ON JUNE 1 the International Olympic Committee announced that baseball and softball, karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing had all been recommended for inclusion at Tokyo 2020 in a move that was greeted with mixed emotions amongst the squash community and brought the keenly-debated topic of squash’s potential inclusion in any future Games back on to the sporting agenda.
Having been involved in the bidding and lobbying process for three failed bid attempts, I could only read and watch with envy as the dreams of thousands of surfers, boarders and climbers came true. Being on the opposite side of that process and seeing the hopes of friends and potential global stars dashed, it is easy to become obsessed with the Olympic Games and many in the squash world are guilty of adopting a ‘tunnel-vision’ approach – seeing the Olympic Games as the be-all and end-all, and the golden key that will unlock a new future for the sport.
Whilst inclusion in the Games would undoubtedly usher in a new chapter in the sport’s history – attracting a new generation of players, increased national funding and new global opportunities – the PSA and all those involved in squash can take great pride in the steps we have made over recent years and look ahead to what promises to be a bright future, with or without the Olympic icing on the cake.
Over the past two years we have transformed the governance of the PSA – not least by joining forces with the Women’s Squash Association in April 2015 creating one unified governing body for the sport – and committed to levelling the playing field in terms of equal pay and equal playing opportunities across all levels of the professional game. While we still have some way to go to achieving total parity, we have seen five of our biggest tournaments take that step in the past 18 months and continue to fight for increased opportunities for women and girls – a demographic whose voice in the professional sport will only continue to grow in the coming years.
Aligned with our commitment to achieving parity, the PSA World Tour has steadily grown the total compensation levels across the sport to make professional squash a viable career option, whilst at the same time taking control of our broadcast rights in-house and signing agreements with a series of major global broadcast partners, such as BT Sport, Eurosport, beIN Sport, Ten Sports and many more. Our progress in this area sees live squash televised in over 100 countries around the world – whilst an ever-growing audience of fans quench their thirst via OTT platforms SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player in an area of business which was unthinkable when we first began our Olympic quest some 15 years ago.
Improvements in broadcast technology – with ball clarity and ease of viewing at an all-time high – the introduction of video referees, developments in glass-court technology and much more have taken the sport to a new level, while we currently boast a membership of over 775 professional players, representing 76 countries, who compete in over 170 tournaments which take place annually in all four corners of the globe.
That growth and progress have been achieved in the face of numerous Olympic Games rejections, and whilst a place in the greatest sporting showcase in the world remains the ultimate goal, the status of the sport remains secure and the future of squash and the PSA World Tour looks universally positive.