French events aim to reduce travel and carbon footprint while promoting cleaner environmental targets
By ALAN THATCHER and NICOLAS BARBEAU
As politicians wrestle with the global challenges of climate change, a group of promoters have launched the Green Squash Tour in France.
While the Cop 26 conference in Glasgow has attracted most of the world’s leaders (with a couple of notable absentees), a series of four squash tournaments is under way in western France with the goal of running events in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion.
The idea is to reduce the carbon footprint of players and event staff by staging tournaments with minimal travel requirements between each one.
Four PSA Challenger Tour tournaments will form the Green Squash Tour. The schedule starts this week in Lagord and moves on to Cognac, then on to Niort and Angers:
As its name suggests, the aim is to bring sport and sustainable growth together.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
When asked about the inception of the Green Squash Tour, the four promoters all give credit where credit is due. “The original idea came from Renan Lavigne,” Yves Malzoppi, Jean-Michel Masotti, Nordine Ramdaoui and Nicolas Barbeau say in unison.
Let’s go back in time: Angers and Lagord were initially supposed to host PSA events in May, but the organizers did not want to hold them behind closed doors because of the pandemic.
The national coach suggested they could postpone to November in order to create a French tour, since the events in Niort and Cognac were already on in the calendar.
“It’s a great opportunity for the players to feature in several tournaments without having to travel too much, especially for those coming from abroad,” says Nicolas Barbeau, promoter of the Hektor Angers Playground PSA Open 2021.
“On that basis, it seemed wise to go further and integrate this tour in a wider approach centred around sustainable growth, which happens to be an important topic for me. Even though my carbon footprint has not been great lately, because I’ve been travelling a lot to referee at some international tournaments …”
Therefore, the next step was to draft, and sign, an environmentally friendly charter that brings the four tournaments together with common goals.
Within this framework, they receive guidelines and recommendations for their actions, make their intent and commitment publicly available and implement the means for environmentally friendly measures.
As a reward, the Green Squash Tour was granted the bronze label “Développement durable, le sport s’engage®” (Sport commits to sustainable growth) from the National Olympic Commitee.
“It took me some time to complete the application – and I take this opportunity to thank the French Federation and its president Julien Muller, who supported us in the process – but it was worth it,” Barbeau confides.
“This label gives us some credibility, and in the long run it will help us in the search for partners specifically involved in sustainable growth. We are aware that the charter is quite big and a bit demanding, but we will draw upon this first experience to possibly lighten it.”
The Green Squash 2021 environmentally friendly charter is split into four main topics.
(1) Organisation, management and governance: The aim is to value the people who contribute to the events, to promote diversity (whether among organisers, entrants and the audience) to implement actions related to healthy diet, fighting against doping and obesity, and to engage in a continuous improvement process between each tournament.
(2) Transportation: The goals are to allow players to enter several tournaments with a single trip, to encourage carpooling and to help them with accommodation between each tournament so that they do not go home unnecessarily.
(3) General tournament stewardship: The organisers wish to use socially and ecologically responsible products, services and brands, whether with food (for example providing a vegetarian option in each meal and favouring local producers and suppliers). Communication: Favouring new technologies in order to use as little paper as possible – but also limiting waste production in general.
(4) Raise awareness to the values of sustainable growth: The Green Squash Tour aims to promote the values of sustainable growth in various areas including signage, announcements, exhibitions) to partners, entrants as well as the audience, and to value the approach to mainstream and specialised media.
FROM ONE TOURNAMENT TO ANOTHER
November 2-6: Open PSA Lagord Tennis Squash 2021 (Challenger 10, $12k)
The club of Lagord Tennis Squash are hosting their first PSA event. The entry list features six players belonging to the world top 100, including Frenchmen #54 Benjamin Aubert and #59 Auguste Dussourd. The main foreign challengers will be Japan’s Ryosei Kobayashi, #63 and Egyptian Mazen Gamal, #67, an experienced campaigner who has played many Platinum events over the years.
Lagord => Niort: 40 miles
November 8-12: Open International Niort Venise Verte 2021 (Challenger 10, $12k)
It’s one of the few international tournaments in France which has managed to stand the test of time in the last few years. Initially a 5k in 2015 and 2016 (first winner being Frenchman Christophe André) the organizers went up a notch the following year with a 10k prize money, and England’s Ben Coleman was the victor.
The rise of the event was simultaneous to this of home hero Baptiste Masotti. Semi-finalist in 2017, the Niort born Masotti won against fellow Frenchman Sébastien Bonmalais in 2018. The following year, he came to the event running out of fuel after an amazing run at the CIB Egyptian Open and bowed in the final against Shahjahan Khan.
Aubert, Dussourd and Gamal will make the short trip to Niort where the draw will be even stronger than in Lagord with eight members of the world top 100. Given his current form, no doubt that #58 Sébastien Bonmalais will be one of the main contenders. We’ll also keep an eye on 18-year old No.4 seed Sam Todd, #85, whom England Squash are expecting a lot from in the future.
Niort => Angers: 100 miles
November 16-18: Hektor Angers Playground PSA Open 2021 (Challenger 3, $3k)
While the Playground club will host his first international tournaments, Nicolas Barbeau has already organized four PSA events at his former club of Lac du Maine, also located in Angers. The winners’ list includes two Englishmen, Eddie Charlton and Angus Gillams, Dutchman Piedro Schweertman and Victor Crouin, who had set the audience alight in the final of the latest edition in May 2017. The youngster came back from 2-0 down and saved a match ball to defeat Adam Murrills after 83 minutes. Aged 17 years and 11 months, Victor had become the youngest Frenchman ever to win a professional tournament. Four years later, he’s already added 13 more trophies to his cabinet …
The top seed is Argentinian Leandro Romiglio, former #73. Top French entries include Edwin Clain, Manuel Paquemar (seeded three and four) and Quint Mandil (seeded seven).
Angers => Cognac: 200 miles
November 24-28: Open de Cognac 2021 (Challenger 5, $6k)
After several Satellite tournaments, the Squash de la Belle Allée and its manager Nordine Ramdaoui threw themselves in PSA at the end of 2019 with a 6k event. Back on court after some health issues, England’s Tom Ford was the first winner at Cognac. Because of the pandemic, the club had to wait until the beginning of 2021 to host the second edition, which was domestic only and played behind closed doors. In form Victor Crouin came out as the winner.
Top seed is Egyptian Yahya Elnawasany, with England’s Nick Wall at two. The third seed is Spaniard Ivan Perez, #116 who will play for the local team in the French Team championship in 2021-22.
Pictures courtesy of Nicolas Barbeau