National federations back PSA move
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
The Professional Squash Association (PSA) have reiterated their belief that the existing World Squash Federation structure must be overhauled in order for the sport to progress.
The PSA have confirmed their position, with support from leading national federations, in the wake of the showdown at the WSF Conference and Annual Meeting, which took place in Nice, France, from November 4-6.
PSA Chairman Ziad Al-Turki and CEO Alex Gough attended the AGM and challenged WSF leadership on a range of topics including accountability for recent failures in the sport’s bid for Olympic inclusion.
In addition to a delegate calling for WSF President N. Ramachandran to resign, as reported exclusively by Squash Mad, other questions were raised about Ramachandran’s apparent conflict of interest in also leading the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the persistent allegations related to his affiliation with the IOA, and the degree to which the negative press associated with it were a liability to the sport of squash.
From these meetings and discussions, a coalition of national squash federations, in partnership with the PSA, proposed the formation of a ‘Global Task Force’ which will function independently from squash’s world body, the WSF.
The task force will analyse the current situation globally for squash, assess the various roles within squash that must be in place to ensure a solid foundation for growth, while also competently supporting the sport’s ambitions for Olympic inclusion.
Squash is already part of all Regional Competitions around the world, and is surging in popularity in several parts of the world including the United States and Eastern Europe.
“The professional tour has garnered a huge amount of momentum over the past few years, including the amalgamation between the men’s and women’s tours earlier this year,” said Al-Turki.
“Prize money for the tour and awareness of squash is on the ascendancy and women are approaching full parity on compensation and opportunities to compete. A clear and concise strategy supported by best practice governance is needed now more than ever to both support the sport at the grassroots globally, and to ensure that squash fulfils its great potential.
“We will continue to liaise closely with all member nations over the coming weeks and months with the joint goal of developing the strongest possible structure and leadership for the sport.”
French Federation President Jacques Fontaine, who had introduced a motion at the AGM to form with representatives of Member National Associations a Working Group focused on these issues, is expected to take a leadership role in this independent initiative.
”While it is always preferred to operate within the current structure to effect change, we see advantages to working directly and closely with other federations and the pro tour to determine the best path forward for governing squash,” Fontaine said.
“France has made progress in the sport, both at the grassroots, in its elite programs, and hosting major international competitions, and we would like to see progress of this kind at the global level. The more clearly we articulate roles among all the parties involved, and empower national federations to work in partnership with the professionals managing squash and the pro tour, the more successful a necessary new deal for squash will be.”
In response to the proposed formation of the task force, US Squash Chairman John Fry said, “We have for a long time supported World Squash in hosting World Championships, serving on committees and the most recent efforts to secure Olympic inclusion, including contributing significantly towards financing the effort.
“We encourage this close cooperation among federations and the professional tour, the key stakeholders in the game, and will support the task force in any way possible, and in particular, any focus on development efforts at the grassroots.”
Egyptian Squash Association’s President, Assem Khalifa added, “With so many Egyptians, men and women, competing at the highest level globally, it is critical that we have leadership that effectively supports the sport. A task force that brings together the elite professionals in squash and the federations that are driving the sport’s growth, evaluating how to move the game forward in a positive way is very welcome. A fresh start may be needed, certainly change is a must.”
Squash leaders in all parts of the world including Australia, where the sport was once surging and is now competing with other activities to retain share of mind, were also supportive of the formation of an independent group to evaluate next steps for squash. Richard Vaughan, CEO of Squash Australia said, “We need best-in-class governance, strategy and leadership to support squash’s growth globally.”
More than a dozen countries are said to already be part of the coalition and additional announcements are expected in the coming weeks as next steps and timelines are formulated.
Peter Goldson, Chair of England Squash and Racketball, was present at the meeting in Nice with ESR chief executive Keir Worth.
Goldson said: “The extreme disappointment of failing to reach the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is another indication of the real need for change in the governance of squash at the world level.
“The game faces a challenging future which will require diverse member nations and other influential organisations to work hard together in changing the perception of squash.
“England are very willing to support this “team” effort and have immediately offered to play an active role in helping WSF to become a modern, professional world governing body that is both dynamic and effective.”