Wednesday 25 July 2007

Al-Turki reveals tour plans

Ziad Al-Turki, the Saudi Vice-President of the ATCO Group and sponsor of the Saudi International, has revealed further plans to streamline the men's tour.

On the back of the recent seven-year, $675,000 agreement between the ATCO Group and the internationalSPORTgroup that will see a large rise in the prize money available for a number of high-profile events, Al-Turki has suggested that the PSA tour should concentrate in specific regional areas before moving on to others.

This seems sensible given the relatively small amounts of funding and prize money that squash players receive set against the high cost of air travel. Formula One does something similar, moving from continent to continent.

Speaking to Squashsite, Al-Turki said:

"The Tour show flow from Europe, to the US, to Asia and then back to the Middle East. Instead of which players are going backwards and forwards all over the place, which is wrong".

This seems reasonable, and will surely be received favourably by the players. Any money coming into the game will be welcomed, and Al-Turki seems a genuine squash enthusiast.

As I have noted before, though these plans suggest streamlining a tour that moves all over the world, the controlling "hub" of world squash seems to be moving from Europe to the Middle East.

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Friday 20 July 2007

Packed UK autumn schedule - but not for women and London

The 2006 British Open, held in NottinghamJudging by the amount of post flooding through my letterbox from the iSportGroup, it seems that the autumn schedule of professional squash events in England is being heavily promoted.

The British Open, ATCO Super Series Finals, English Grand Prix, Wolverhampton Open and British Grand Prix being touted before the end of the year. There is also December's English Open, ran by Eventis Sports Marketing.

The regional hosting of these events will be great for the sport in the UK - the English Grand Prix is to be held in Birmingham, The Super Series Finals and the British Open to be held at what is increasingly the venue of choice, the National Squash Centre in Manchester, and the Wolverhampton Open bringing top-level squash to the Black Country.

Cynics will say that is it refreshing that the captial is not hoarding all the best events, and that a regional spread of competitions allows fans across the country to see the pros in action more regularly.

It is great to see so many events competing for status in the space of a few months, though as I have said in a previous post, fans in the south of the country find it difficult to attend many of these events, with London not scheduled to hold any more professional tournaments before the end of the year.

Wot no WISPA?

Another query is lack of events for women. Only the British Open and Wolverhampton Open have a women's competition. Based in London, I can't remember the last time I saw a professional women's match that was not an exhibition, shoe-horned into the finals' day of a men's tournament.

I hope to get to a couple of these events, though I wonder if the amount of ticketing information I am receiving by post and email is indicative of poor sales for some of the lesser-known events; the British Grand Prix, for instance, still appears to be looking for sponsors and has no dates and venue given. Some of the others have no information on which players have confirmed their appearance.

Gripes about the lack of London competition aside, I hope these regional events attract the support they need to bring squash to a wider UK audience.

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Wednesday 11 July 2007

IOC gives squash new hope

199th IOC Session - Guatemala CityThe International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to make its rules for adding new Olympic sports more flexible - giving hope to squash after it failed to make the 2012 Games.

The IOC came to the decision in a recent session in Guatemala City.

The decision means that there are to be 25 core Olympic sports with three "floating" sports at the Olympics from 2020, with all up for review after each Games.

The IOC members will now drop or include new sports by a simple majority vote. Previously the IOC rules required a two-thirds majority before sports could be granted Olympic status.

When the old voting system was last used in 2005, squash was selected as one of two sports nominated for inclusion but failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required.

The International Olympic Committee

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Monday 9 July 2007

Morales: tengo gusto del squash

Evo Morales - with jumperWhen not riling the United States or transforming his country into a socialist utopia, apparently Bolivian president Evo Morales finds time for a game of squash.

A keen football player, Morales also likes a hit before dinner.

The squash court must be the only place he doesn't wear that famous jumper.

A man who has previously worked as a bricklayer, baker, trumpet player, harvester of sugar cane and llama herder doesn't sound like someone who shies away from hard work - and this must surely make him a fit and formidable opponent.

Does the fact that Morales plays squash suggest that the sport has socialist crudentials? Equality of access, cheap to play, rewarding hard work - and once the court door closes we are all equal within those four walls.

But how can this be so when squash's image is - to some degree - still associated with City boys and private members clubs - icons of capitalism (remember Gordon Gecko on court?)?


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Sunday 1 July 2007

Nicol '9th Greatest Sportsman'

Peter Nicol has been voted the "9th Greatest British Sportsman of the last ten years" in a Guardian blog poll.

Ok, so it was not exactly a scientific exercise (see the blog for the numbers who voted in their, er, masses).

But is was good to see the Guardian finding time to mention the sport, even though it was in an idle moment during a rain break in the Henman v Lopez match at Wimbledon.

The full list of the great and the good reads:

1. Lennox Lewis
2. Joe Calzaghe
3. Paula Radcliffe
4. Tim Henman
5. Ben Ainslie
6. Tony McCoy
7. Stephen Hendry
8. Colin Montgomerie
9. Peter Nicol
10. Phil Taylor

Edging out "The Power" - who'd have thought it?

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