Friday, November 11, 2011

PST Land a Big Fish

The end of season PST (Pro Squash Tour) Tournament being held at the DAC from May 4-6, 2012 just became a lot more attractive. The PSA (Professional Squash Association) still ban their players from competing in any PST event, so it is difficult for the PST to attract top world class talent. PST have been continuously signing players to their tour, but up until now they have – for the most part - been either top college players, elite juniors, or teaching pros. A very good standard, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t top 20 material.
Not any more.

As of November 11, PST has signed current world number 9 – Australian David Palmer – to commit to playing their tour. His career is choc-o-bloc with titles including 2 World Opens and 4 British Opens, and he has been ranked number 1 in the world. His first PST appearance will be in Cleveland from November 16-19 – a tournament I will also be playing in. Hopefully, the organizer will show a little mercy and not make me his first PST victim!

On November 4, the 35-year old Palmer announced his retirement from the PSA moments after losing the quarter finals of the World Open. This is simply the logical step to the next stage of his career in order to continue to earn money by playing tournaments. And Palmer is still a phenomenal player. Undoubtedly, he will be a huge draw card to any tournament, PSA or not, so for someone of his stature to exclusively join the tour is an enormous boost for PST founder Joe McManus. This will certainly help in sponsorship deals and tour marketing. For the DAC, to have David Palmer turning up to play in May is nothing short of a gigantic enhancement for our members and tremendously sweetens the deal for our sponsors. I guarantee more people will be tuning in to watch the live webcasting of the event if Palmer is on court.

The PSA most likely doesn’t care one way or another what Palmer does after retirement. But it may start to raise eye-brows of other players. I have no idea of the earning potential Palmer has on the PST tour, but I bet it must be attractive. He at least takes home the remarkable deal McManus offered to the first top ten player to sign a multiyear contract with the tour.  That offer was for $100,000. And, let’s face it; the PST tournaments are easier on the body. He can play for longer, there is currently less competition for him, so this should extend his tournament career for a number of years.

So how long will it be before PSA players start to recognize that they would be able to earn a good – if not better - living playing tournaments if they jumped to the PST ship? Especially the players ranked outside the top 16, most of who are probably struggling to cover their costs from tournament to tournament. They may look at someone like Palmer – and aging vet – earning more money and getting wider exposure (in the US), extending his playing career, and think that they would like a piece of his large slice of pie, rather than stressing through the brutal PSA schedule, travelling ridiculous distances, with very little comparative financial rewards. And what about the other ‘aging’ touring PSA players like Lincou, or El Hindi nearing the end of their careers? It would certainly be something for them to consider.

One thing is for sure. PST is growing. PST has landed its first big fish and it most likely won’t be a question of if anymore will follow Palmer, but who and when.

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