Sunday, June 16, 2024

British Open Squash: the rollercoaster journey to Birmingham Rep

The venerable tournament has endured an up and down past since the turn of the century, until the calm years of being staged in Hull

British broadcaster Sky Sports announces that the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’ to be broadcast live, initiated by event promoters The Eye Group. It’s a major breakthrough for the sport.

Intellectual property rights acquisition company Fablon Investments guarantees seven-figure injection into the sport in England over eight years. Guarantees cash prize fund in excess of £1 million, with the 2000 British Open boasting a record £110,000 cash prize fund.

Squash Rackets Association agrees to a seven-year deal for the British Open to be staged at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.

Eye Group, Fablon and the Professional Squash Association enter into an eight-year agreement beginning in April the following year, which will provide an injection of over £21 million into the men’s professional game. 

At a meeting in New York, the PSA board reviews relationships with Fablon Investments Ltd and the Eye Group. The sport’s body relinquishes ties with Fablon. Promoters agree to take over the event, to be staged in Nottingham.

The tournament is again cast into doubt with England Squash set to announce postponement. Within a day, promoter Paul Walters saves the event.

London’s prestigious Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster is set to stage the tournament, the first time in 10 years it will be held in the capital. The plan is then scrapped and moved to National Squash Centre in Manchester.

Dunlop ends its deal, leaving the British Open without a title sponsor as the fight to keep the sport’s oldest event alive continues apace.

Manchester stages the 2009 event but the tournament has lost its bite. Event rights are handed back to England Squash while the 2010 tournament is postponed in order to focus on moving the event to London at the O2 Piazza.

England Squash hit by news that £200,000 title sponsor has pulled out of deal. The national governing body scraps the following year’s tournament.

Egyptian Assem Allam, then owner of Championship side Hull City, inks an initial three-year, title-sponsoring deal with England Squash as the event once again turns a corner.

The deal sees the 2012 BO set for the O2 in London before moving north to Hull. Nick Matthew wins either side of the postponement years.

The British Open moves to Hull and is staged at the KC Stadium, the glass court erected on a stage where the penalty box would be. The weather goes from freezing to sultry on Finals Day.

2014 – 2022
The Open moves indoors to the adjacent Sports/Airco Arena in Hull and then to the University of Hull as the tournament finally finds the right backing in Allam, who passed away in 2022, and a period calm.

The British Open moves away from Hull for the first time in a decade after organisers ink a deal with Birmingham to stage the event, with later rounds being held at Birmingham Rep. The event is deemed a success as Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini lift the titles on stage.

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