A PSA (Professional Squash Association) player recently tweeted that women should not be receiving the same prize money as the men. This came about after the recent US Open was played in October at the Drexel University and both the men’s and women’s purses were $115K.
The PSA player was Brit Ben Coleman – world number 79. The comment of course had many people up in arms. Sexist. Misogynistic. Narrow minded. But Ben’s reasoning was pretty simple: The men bring a greater value to the sport – they are the ones that attract more sponsors and viewers. Why should women get the same pay if the men do the lion’s share of the revenue raising? Overall, he’s right and it’s difficult to argue against that logic.
If you think that’s incorrect, then all you have to do is look at their respective tour calendars. Also, the PSA recently held the World Championship worth $315K. (Nick Matthew won in 5 games over Greg Gaultier in the final). The WSA (Women’s Squash Association) World Championship is not being held this year at all because they cannot find a sponsor. That in itself is ridiculous. Equal prize money aside, how can the women’s squash tour not have a world championship? (I am not criticizing the WSA for that; it is terrible for squash that it isn’t happening and I feel for the players.)
No matter what side of the argument you are on, Ben Coleman’s comment didn’t just cause a twitter-sphere argument, it also caused a PSA policy change. CEO Alex Gough shortly thereafter released a statement announcing a gag-order on all PSA players. Basically, any PSA player is no longer allowed to comment on social media anything that may bring the association into disrepute. Say what?
That’s not unusual is sports. We hear often enough, for example, that a coach or player is fined for criticizing an official in the NFL or NBA. Squash players are in that same boat, a boat that includes disparaging comments about any event, venue, staff, directors, other individuals, the sport of squash in general, and – prize money. In other words, you can say whatever you want so long as the PSA look good and agree with it. Didn’t some countries try this once…?
Freedom of speech is clearly being suppressed here. I agree that players should not be sharing with the social media world any personal attacks or insults about anyone else – that’s just childish – but why should they not be able to express opinions about the very tour they pay to be a part of? Isn’t constructive criticism a necessary tool to improve any product and service? Maybe the PSA think they already have the perfect product? PSA have threatened disciplinary action against any player who steps out of line.
Which leads into the next scenario. One, where the very same CEO - Alex Gough - should now be applying these disciplinary actions on himself.
In a league match in England recently, Alex Gough’s on court behavior was apparently so over the top it warranted him being reported to England Squash. Reports mention Gough had a few ‘disagreements’ with the referee during his match, and on top of calling the ref names (swearing), he also made rude hand gestures and suggested that “it was people like you (the ref) that squash didn’t get into the Olympics”.
Now, squash didn’t get into the Olympics for many reasons. I am sure that the wrestling community had a lot to do with the decision, but if we forget about that and look just at the product of squash itself, blame can be widespread. Yes, the quality of the refereeing is definitely a factor, but the players themselves need to take responsibility too. Stop asking for so many lets. You know how to clear, you know how to play through minimal interference, so do it. But – and this is where Mr. Gough has ironically failed to see the light and lead by example – player behavior also turns people off.
There were (apparently) a few juniors present during the match. Not exactly a great example set by the leader of the world squash tour. To be fair, Gough has denied all allegations. He claims innocence across the board. Fair enough. His word against many. I wasn’t there, so we can just go on what’s reported on the websites. But, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? Something happened, and if Gough is innocent of all accusations, then there must be a conspiracy going on.
But, for arguments sake, let’s say it is true; did Gough’s actions bring the sport of squash into disrepute? Should he – as CEO – be disciplined by his own rules? At least issue an apology? Admit the mistake and move on? His outburst wasn’t conducted on social media – it was performed in front of live crowd including influential juniors. That’s worse. A lot worse than tweeting an opinion about equal prize money.