Only athletics and swimming are safe after decision to reduce core sports and allow host city to choose events
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Squash is facing an uncertain future in the Commonwealth Games after dramatic changes to the competition format were announced this week.
A decision to adopt a flexible approach to the sports programme was approved during the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) General Assembly, which was held online.
According to various media reports, a new Strategic Roadmap was voted in to allow potential future hosts to choose which sports to include.
That means squash will face competition from commercially minded variations of popular sports including T20 cricket, beach volleyball and 3×3 basketball.
Squash has been a core sport since first appearing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1998, and has been successfully staged in the UK in Manchester in 2002 and in Glasgow in 2014. In between came editions in Melbourne (2006) and Delhi (2010).
England Squash benefitted from a legacy programme in Manchester which resulted in the provision of a new National Centre next door to the athletics stadium, which is now the home of Manchester City Football Club.
No such legacy provision was created in 2014 when Scottish Squash made an appeal for the glass court to be donated to them to help in the promotion of the sport, but it had already been pre-sold to Squash Canada.
It’s not often that squash features in the back page lead story in The Times, but that was the case on Tuesday when the news broke of the planned changes to the Commonwealth Games.
The Times report included a very sympathetic reference to squash, highlighting the risks the sport faces if future hosts follow the recent trend adopted by the IOC in adopting so-called street sports and activities including breakdancing and skateboarding.
No host city has been found for 2026 but a decision is expected to be announced early next year.
A report on the BBC website said: “With Games bosses struggling to convince cities to bid for the event, the shake-up is designed to give potential hosts more choice over their programme.
“As well as greater freedom to select urban and e-sports in a bid to appeal to younger audiences, cities will be encouraged to select entirely new disciplines that are popular locally.
“In an attempt to drive down costs and innovate, co-hosting will be encouraged and there will be no requirement for an athletes’ village.
“However, there will inevitably be anxiety among the many sports whose place in the programme will no longer be mandatory.
“And for non-Olympics sports like squash, netball and lawn bowls – for whom the Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle of their calendar – the reforms will be especially worrying.”
The Commonwealth Games currently represents the biggest and most important shop window for squash. There were sellout crowds for all 11 days of the squash competitions in the 2014 Games at Glasgow’s Scotstoun venue.
The BBC produced outstanding TV coverage, and the England squad appeared on the studio sofa with presenter Gary Lineker, who supported squash’s bid for a place in the Olympics.
Olympic rowing hero Matthew Pinsent, who was also commentating for the BBC in Glasgow, also made some highly complimentary remarks about the game.
Apparently, the court being used in Birmingham is the same one that held centre stage in Gold Coast in 2018. It will be transported to England for its first outing in four years after being held in storage in a Gold Coast warehouse.
The WSF will be keeping a close eye on the decision to award the venue for the 2026 Games, with squash’s inclusion now at the mercy of the host city organisers.
Squash is one of 16 sports on display in Birmingham, and suddenly the main focus will switch from lobbying for a place in the Olympics to retaining its inclusion in the Commonwealth Games.
In an article on the excellent Inside The Games website, Commonwealth Games Federation President Dame Louise Martin said: “We are delighted to unveil our direction of travel with this new Strategic Roadmap, which I believe marks the start of an exciting new era for the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Sport.
“Our Games need to adapt, evolve and modernise to ensure we continue to maintain our relevance and prestige across the Commonwealth.
“After a long period of hard work and consultation, incorporating the views and opinions of our membership and experts across the world, we are excited to move forwards with this Roadmap.”
The World Squash Federation has promised to respond next week.