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The PSA document maintains that “the IOC’s tolerance has plummeted for out-of-date and anything less than best practice governance, or a lack of institutional integrity among sports bodies”.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