Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Zena Wooldridge is new WSF president

Zena Wooldridge, Director of Sport at the University of Birmingham, is the new President of the World Squash Federation

Zena Wooldridge is new WSF president
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor

Zena Wooldridge has been elected as the new World Squash Federation (WSF) President following the WSF’s 2020 Annual General Meeting which concluded via online portal Zoom yesterday evening.

Wooldridge, from England, will become the 10th WSF President to serve since the Federation’s inception in 1967 and the second female after the late Susie Simcock from New Zealand.

Wooldridge, the Director of Sport at the University of Birmingham, has played a leading role in planning the squash events that will form part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games being staged in Birmingham.

She began her squash career at Stourbridge Lawn Tennis and Squash Club and was awarded the OBE for services to sport in 2009. Zena has been a member of Stourbridge since she was 13 and played county squash for Worcestershire for 30 years.

She also played for the England Masters teams in the over 35 and over 40 age groups and competed in the World Masters Championships in 1997 and 2001.

She has been heavily involved in developing  a competitive framework for University Squash and her own Birmingham centre is one of the best equipped squash facilities in the country. She is a current Vice President and former Chair of England Squash. She has also served as president of the European Squash Federation. 

Wooldridge will serve a minimum four-year term after being elected by delegates representing a record 64 National Federations who took part in the 50th WSF AGM, which was the first to be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wooldridge previously served six years as President of the European Squash Federation between 2013-2019. She replaces outgoing President Jacques Fontaine, from France, who was elected President in 2016.

Fontaine was elected in controversial circumstances in Hong Kong four years ago, demanding a recount after losing the first vote to Wooldridge and winning the second ballot later the same day.

During his four years as President, Fontaine was heavily involved in squash’s efforts to gain Olympic recognition at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

However, in a hugely embarrassing PR disaster for the sport, he found himself sidetracked by the French IOC decision to include breakdancing in the 2024 Games just three days after the WSF and PSA joined forces to launch their expensive Squash Goes Gold campaign.

This episode sparked a change of direction for the sport following years of frustration at the failure of successive Olympic bids which had led to efforts by the PSA and various nations to remove previous president Nayarana Ramachandran from office and demand a more professional approach to the global administration of the sport.

The WSF thanked Fontaine for strengthening ties with the PSA, whose media department now handles communications and marketing activities for the WSF.

Fontaine said: “It has been a real honour to serve as WSF President for the past four years and I would like to thank all member nations for their support.

“I would like to wish Zena and the newly elected Board the best of luck in the future. I will be following the progress of the sport closely in the coming years.”

Two new Vice Presidents were also elected at the AGM, while Pablo Serna, former President of the Colombia Squash Federation, has been elected for a second term of four years.

He is joined by Karim Darwish, a former men’s World No.1 from Egypt, and Debendranath Sarangi, the President of the Squash Rackets Federation of India, who have been elected for four years and two years, respectively.

They will work alongside five-time World Champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald, who was elected as Vice President in 2016, while Huang Ying How steps down after his four-year term.

Speaking about the new appointments, Wooldridge said: “I am delighted to welcome Karim and Debendranath onto the board and I truly believe they will be superb additions to a strong team.

“I believe squash fits modern lifestyles so well and is well-suited to new technological developments such as InteractiveSQUASH. So we have a strong platform in place to do some really exciting things with squash and accelerate the development of the sport around the world, and I look forward to working with all stakeholders over the next four years.”

Jahangir Khan will serve a further term as Emeritus President of the WSF – a position the six-time World Champion has held for 12 years – while Chile and Libya have been approved as new Member Federations of the WSF.

Related article by Squash Mad in 2016:
How Jacques Fontaine became WSF president after a recount


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