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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Ramy Ashour calls for respect for referees

Alan Thatcherhttps://squashmad.com
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.

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Ramy Ashour calls for more respect for referees
Ramy Ashour calls for more respect for referees

Triple world champion calls for voting system to reward referees

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

Ramy Ashour has spoken out in support of squash referees in an amazing post on social media.

Egypt’s triple world champion, who has not played since the World Championship in Seattle in November, outlined his support for match officials in a post on Facebook.

Ramy plays squash with a smile on his face
Ramy plays squash with a smile on his face

He advocates moving referees closer to the court from their current position in the middle of the crowd, and wants to see fans and players voting on referees’ performances after each match, leading to monthly and annual awards of the top officials.

Ramy, of course, is usually a delight to referee. Playing with a smile on his face, and entertaining crowds all over the world, is what he does best when his body allows him to.

Here’s what he had to say. Players, fans and especially referees are welcome to post their views at the bottom of the article.

My own 10 opinions about Referees in the Squash World:

1- Totally support the one-referee system restoration with keeping the video review of course and eliminating the three-referee system as it caused a lot of confusion and uncertainty in the refs’ decisions, refs’ self-confidence, refs’ individualism, sense of competition and consistency .

2- The referees have to be paid more so they can invest more time and effort to better themselves.

3-There should be a competitive league for the refs with quarterly rankings and evaluations just like the players.

4- The squash fans all over the world, along with the players, should be the judge of the quarterly referees hierarchies and rankings and the PSA along with the WSF has to develop a system to make that happen.

5- Each referee has to learn the basics properly, but has to have their own logic and common sense while giving decisions as being creative and unique doesn’t have to be confined to players.

Ramy Ashour in action against fellow Egyptian Omar Mosaad
Ramy Ashour in action against fellow Egyptian Omar Mosaad

6- The referee has to sit right in front of the court and close to the court, not miles tucked away in between the crowd.

7- Each referee has to shine and not hide away in-between the other two refs .

8- The crowd who is watching at the venue and the online crowd has to have their opinion and voting chance towards the match ref right after each match, helping in determining the quarterly refs rankings and the ref of the year award.

9-The referees have their importance and respect and should be announced on the court, the same as players, as refs play a huge role in the game and also for all the people to see and know who is refereeing the match.

10- Refs have to be treated fairly at the tournaments and the PSA along with the WSF have to set the standards for that in coordination with each tournament promoter.

Would like to hear your thoughts and ideas.

 

Pictures by  IRENA VANISOVA

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8 Comments

  1. Absolutely spot on but while the WSF is in charge of refereeing I am afraid the whole thing will remain as it is. The one referee system with a video review at the large tournaments is both effective for the players and spectators and at the smaller events one referee without the review.

    With the ranking list and constant evaluation the refereeing standard would improve even more than it has been doing overseen by Lee Drew from PSA and Roy Gingell from WSF. They have been limited in some respect by an old guard of referees who are not ready to accept that we need younger referees to come in and take their places.

    Hedley Matthew and I have been harping on about the referees sitting closer for what seems like years and instead they seem to be moving further away.

    Also the video review should have a time limit on it for the ref to make a decision otherwise it stays with the original decision as it now seems to to take too long, lets say 15 seconds as an example.

    Great points Ramy and well thought out.

    • Hi Paul,

      Interesting comments and agree with quite a few points.

      I personally believe that each governing body has it role and function though. PSA should concentrate on the tour and WSF should concentrate on developing the sport and taking it forward.

      Age is irrelevant; the challenge is capability. Its like saying because a student is young, have an MBA he can be the CEO? Age provide experience.

      I find it interesting that there are so many criticism towards referees, however, you not paying for them and their expertise, so how can one complain if you not paying for a service?

      Last but not least; how much monetary investment has been made by promoters, players and PSA in the last 5 years towards refereeing?

      Forget the politics and ego’s. WSF, PSA, the players, the referees and the fans each have a place in this sports.

      Lets not allow the tail to waggle to dog here…..

  2. Below is a copy of my blog post on my website. Copied and pasted in…

    So above is a post from the squash legend that is Ramy Ashour. He is without equal in the current pedigree of squash players when it comes to court coverage, improvisation and crowd wowing spectacles. In recent months people will argue that Mohammed Elshorbagy has been the in the same arch but these sights are misguided, this is only the case as Ramy has been sidelined by injury. The minute he is back at full power people will realise that his creative and effortless ability with a squash racket are comparable to nobody in the current game.

    Before I start I must say I think he is an unbelievable player. A true talent. If anyone ever wants to understand how wonderful squash is to watch or play I will always show them a mega rally with Ramy. A one of a kind.

    With him sidelined through injury the only way to keep up with is career at the moment is through social media. He is active on instagram, twitter and facebook. I noticed this post on my facebook feed and I have a distinct opinion on his ideas and hence why I am writing this article with a distinct title. His point of view as a player at the very top of the game is very interesting but it is always going to have flaws. Players are never the best people to judge their sport when their voice is taken individually, it takes time and group discussion to come to good and sensible solutions to problems. Knee jerk reactions never work and that’s why sports take their time to decide rule changes. So through this post I will take each point from the above facebook post and break it down. At the end I’ll breakdown anything I think I can add and some ideas of my own!

    1- Totally support the 1 ref system restoration with keeping the video review of course and eliminating the 3 ref system as it caused a lot of confusion and uncertainty in the refs decisions, refs self-confidence, refs individualism, sense of competition and consistency .

    The 3 ref system has it’s flaws, that is for sure, but I cannot say that it affects the referees confidence. A referee will feel far more assured their decision has been moderated with a tri ref system balancing opinion. If a referee hits the no-let button on the tablet and immediately regrets it it is balanced by the 2 other referees.

    Referees do not need individualism, whilst they need a face and to be heralded for their efforts the ideal referee is a robot. No face, no mistakes. They go unnoticed and as such do not impact the game. We cannot have characters as referees where their decisions are taken as “oh he always gives that decision”. This impacts the sports credibility. Changing referees should just give the other referees a rest, that should be the only reason for rotation of a refereeing setup. Consistency is the key, not individuals with personality.

    I severely disagree with the next word in this post, competition. As above refereeing is a thankless task by those who have both the temperament to do it and the dedication to understand the sport. People like this are invaluable, creating a competition atmosphere will drive away many of the individuals who offer themselves to this profession. If they wanted competition perhaps they would be on the court. Creating a competition between referees will create animosity between referees, creating competition between referees will cause referees to leave the game due to “bad” decisions, creating a competition between referees needs… a referee. Who referees the referee? You cannot honestly expect fans to do that? Almost all fans have bias, this is not a bad thing at all as that is what makes sport what it is. Opinions within sports are to be stuck by as competition doesn’t exist without it, but in a situation where neutrality is paramount you will have ridiculously skewed results if you leave it up to the fans. There is simply too much room for error and bias which will further potentially ruin refereeing careers and self confidence all because he called let not no-let in one decision in one match.

    I wholly agree with the final word, consistency. With this comes balance, if every referee is on the same wavelength all the time there will be no arguments. How can there be? If a player KNOWS they are getting the same decision as the other player did in the same situation then they simply cannot argue. They may still try but the fans, referees and other players know that the decisions are correct. In the real world this is very hard to achieve, so striving to bring together the referees into one collective voice will bring harmony in decisions, creating a competition structure will potentially drive people apart. It will promote refereeing “styles”, bringing people together will simply make refereeing, refereeing.

    2- finding a way so refs can be paid more so they can invest more time and effort to better themselves.

    I whole heartedly agree. Pay is what keeps people in a job, love can only do so much these days. I dont have an answer to this one, but I agree whole heartedly.

    3-There should be a competitive league for the refs with quarterly rankings and evaluations .

    and

    4- The squash fans all over the world along with the players should be the judge of the quarterly refs hierarchies and rankings and the PSA along with the WSF has to develop a system to make that happen.

    I disagree with this so strongly, see the above comments for point number 1.

    5- Each ref has to learn the basics properly but has to have their own logic and common sense while giving decisions as being creative and unique doesn’t have to be confined on players.

    I also disagree with this. The rules should account for playing creativity and not force the referees to “think creatively”. A referee should be able to make a decision straight from the rulebook using a combination of rules and common sense, however that common sense has to be the same common sense through all referees. We cannot have one referee having a different common sense to another. So this term “common sense” should be taken from an agreed training strategy so that all referees know what the line of thinking should be. So it is “common sense” but a shared “common sense”, this is perhaps an odd term I cannot put into words but I hope it makes sense.

    I cannot say enough, in a perfect world wouldn’t a referee be a perfect robot? Personalities are for on court, enforcing the rules is for off court. How can you argue with that?

    I agree with the idea that a creative player shouldn’t be penalised, the referees need to understand how to read the new, evolving game and not fall behind. But they do not have their own creativity, not whilst refereeing. If they want to be on the refereeing board of control and suggest ideas for how to change refereeing that is both great and ideal. Here they can be as creative as they wish, but whilst they sit in that crowd they must follow the rules and enforce them in balance with all the other referees.

    6- The ref has to sit right in front of the court and close to the court not miles tucked away inbetween the crowd.

    No this is a question of vision. Whichever gives the best vantage point works. If it is decided that a different position is better then fine, but shining the light on the referee is exactly the wrong thing. You want to shine the light on the players, but tip your hat to the wonderful job the referees do at the right times. Not put them at the front of the court to be taking the limelight for all the wrong reasons. No referee is going to hide, they got into this business and if they make it to the top of the game they are happy to take criticism and develop from that.

    7- Each Ref has to shine and not hide away in-between the other 2 refs .

    In a perfect game, you should never even notice the referee. There should never be a need to shine. Their abilities to manage a game should make them, regrettably, invisible. No doubt if you ask any of the top level referee if they would rather deal with lots of controversy or have a simple game where every decision was both correct and agreed with they would choose the latter. All 4 referees should shine in their abilities, like a full band accompanying a musical, are given their due at the beginning and end of a match. During the match…the music is magically playing at the right time, you just don’t notice.

    8- The crowd who is watching at the venue and the online crowd has to have their opinion and voting chance towards the match ref right after each match, helping in determining the quarterly refs rankings and the ref of the year award.

    See previous points. Do it for players, not for referees.

    9-The refs has their importance and respect and should be announced on the court same like players as refs play a huge role in the game and also for all the people to see and know who is referring the match.

    I agree. 100%. They are as important as the player. See point 7.

    10- refs has to be treated fairly at the tournaments and the PSA along with the WSF have to set the standards for that in coordination with each tournament promoter.

    The tournament promoter gets no say. No other legitimate sport in the world has the rules set by the promoter. If they have any creative licence in the process then they will try and make it different to all the others to sell tickets. You want the same rules for the whole tour. If you want to change the rules for an exhibition then no problem, but all world tour games are run on the same set of rules and regulations. Without that squash will NEVER be taken seriously as an international sport.

    Despite this the point about referees being treated fairly, I support more than anything in this article. Any descent to a referee should be a fine, excessive arguing and pressure on the referee should be a fine, the use of conduct warnings of any types should carry a fine. These people need to be respected and if they do their job properly and have no bias they deserve it. The referee is rarely the reason a match is lost, and in a perfect world it never would be. Players are as much a problem. for example when blaming referees for decisions where they should have made more effort to play the ball. It always gets turned on the referee and they put them under pressure or force so many decisions. This in turn makes the referee start exacting more harsh application of the rules as they simply cannot bear to see the game of squash descending into a farce. All these things could be removed with better refereeing and a harsher system of disciplining players.

    Now I am no saint. Please be aware. I shout at the referee “He was never getting that!” on a weekly basis. Despite that I am 100% neutral, born with this gift to be able to never take sides in any sport I spectate in. I can take sides if I want to, but I can always take neutrality and be honest whenever I choose. The review of these points above will seem quite damning, but I believe in what I’ve said. It is a slippery slope to listen to a currently active player individually on the idea of rules, he will always think he is right. No problem there… you just have to be careful and moderate their opinions.

    There is lots that can be done. I hope having feedback like this from players will help, and more players having a voice will push the sport forward. Getting player input will likely make it even more creative and explosive as they know what is physically possible. Ex players are likely the way to go, they no longer have the uber competitive drive to give themselves an edge that got them to the top of the sport and yet have an understanding of the game that no non pro player can match. I hope to see in the future more former players being given a voice in a debate on the topic, it would be fascinating to see.

  3. Much needed article from the player who is respected the most by his peers and the fans of the game.
    Strongly agree with points 1,3,5,6,7,9 and 10.
    The other points are not so critical, but worth a try

  4. 1/ I completely agree! But first let’s not forget that the system with 3 referees only applies to a very limited number of international tournaments and thus only affects around 0.01% of squash players in the world. And before we talk about its benefits, one of its main disadvantages is that it requires more referees, which makes it more expensive. I also agree that the three referees system makes the central ref less accountable as he follows three decisions that the players can’t even see! And it’s even worse for the two side refs who are not even allowed to talk! With a one ref system, there is a direct confrontation between the ref and the players that I think is very formative as it requires the ref to justify himself openly. And then there is the fact that the addition of three bad decisions will never make for a good decision (even though statistically this doesn’t happen too often). Finally, the video review is a major break-through for the sport. We could even imagine using the “hawk-eye” technology that they use in tennis for errors or double bounces.

    2/ I completely agree! Mr Ashour, as you probably know, there is NO referee in the world that is getting paid for his work. Best case scenario, a referee gets a (very limited) daily compensation on top of the reimbursement of his accommodation, meals and travel expenses. There is no doubt that having professional referees on the PSA tour (as it is the case for tennis on the ATP tour) would make things better. But is the PSA ready to either ask for more money from tournaments promoters or decrease prize money to make this happen? I don’t think so. In France, despite being a “big” squash country (in terms of results), pro level referees depend on politics (as it is probably the case in other countries). Funding towards referees is close to zero. Referees are sometimes asked to pay for their travel expenses themselves in order to go to tournaments.

    3/ I agree.

    4/ It is simply crazy! How is someone going to be the judge of a referee’s performance without at least being sure that this person knows the rules?

    5/ I don’t agree and I would even say it could be dangerous. To me, there are two major skills to be a good referee: the knowledge of the rules and the experience of the game, which allows you to understand the “spirit” of it. Unlike tennis, you cannot be a good referee if you have never played the game. It seems impossible to me to ask referees to have their own logic! I believe there is only one logic to be developed…which can sometimes take a long time for referees to assimilate.

    6/ I completely agree. I think that the best seat for a ref would be 2-3 meters in front of the court and slightly elevated. But I think we are dreaming if we are thinking about asking promoters to implement this, given the amount of spectators who would then have their view obstructed. Refs will keep sitting in the middle of the crowd, 10 m away from the court and 18 m away from the tin.

    7/ I disagree! A good ref is someone you don’t notice and who is working towards having the best player on court be the winner ! Stars are on the court, not off the court.

    8/ Mr Ashour, squash is not a reality TV show. Please let’s be serious.

    9/ I agree but I think that a simple announcement at the beginning of the match is enough.

    10 / Let’s keep on dreaming…..

  5. Here is a response for consideration
    >
    > 1- Totally support the one-referee system restoration with keeping the video review of course and eliminating the three-referee system as it caused a lot of confusion and uncertainty in the refs’ decisions, refs’ self-confidence, refs’ individualism, sense of competition and consistency .
    Which professional ball sport allows 1 referee ?

    Answer: Non !
    >
    > 2- The referees have to be paid more so they can invest more time and effort to better themselves.
    Which professional ball sport DO NOT have this in place to date?

    Answer: Only Squash !
    >
    > 3-There should be a competitive league for the refs with quarterly rankings and evaluations just like the players.
    Which professional ball sport have this in place?

    Answer: Non !
    >
    > 4- The squash fans all over the world, along with the players, should be the judge of the quarterly referees hierarchies and rankings and the PSA along with the WSF has to develop a system to make that happen.
    Which professional ball sport have this in place for their referees?

    Answer: Non !
    >
    > 5- Each referee has to learn the basics properly, but has to have their own logic and common sense while giving decisions as being creative and unique doesn’t have to be confined to players.
    Which professional ball sport DO NOT have this in place?

    Answer: Only Squash !
    >
    > 6- The referee has to sit right in front of the court and close to the court, not miles tucked away in between the crowd.
    Which professional ball sport have this in place for their referees?

    Answer: Non !
    >
    > 7- Each referee has to shine and not hide away in-between the other two refs .
    Which professional ball sport DO NOT kit their referees out so they can shine?

    Answer: Squash !
    >
    > 8- The crowd who is watching at the venue and the online crowd has to have their opinion and voting chance towards the match ref right after each match, helping in determining the quarterly refs rankings and the ref of the year award.
    Which professional ball sport have such a system in place?

    Answer: Non !
    >
    > 9-The referees have their importance and respect and should be announced on the court, the same as players, as refs play a huge role in the game and also for all the people to see and know who is refereeing the match.
    Which professional ball sport DO NOT have this in place?

    Answer: Only Squash !
    >
    > 10- Refs have to be treated fairly at the tournaments and the PSA along with the WSF have to set the standards for that in coordination with each tournament promoter.
    Which professional ball sport DO NOT have this in place?

    Answer: Only Squash !

    You see Ramy, it’s not about individual players, referees or fans. It’s about the whole package! Players are players and should concentrate on what they do best and that is playing squash. Referees should do what they do best and that is refereeing. Fans should do what they do best; create atmosphere and support their favourite player/s

    Together IE “the whole package” it becomes a professional sport where everyone have their individual expertise. You focus on referees, but I think you should focus on playing the sport you dearly love, appreciate the fans and the current referees, who in fact are paying for themselves to provide you with a service, something that is also unique to squash. PSA has done exceptionally well to present such a great tour for you per annum. WSF has done an exceptional job to set standards and present the foundation for the sport world wide.

    Every sport in the world have a govering body (WSF) & a touring body (PSA). There is a reason why this work and they all in the Olympics. Maybe it is time we work together, start respecting each other for their expertise and work together as a team to achive the end goal………..success and growth for the sport!

  6. Great to see that Canary Wharf is taking Ramy’s suggestion to heart and re-trying the single referee system.
    Good going Alan!

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