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Conduct Strokes… Nigeria … more
…also McWil, Tournament of Champions

Global Gallery,
Mar 12, 2007

The Monthly Round-up of the Interesting and
Inane of Squash From Martin Bronstein

© 2007 All
rights reserved.
all photos© 2007, Debra Tessier and Fritz Borchert


Jansher Khan won the first Tournament
of Champions in Grand Central Terminal in 1995.
photo:© 2007 Debra Tessier)

Alright, this
is for all you readers who have not bothered to read the Rules of Squash.
A referee does not, repeat, does NOT have to give a conduct warning before
deducting a conduct stroke. If a referee thinks a player’s action
is bad enough, he can give him a match misconduct without warning. So

It always amazes
me when a player addresses the referee – having been punished with
a conduct stroke – with a touch of righteousness and states: “Don’t
you have to give me a warning first?” The answer is: No.

It is that simple.  All this was brought about in a match in New York during the Tournament of Champions when a player – who shall remain nameless – threw his racket with some vehemence. The referee felt that it was done with such violence that it deserved a conduct stroke.  The player asked his question, but worse still one spectator – looked like a lawyer to me, said in an authoritative loud voice: ‘You have to give a warning first.’  I just hope he knows American law better than he knows the squash laws.

They used the revised three official system in New York (Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions),  and while it  is a vast improvement, there can  be much greater improvements. Two points I would like to make:

1) Ensure that the players know exactly how the system works, that all three officials give a decision on each appeal. (This is done by hand signals: a flat hand means ‘No let’, forefinger and thumb extended means ‘Let’ and a clenched fist means ‘Stroke’).
I was sitting behind the refs and it works quite well. As soon as an appeal is made, the referee/marker glances quickly to left and right,  and gives the majority /unanimous decision.  The problem was that many players thought this was the referee’s decision alone and would turn to the other two  officials (linesmen)  in an effort to appeal the referee’s decision. They should be told that there is no appeal. I am quite sure that once this is made very clear to them, arguments will be  reduced even further.

2) In New York the officials were all in a line 15ft or so behind the back wall. I still feel that the old American system of having the linesman one each wall, just behind the glass wall would be an improvement on giving three different views of the action. I wonder if I can persuade Peter Nicol and his fellow directors of Eventis to try  a three/four man system at the Canary Wharf Classic.

Those of you who follow soccer have learned what a backward governing body FIFA is, still staying with a referee and two linesman and refusing to allow  television replays to help in difficult decisions. (Even those two old fuddy-duddy sports cricket and rugby have seen the light and now use a further official who can see slo-mo replays as many times as he likes before passing on his decision  -which is final. And those tennis buffs who watched the Australian Open saw a new system whereby players can appeal a call and the electronic Hawkeye system is used to see if a ball was in or out.)

Now Michel Platini, that former great French soccer player, has taken over at FIFA and the first thing he wants to do is bring in two additional officials.  Soon rugby and other team sports will recognize what American football has know all along: you need a lot of eyes to watch the action in various parts of the field.   Which is my way of saying that a team of four officials for squash is not asking too much. Indeed, more and more referees are telling me that  they agree with the points I made in my Referee in Crisis  piece.

One referee said that the ‘jury’ system takes the pressure off the referees  and will prevent them making a really bad decision –which can haunt them and leave them open to all kinds of abuse.

You know, I get the feeling that there are a lot of squash referees who would like to see changes but don’t want to upset the conservative element that seems to rule. Speak up, people, speak up.


Peter Nicol and Lars Harms demonstrate
the Power Plate at their busy booth in Vanderbilt Hall.

Peter Nicol
has no intention of being one of those sad ex-players who hang around
the game long after their pro career has finished with no visible means
of support. Apart from his Eventis company which promotes tournaments
and stages the World Squash Awards each year, he has now moved into selling
vibrators. Steady on, gents, not those vibrators. What he promotes, through
a company called  The Lifestyle Institute, is something called a
Power Plate, which is essentially a vibrating platform. You stand on it
and do various exercises and it is supposed to do wondrous things for
you body and well-being.

In the brochure Peter says: “In twelve weeks I took the condition of my body from good to excellent….it helped me  achieve the best shape of my career.”

In fact Peter and Lars Harms, the former Swedish champion, have put their money where there mouth  is and with three other partners are opening  Lifestyle Institutes  in London and New York. Which is why he set up his stall in the Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York with his salesman hat on and was happy to talk and demonstrate the Power Plate to anybody who was interested. And who wouldn’t take the chance to talk to the great Peter Nicol?

“We created the company last summer because I had been using the Power Plate since last January which allowed me to go to the Commonwealth Games and win there.  Lars Harms had trained me on it and so we are not selling the machines. It is such a specific machine  there is a huge difference between training on your own or being trained by  someone who knows what they are doing,” Peter told me.

There are now three  locations in London and  when Peter spoke to me in New York, he was on the verge of announcing two locations in that city (with American partners).  You don’t join these places, you sign on for ten sessions for about  $40 per session ( in England it’s £20 per session).


The McWil court in the 9th floor Cathedral
Hall at the Univeristy Club of Chicago for the 2007 Windy City Open.
(file photo:© 2007)

What weighs
19 tons  and roams around North America to settle in the classiest
The McWil glass court, probably the busiest all-glass court in the world.
In January it was in the Metro Centre  in Toronto, then a quick dash
across the world’s longest undefended border to Chicago where it
was hoisted nine stories  to be surrounded by the stained-glass windows
of the University  Club’s dining room. A small rest and then 
an eastward hike for a two-week stay in Grand Central Terminal in New

Dave Carr, the McWil court man in North America tells me that the court has had 18 usages in three years and that they constantly improve it as the players and photographers give them feedback. The latest improvement is the lighting which has  finally got the photographers happy. (Although there is a bit of friction between the still photographers and the television people. But then, with TV people around there will always be friction).

“We still regard it as a promotional vehicle,” Dave told me. “It costs around $20,000 to rent so we don’t lose money and we don’t make money. In fact we are about to spend a big chunk of money on buying our own truck, so we will be completely self reliant.”

His crew is getting pretty good at erecting  the court and can put it up in 32 hours. Usually they do it over two days but in Chicago they worked 32 hours non-stop.

So how does McWill make money? They erect permanent courts all over North and South America as well as Europe. They have a foot in the new market – China, which if it takes off, could be huge.  Remember how good the Chinese became at badminton and table tennis. They could do the same thing in squash.

The MacWil court’s has a future date with a dinosaur in a museum. Metrosquash, another  Squashbusters-type inner city organization, is   putting together a very special money raising event in October, called Squash with Sue.  Sue is the  huge pile of prehistoric bones at the  Field Museum in  Chicago and the court will be erected there for just two days.  The well-heeled  patrons will be able to watch legends Peter Nicol and Jonathon Power as well as  Amr Shabana and David Palmer. If you are interested in this unique event email info@metrosquash.com.

Segun Meku, that well known Nigerian squash player and entrepeneur has been in touch with Squashtalk to tell us that he has purchased a McWill glass court  to be used in Africa.  First use will be the Nigerian army squash championships.  I thought you would like to read the first paragraph of the news story in the Nigerian Vanguard:

 “The Nigerian Army yesterday announced through the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Onyeabo Azubike  Iherjirika who represented the Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Owoeye Andrew Azazi that it is reviving the Chief of Army Staff Squash Championship which was rested about eight years ago.”

Dontcha just love the titles and the protocol? Anyway,  at a press conference, sorry, briefing,  Major General said: “The game of squash is vital for the general fitness of every individual and soldiers in particular.” Way to go Major General!

Segun tells us that the court is owned by Maku Sports group but will be available to companies/promoters for rent around Africa (except Egypt and South Africa through) a division of Maku Sports group called Maku Courts Service LTD.

The court will be used for the African Open in August and the two Nigerian players to watch out for are Gbenga Adeyi (former under 19 National Champion) and Wasiu Sani a veteran of  many Nigerian national teams.

However, the organizers are thinking of giving a new car to the winner, in which case  you can be certain that Segun Maku himself will be  competing.


Amr Shabana takes home the trophy at
the 2007 Tournament of Champions..
(file photo:©

Now I don’t
want to start spreading nasty rumours or get into the world of the paranormal,
but, well, I’ve been thinking.  Y’see  in January
2006 in the final of the Canadian Classic Jonathon Power was struck 
down by a bad back and had to forfeit the match and the winning cheque. 
Jump forward 14 months and in New York in the final of the Tournament
of Champions,  Anthony Ricketts was felled by a really bad case of
tennis elbow and other arm ailments, thereby having to be content with
the runner’s up cheque.  Bad luck all round you say. 
Strange then, that the man who benefited from both of these retirements
was Amr Shabana, the world number one.  Does he pay midnight visits
to the  Pyramids from his home in Cairo?  Before each tournament
does he summon up the Pharoahs and plead for their special curse to be
visited on his final opponents? Does he light oil lamps in memory of Tutankamen?
Is Amr a Mummy’s boy? 

Damned if I’m going to ask him.

If you really want power in the US  don’t go into politics – become a fire marshall. They can close down clubs, restaurants, arenas – anything or any place – if the owners don’t follow their advice.  This year he took a good look at Vanderbilt Hall and made John Nimick reduce the seating on one sidewall, which was not good news for Nimick who was working on a tight budget. And then the photographers were told to remove boxes and stools they sit/kneel on to take their pics through the clear glass at the front, just above the tin. Why? Well they might stand on them, which would be dangerous, they were told.  I ask you, why would they stand on them when the clear glass is below knee height? Like I said, powerful men.


Martin Bronstein standing next to artist
and huge squash fan Frank Stella at the closing ceremony of the 2007
Tournament of Champions.
(photo:© 2007)

This year 
was the tenth anniversary of squash at  Grand Central Terminal. John
Nimick asked me if I had been there the first year.  I wondered that
if I had,  would I get a gold watch and be made to retire. No, he
wanted all the lifers up on the court after the final. So Steve Line and
I, representing the media, were called up on court together with the VIPS. 
What I did enjoyed was standing next to that marvelous artist Frank Stella,
who created some superb sculptures as 10th anniversary trophies.

Stella is one of America’s great artists and a huge squash fan. His posters from the 90’s are now collector’s items.  He told me later that he doesn’t play now because hips and knees are giving him problems.  I do hope he continues with his interest in squash and his support of the Tournament of Champions.