squash hasn’t made it into the Games. To me a mirror has to be held up to the WSF and let it see the situation it is in. Then it must either make considerable changes to the management and leadership to show that it is listening and acting upon good advice, so squash can get its product into the Games. Many other sportsmen and women have asked me why squash is not in the Games. My response is squash hasn’t got it’s house in order.

    I hope the global task force can effect positive change to get a positive outcome in the WSF or even without the WSF, the next time squash is trying to get into the Games, with a fresh look and fresh approach to the IOC committee.

  3. Rahul Kumar November 7, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    This is only the tip of the iceberg and the squash fraternity will be shocked when they learn the truth about the WSF President which will be revealed soon and probably by Squash Mad .

  4. Mike Hegarty November 7, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Squash runs the risk of becoming embroiled in a mismanagement scandal as Fifa, the UCI, various football clubs etc etc have been through. Ramachandran needs to step down now and allow the sport to move forward with transparent governance before the current ship completely sinks.

    Perhaps in months to come we’ll see an independent inquiry into previous management. I look forward to hearing the task force’s recommendations and whether the WSF will listen to them!

  5. ben November 7, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I don’t know about the politics and individual people involved in why squash isn’t in the olympics but I do know the probable general reason. Squash isn’t a popular sport. And it is dying. Everywhere it seems excluding the Middle East courts are closing and numbers are going down. I don’t know why squash is seemingly putting all its eggs in one basket. For the last decade the number one goal has been getting it into the Olympics as if the moment it is publicity will soar and all the problems will dissipate. This is not the case.

    I remember a skit from the chaser when they tried to give away tickets for synchronized diving and squash tickets for the melbourne commonwealth games. This was rubbing salt into the wounds. Squash does not translate into television. I appreciate the videos on YouTube but I show my friends and they can barely see the ball. I’ve seen pro’s play live and it is incredible how fit and skilled they are. It simply does not translate onto a screen where retrieving balls looks so simple, there athletiscm is not easily appreciated from anyone not familiar with the nuances of the game. Even if we were to get into the Olympics I am 99.9% sure it would be as popular as synchronized diving to the public.

    Squash should give up on its Olympic dream. We should be focusing on 2 areas in my opinion. It seems as if the vast majority of clubs are populated by male players 35 years and older. Squash needs to focus on appealing to #1 children and #2 women. School programs, cheap women and junior programs. If squash ever rises to the relative popularity of the 70’s and 80’s I’d be stoked and that might be enough to get us into the Olympics. But our focus shouldn’t be the ends of getting there but the means.

    • Tom November 7, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      Ben – you are brilliant…

      Focus on the game itself, expanding the draw to all players and the continuum of activities across time and geography, less on a singular point.

    • Ijimu November 8, 2015 at 2:10 am

      Well said! Squash needs a grass roots kick in the proverbial. Here in Australia squash is experiencing a big downturn. Memberships are dwindling, and clubs are closing. Organising bodies need to promote what’s great about the game, not stay focused on pipe dreams that are not going to solve problems overnights. What’s great about squash? It’s all weather, all year, it’s challenging in many ways. IMO it’s the most competitive sport because you compete as much against yourself as your opponent. Promote the things that make squash great. It is what it is. We have some of the worlds fittest athletes… Sell that.

    • Richard Vitty November 9, 2015 at 7:07 am

      I agree with a lot of what you say…. if we work harder to develop womens and junior squash then our sport will become to strong for the IOC to ignore.
      I disagree , however , when you say that our sport is dying .. there are many good examples , from all around the world of how squash is booming , particularly at junior level.

    • Aubrey Waddy November 9, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Some excellent thoughts, Ben. Above all, squash needs to appeal in the modern medium, television. It needs to engage average sports fans and drag kids in. The ball is now visible on television, at last. Next we need drama. Firstly, a match should have more crisis moments, with scoring more aligned to that in tennis. Five sets of say seven short games would give plenty of knife-edge game balls, and great tension at the end of sets. In addition, this would give plenty of breaks for adverts. Secondly, more imagination is essential from broadcasters. In this category are more cameras. Expensive, I know, but the UK BBC was superb in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, with remote control cameras looking down EACH side wall, a main camera above the marker and no fewer than three cameras at the front, one on each player and one following the general action. MUCH more of the game should be televised from the front (ask yourself this: how often do you see photos of the backs of players’ heads?). Instant replays of the key moments of every rally should be available. With tennis-type scoring there would be more breaks for slo-mos – kids will quickly be emulating Miguel-Angel Rodriguez and Habiba Mohammed diving around, and if players’ faces are clear their personalities and the effort they are making will come across better. Finally, squash should be creative with stats during and at the end of matches, eg, how far a has a player travelled, his/her energy expenditure, average speed of shots, max speed of shots, all with interpretation by the commentators. Could we measure how the ball’s bounce changes with its age? Ditto the effect of court temperature and characteristics on the speed of bounce? Could we wire up players to show their pulse rates? Our sport has to be creative in order to increase its audience. With a bigger audience, bigger participation will follow. It’s time to CTRL-ALT-DEL and see what we can come up with.

      • Papou November 9, 2015 at 5:47 pm

        Aubrey …. That is the most innovative, refreshing and brilliant range of perceptive observations & recommendations I’ve ever seen/heard!!
        Are you free to join the Board??

        • Aubrey Waddy November 9, 2015 at 10:53 pm

          hi Papou, I’d love to argue this case further, but I expect that things are too entrenched for the redesign that the sport, AND its televising, need

  6. Joseph Steel November 7, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Wonderful comment by Ben.

    Squash needs a concerted effort at a grass roots level in order to rebuild the sport. Only when this being carried out will there — and should there — be a place for squash in something like the Olympics.

    Watching the competition in Qatar was quite sad, regarding what looked to be a very poor spectator attendance (except for the final).

    Why is that?

    There were some excellent games played throughout the competition, yet very few people seemed to have been interested in watching them.

    I recently saw an ad for the Men’s World Squash Championship in Seattle and thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I’ll fly up and see it.”

    But then I saw the price of the tickets.

    Accessibility… To competitions as spectators… As participants… And even memberships to clubs… Just way too high.

    Sure, there are great efforts taking place in inner city environments across the US, but the overriding thought is that squash is still a prep school, private club activity… Not a game for the general public.

    Perhaps in England and Australia this was/is different, but from reports it seems that even in these countries things are on the decline.

    Egypt seems to have found a way to develop its young talent though, but it’s taken decades… And a former president who loved, and played the game himself.

    Walk into a leading sport store here in the US and ask about squash equipment… Nine out of ten times you’ll find a blank face looking back at you.

    As the old saying goes… How do you eat an elephant… One bite at a time.

    The game of squash needs courts available to the public… And people who are committed to giving their time to help others learn the game.

    Not for free… But at a far more affordable rate than the typical $80/hr coaching fee current charged.

    The game of squash needs to get into high schools… Courts should be built in high schools.

    It’s not rocket science… Other sports have done it, and are doing it every day… Very successfully.

    It can be done with squash also.

  7. Bob Tkachuk November 7, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Clean house from top down…sooner the better for our game…without too many studies and sub committees.

  8. Alex November 8, 2015 at 3:35 am

    This down slide I the administration of Squash has been happening for years, not just at the WSF level, but with many of the WSF members as well.
    Enough is enough!
    Here’s the problem, NOW seriously lets find the solution and move forward
    Our sport needs to come into the 21st century., we are not back in the 70’s

  9. Amitoj Inder Singh November 8, 2015 at 4:44 am

    I am India’s highest qualified squash coach, with a Level 3 accreditation from Squaah Australia. There are only 6 other coaches in the world with this accreditation. I have coached players for 18 years. In any junior tournament in India, especially the Junior Nationals and major tournaments in Mumbai, about 80% players in the pre quarter finals have been coached by me. Harinder Sandhu, Vikram Malhotra, Aditya Jagtap, Manek Mathur are my ex trainees.

    Mr. N. Ramachandran prevented me from attending an Asian Squash Federation Level 3 course in 2000 at Singapore on the frivolous ground that “only one coach per country can attend”. Maj. S. Maniam, then director of coaching at ASF confirmed that there was no such limitation. I have documents to confirm this.

    Mr. Ramachandran has stifled talent in India. He has encouraged age fudging. He was privided with two different date of birth certificates of a player Ravi Dixit, but he did nothing because Ravi Dixit moved to Chennai to represent Mr. Ramachandrans home state Tamilnadu. There are many examples like this, but Ravi Dixits documents are available.

  10. Papou November 8, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Let me share with you a sad case in point …. Our local university, Edge Hill, Ormskirk, Lancashire, recently opened a multi-million £ sports complex, including sports halls, swimming pool, running track, gym etc …. AND NO SQUASH COURTS!

    They then decided to convert the only court they had on site to an office.

    Very sad for any budding squash player that there are no squash clubs anywhere in West Lancashire.

  11. Ferez Nallaseth November 8, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Perhaps all the reservations expressed about the WSF and its leader(s) are real. However, they do not explain the sustained rejection of Squash’s Bid for inclusion that long pre-date the arrival of the current WSF by decades. And the departure of these administrators will do absolutely nothing to enhance the next Bid by Squash. For that to happen the World of Squash has to first come to terms with the structural problems of lack of ‘televisual’ accessibility with contemporary Science (posted in multiple places). Its a simple matter of realism!

  12. Chris Clark November 9, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Having been working in squash for many years I am not surprised. It is time to clean up the sport from the top otherwise we will not develop our lovely sport to its full potential and place in the Olympics. We must have hard working clean leaders with a wide vision leading us.

  13. Andrew November 9, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Funny how this chap Ramachandran; has been singled out for criticism now after the IOC debacle! The hindsight club once again (not sure how many times I have seen this happen in the world-too many to count)

    If the PSA were that concerned about his activities they should have intervened but now its certainly too late or after the cat has bolted. Why do companies and institutions in this day and age let dubious characters carry on. It seems they can do weeding out further down the chain but not at the top. Its a disease.

    As a lover of this great game; I cannot see the real growth we need until squash is on the school curriculum. If it is please tell me I am wrong and I will be delighted to be mistaken.

    I know great work is being done out there but until the future of the sport is secured by picking up the youngsters at a young age; its difficult to see the sport securing the kind of exposure and scrutiny it so richly deserves.

  14. Joel November 10, 2015 at 3:25 am

    I hadn’t really heard of/sensed too much of this, but the criticisms seem well-reasoned, detailed and substantial. I suppose if you bear in mind that the the pro game has (in the opinion of many, including me) advanced in terms of broadcasting, refereeing and general presentation/atmosphere, then failings of the WSF is a logical conclusion as to why squash is not in the Olympics.

    As for taking the game forward, I’ll be honest, as sad as it is, I do question whether it is now worth putting so much into the Olympic bids after successive, demoralising rejections. Maybe the best idea would be to carry on with good grassroot schemes like this: http://squashmad.com/breaking-news/psa-partner-with-re-bound-urban-squash/ and Chris Gordon and co’s Public Squash Foundation and maybe greater success, and even Olympic inclusion, will come from that. If you take all the four main racket sports – squash, tennis, badminton and table tennis – all are good sports imo (though table tennis is a bit ‘meh’), but tennis is head and shoulders above the other three in terms of popularity.

    A big reason for this is simply that basically everyone will see tennis being played a lot – if they’re walking in a park, playing football etc – and it’s easy and cheap to do as a one-off at least. With this in mind, building courts outside, like the Public Squash Foundation is doing, or where you wouldn’t expect them is a great idea in my opinion. However, I’m not suggesting this is a massively original approach that isn’t being pursued – I think it generally is. And obviously it’s just plain easier to build a tennis court – get a flat space, draw some lines and in the case of kids tennis you even have these easy-to-move small nets.

  15. Prasad Pillai November 12, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I believe the personal attach on Mr Ramachandran was not warranted. He has his faults, but he has been sincere in his efforts to get Squash into the Olympics. His long running battles with his sports colleagues in India have no effect on the IOC thinking – In fact, the IOC endorsed his appointment to head the Indian Olympic Council.
    I also believe Mr Thatcher’s claim the the Professional game is growing is based on narrow facts. The numbers are dwindling in the traditional Countries (Australia, New Zealand, Britain) There is no growth whatsoever in Asia. The Middle East & Eqypt are the main growth area and that is solely based on patronage of the elite. There is virtually no on-ground participation.
    It may well be prudent to abandon the Bid, for a time, and get back to building up the numbers.

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