Unified World Tour targets increased revenues, prize money parity, and a place in the Olympics
Squash made an historic step forward today with the announcement that the men’s and women’s tours, the PSA and WSA, are to merge.
The professional game will now be administered by one unified body for the first time. The WSA will cease to exist as the new organisation is ushered in under the PSA banner from January 1, 2015.
Members of both organisations have voted to support the new structure, which will also aim to provide greater commercial backing for the unified Tour, plus enhanced media coverage.
The PSA is managed by former top professionals Alex Gough (chief executive) and Lee Beachill (chief operating officer), and is based in Leeds, England. Beachill is a former world No.1 and Gough reached a career-high ranking of five in 1998. The WSA is housed in offices at Queen’s Club in London.
Today’s announcement made no mention of how the new management structure will operate, or any proposed role for the WSA’s highly influential and popular chief executive Tommy Berden.
The successful Dutch event promoter is married to Natalie Grinham, who has won three Commonwealth Games gold medals, was runner-up in both the World Open and British Open, and now holds a Dutch passport after switching international allegiance from Australia.
The planning for this moment has been taking place for the past several months, and the aspirational thinking behind the development is designed to strengthen the sport’s Olympic bid, increase prize money, and move towards financial parity for the women.
With the IOC preparing to review the whole structure of the Games schedule, the timing of this historic move for squash is prescient.
The new IOC chief, Thomas Bach, is known to sympathise with squash following last year’s flawed voting process.
Having announced they wanted to bring in a new sport, the IOC banned wrestling then allowed them to join squash, baseball and six other sports in a revised voting procedure.
Wrestling’s financial muscle and powerful political lobbying strength, led by the USA and Russia, immediately put them back into the programme and, once again, left squash on the outside looking in.
A media statement, released jointly by both parties this morning, is published below.
Professional Squash Association (PSA) and Women’s Squash Association (WSA) are set to join forces in an historic merger that will see the professional ranks in the sport of squash administered by one unified governing body for the first time ever.
Following a lengthy consultation process involving the sport’s major stakeholders over the past 10 months, which included inviting both memberships of the PSA and WSA to vote on the proposed merger, a decision was reached on Monday, October 28, that will see the Professional Squash Association operate as the governing body for both the women’s and men’s ranks from January 1, 2015.
Continuing to operate under the existing PSA name, the re-formed organisation will be responsible for running the men’s and women’s professional game with the strategic aims of increasing the level of equality and parity in prize money and playing opportunities across the sport.
“Both parties felt that a merger would provide a more unified base from which to grow the sport of squash across the globe and to proactively increase the levels of opportunity for both genders at the elite level.
“Our ambitions are to drive the sport forward as a whole, increasing the total prize money available for both men and women in squash and in doing so, delivering increased opportunities for women to earn the same financial rewards as their male equivalents and we have longer-term plans in place to move towards a position where we can achieve parity in prize-money.
“We also feel that a unified body will allow us to present a more appealing product to potential sponsors and broadcast partners and we look forward to undertaking the new challenge when the cross-over period is completed in what will be an exciting new era for the sport.”
As a result of the merger the WSA will now begin a wind-down process, set to be completed by December 31, 2014, when squash will usher in an exciting new era of joint-responsibility and unified governance.
With the Delaware Investments US Open leading the way in driving the equality-agenda within the sport, having moved to a position of offering equal prize money for the first time in 2013, the long-term aims of the PSA will be to increase the overall level of prize money available in squash and narrow the gap between genders.
“The WSA members are very excited to merge with the men and form one unified governing body for professional squash,” said WSA Chief Executive Tommy Berden (right).
“Over the past 10 months we have been able to discuss in depth how the merger will benefit our sport and we really feel this is the right time to move things forward for both the men’s and the women’s tours.
“It’s encouraging to see that more promoters are following the example set by the US Open to pay equal prize money and we are expecting more events to follow suit in the upcoming year.
“The response from both memberships has been overwhelmingly positive and we are looking forward to starting the transition phase to unify the two associations.”
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