Saturday, October 16, 2010

No Pros Allowed on the “Pro Squash Tour”

Imagine there was this guy – we’ll call him Mo – who loved squash but was a little disillusioned at how the game was developing. Mo was becoming frustrated not with the style of squash, but with how the rules were being applied – specifically, the “let” rule. Rather than sit on his couch and simply grumble away, Mo decided to actually do something about it. Mo became a promoter. He got together with some professional players, they talked about the issues, and came up with the 5-let rule. They then put their theory into practice, ran a tournament, thought it was spectacular, and began to sell their product to clubs around the US. Exhibition tournaments that used Mo’s rule, Mo’s referee, started to pop up here and there. They called it the “Pro Squash Tour” or PST. Riding on their first year’s success, Mo decided to take it a step further and eliminate the let rule altogether. The PST steadily flourished. Their ‘no-let’ rule sparked controversy, but this was Mo’s tour and Mo could do what he liked. He even had a PST ranking. The PST invited current world class players from the “Professional Squash Association” (PSA) to play in their events. David Palmer, Wael El Hindi, Thierry Lincou, Shahier Razik, Julian Illingworth, are just some of the current top 30 players in the world that have played in a PST event. Even ex-world number 1 John White was a regular performer. Sounds like Mo achieved something that initially seemed rather improbable and his PST invention was bumbling along healthily.

Now imagine there was this other guy. We’ll call him Leo. Leo runs the “Professional Squash Association” or PSA. Leo was a happy chap. The PSA own and run the official world ranking tour and all the best male squash players in the world play in the PSA. Initially, Leo didn’t care what the PST did. Their ‘no-let’ rule was surely a gimmick that would never last. But Leo started to get worried when the PST continued to add tournaments to their schedule and the PST tour was growing. The gimmick wasn’t going away. Leo started to get jealous. He thought that the PST was ‘stealing’ potential PSA tournaments away. Were clubs raising sponsorship money to give to Mo rather than to him? So Leo thought of a deviously straightforward plan. Simply not allow any of his PSA players to enter any PST event. Without world class players, the PST would surely crumble…. MUWAHAHAHHA!!

Crazy, right? But true. The PSA have officially banned all of their players from entering any PST event. Now, I am by no means suggesting that the above description is anywhere near the specifics leading up to the ban, and just like the disclaimer on all “Law and Order” episodes: "Although inspired in part by a true incident, the following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event".

One of the many attractions of the PST events are – of course - the pros themselves. Current PSA ranked top 10 or 20 players in the draw gets bums in seats, and hands in wallets for sponsorship. Without the pros, the money stops. PST events are exhibition tournaments. Players compete for money, and PST ranking – which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean a whole lot on the world stage. They also play by their own rules. It is not a rival tour to the PSA. It is an extra opportunity for touring professional players to earn more money. Money the PSA cannot provide for them. And there are other pro events around the world. The UK runs the BSPA Tour (British Squash Professionals Association), and there are professional leagues in many countries around Europe. The PSA have not banned their players from entering these. So why single out the PST?

Have the PST become too successful? It’s way too early to suggest that. While it is no secret that I am not a convert to the “no-let” rule (see: ) it is beside the point. They can have their players playing in tutus and swinging frying pans if that is what fills the bleachers. (Ha ha! Can you imagine John White in a tutu? I’d pay to see that…) Here is the official reason behind the PSA’s decision: “Following consultations with stakeholders, primarily in the US, it was felt that the Pro Squash Tour was having an increasingly detrimental effect on the PSA World Tour's presence in North America, leading to confusion for potential promoters and sponsors.” Confusion? We can’t tell the difference?

Whether that is the truth or not, the PST have certainly struck a nerve. If I could guarantee the membership that for $30,000 (all-up) four top-20 players will play in a tournament here in a PST event, where for the same $30,000 I’d be lucky to get one top-20 player in a PSA event, add on PSA registration fees and a myriad of requirements the PSA ask for, what do you think the membership will go for? I don’t think any of them will ask if world ranking points will be at stake. They just want to see the players. On top of that, a PST event is done in 3 days, a PSA event (including qualifying) takes 6 which can be very taxing on a club to organize and run. Cheaper and easier… no brainer. The PSA should be looking at the PST as a reason to improve their own product - maybe even work with PST in sharing revenues, finding co-sponsors, co-coordinating schedules, etc. To simply stick out the bottom lip and try bully them into submission is a risky venture that may backfire – especially in the US where the underdog is often the crowd favorite.

For the official press release from PSA and PST go to:

For the official PST website go to:
For the official PSA website go to:

Search This Blog