After the bitter disappointment of missing out on a place in the line up of Olympic sports, Shelley tells SportBusiness that squash is digging deep to ensure it has a lot to offer next time around.
You have to be resilient to be a squash player, and resilience is a characteristic that was needed by everyone in our sport when squash didn’t win its bid for inclusion on the Olympic Games programme at the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Session in Buenos Aires this September. We presented a strong case, and we know we would have added something new to the Olympic Movement. Our hope remains, however, that the Olympic Games will evolve and embrace new sports and we continue to hope that squash will be one of these.
An important theme of our presentation at the IOC Session was how squash has been on a journey of innovation and change. The new generation of all-glass show courts and the way in which our sport has been presented has ensured that we are at the standard expected to flourish at any major multi-sport event. Our broadcast output is now managed by SquashTV, which guarantees the highest of quality and consistency.
This, in turn, has widened the broadcast footprint of our sport. Meanwhile, our energy to broaden and flourish continues unabated, strongly led by our president N. Ramachandran. Development initiatives such as the WSF Ambassadors Programme, our activity to promote the sport in countries where it is not traditionally played, continue in earnest. Our global events calendar also shows just how universal our sport is for example, the World Juniors took place in Poland this year, next year it will be held in Namibia, while the WSF Refereeing Conference has just concluded in Jordan.
Last month, a WSF tour event was taking place in Romania, while squash was being played at the East Asian Games in Tainjin, China, and at the Oceania Masters Championships on Norfolk Islands. November also saw the world’s best squash players descend on Manchester, England, to contest the AJ Bell World Championships at the new Manchester Central Convention Complex after earlier rounds at the National Squash Centre.
With brands such as luxury sports car manufacturer Maserati on board, support from the city itself and terrestrial coverage on UK public service broadcaster BBC and internationally on a raft of platforms the showcasing of squash continues to grow. Announcements of the hosts of next year’s World Championships and World Doubles Championships are impending, but Namibia hosts the World Junior Championships, while the Women’s World Team Championships will take place in Canada in December to round the year off. Next year also sees the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland so, coupled with the men’s and women’s professional tours taking place in around 50 countries annually, the international squash scene is very vibrant.
Looking further ahead, the Men’s World Team Championships will be held in Kuwait following the acceptance of the country’s tender. The Gulf region is a strong and growing area for the sport, and provided two of the top eight seeds for the Men’s World Junior Championships this year. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have also hosted World Championships in the past. There is an expectation that the Gulf will produce a world champion before too long.
With so many events, the latest technology we now regularly use TMO (Television Match Official) review systems great presentation and superb broadcasting, there is much to look forward to in the world of squash. And while countless players from 185 countries were disappointed by the 2020 result in September, they also know that at World Squash we will continue to try and achieve a place in the one major multi-sport Games that matters most.