REFEREEING DEVELOPMENTS: NOT EVEN CLOSE
Following on from my November/December Global Gallery on the refereeing crises, two tournaments tried to overcome the ‘backwall myopia’. In Toronto for the Canadian Classic, they decided on a third official placed on the stage next to the left wall. This ‘third man’ was only to be referred to when the referee thought fit. This was a slightly confusing situation for the players who constantly tried to use the third man as a source of appeal, only to be told this was not the case. When one player wanted the third man’s opinion, he was told he couldn’t have it. When he asked why not he was told by the referee ‘ because in this case I don’t think it is needed,’ meaning that he was quite happy with his own decision was correct and did not need the third man to confirm or reject it. Frankly, this was a waste of time; if you have an official with a different angle on the play, why not use him/her?
A week or two later in Chicago, this peculiarity of non-consultation was dealt with from the off. They decided to go back to the old US three-man system (one central ref and two side-wall officials, all placed behind the back wall). The difference was that all three officials judged every call and there was no appeal. This made sense as the players knew from the outset that all three officials had an input, leaving very little room for argument. I am told that the officials communicated not be radio, or radar or satellite, but by hand signals. (I have it from the highest authority that there is no truth in the rumour that all referees will be given two white flags and a crash course in semaphore).
According to my sources, discussions with the referee were kept to a minimum and play moved on smoothly, devoid of any rancorous arguments from disgruntled players.
TALK? TALK? SHUDDUP AND PLAY
This brings me to the matter of ref/player communications. Why do so many referees think that this is so important, some of them going as far as to say that it is a vital part of the game? Sorry, friends, it is not, nor should it be. It is not part of tennis, or badminton or table tennis, nor any other racket sport. Come to that, of any sport that I am aware of. The referee/umpire makes his decision and the players get on with the game without turning a sporting spectacle into a debating society.
It was interesting to see that in the Australian Open tennis this year, they adopted a player appeal system where a player was allowed a limited number of unsuccessful appeals. When a call was appealed the electronic tracking system (Hawkeye) was brought into play and shown on the big screen. It worked beautifully and Britain’s latest hope, Andy Murray, won a set point when he appealed his opponent’s shot which Hakweye showed was an inch long.
We could do that in squash, or will the referees object to having their authority taken away?
And finally, before I bore you all to death, I cannot for the life of me understand why the referees object to being placed anywhere other than behind the back wall. They have a huge collective mental block.
After much hot air and emotional exchanges, Lambs Club in London will close its doors for good come September when it will be razed and 120 apartments built in its place. A group of members tried to save it and successfully persuaded the local council to reject the planning application on several occasions, but the inevitable happened and the developers finally came up with plans that were acceptable.
When Mike Corby sold the club three years ago, he negotiated a three year lease because the headquarters of his fitness empire were located in the premises. But now he has sold the rest of his clubs and no longer needs the space. Tim Garner is the manager of the club and tells me that the owners could get them out sooner on a three month notice, but doesn’t think that will happen.
It will be sad to see Lambs disappear from the British squash scene as some very memorable moments happened there. But that was way back in the 80’s and 90’s. The British tournament scene went downhill very rapidly after Hi-Tec’s sponsorship came to an end and for a decade there wasn’t a major tournament worth more than $50,000 in all of Britain. Things are just beginning to recover and now England can boast three or four tournaments of some interest, but nothing close to $100,000 until the British Open in Manchester in 2008.
WHERE’S ALL THE MONEY GONE?
England Squash has had considerable funds from the Lottery to back its World Class program. All sorts of players have benefited from the money and the England Squash coaching team, usually about five strong including physios and IT specialists, are present at many major tournament around the globe. But I have to report that at the recent British Junjor Open, England did not win one title in any of the eight categories (four for boys and four for girls). Come to that, England did not have one finalist. Worse still, England failed to place one player in a semi-final.
Egypt’s boys and girls dominated with six titles with Pakistan (on the way up again?) taking two medals.
What has happed? Why this massive failure to produce world class juniors? England have this enviable budget, a high player base and a program of junior squads all over the country. Will questions be asked? I don’t think so. David Pearson, the England national coach, and his staff will simply point to the fact that England women are the reigning world team champions, as are the men. Failure? What failure?
ELEVEN SCORING FOR WISPA
So far WISPA players have played two BSPA tournaments using the point-a-rally to 11 used by the PSA and so far no conclusions. Andrew Shelley tells me it is far too early to make decisions and while there has been some feedback from his players he says the important feedback is from the spectators. He says that the big question is: has the news scoring system improved the spectacle? He intimates that any decision will be based on that questions. The fears are that the matches could become too short and that with p-a-r scoring, the chance of a fighting comeback is reduced.
My bet is that WISPA will stay with the traditional hand in scoring, the system that is still being used in major WISPA events.
IT’S UP IN THE AIR
And while we are in the WISPA camp, they are still awaiting the decision from Qatar Airlines as to whether they will renew their very valuable sponsorship. I hope they do so that we can enjoy another major tournie in India.
Meanwhile the PSA are enjoying a bumper year. Not only did John Nimick increase the size of his three tournaments in North America, but Saudi Arabia has come up with some really big bucks. Ziad Al-Turki, the man behind the Saudi International in December, has just signed a five year deal with PSA worth a million bucks. Each tournament will be offering prize funds of $182,000, which dwarfs everything else (other than world Opens) on the calendar. But listen to this: the 2010 Men’s World Open in Saudi Arabia will be offering a staggering $322,500 in prize money, which is the most money I can remember for a squash tournament.
This year Bermuda will beholding the World Open using two glass courts offering $175,000 in prizes; next year the World Open comes back to Britain for the first time in decades, with $215,000 in prize money; in 2009 the Open goes back to the middle east where Kuwait is offering $250,000. So in four years, the world open is going to offer $962, 500 in total prize money.
All I can say is that Ramy Ashour has come good at just the right time and when the Saudi World Open is over, this very talented young man could well be a millionaire. My advice to every squash player is to plan some Arabic language lessons between court sessions.