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Tournament
Talk: Referees and Squash

By
Ryan Barnett Reporting November 19, 2003, From Toronto;

© 2003 Squashtalk, all rights of reproduction reserved.

 

SPEAKING WITH
MIKE RILEY AND GRAHAM WATERS

Referees and squash. It seems like we’re always talking about them but
we never actually talk to them. In this installment of Tournament Talk
things are about to change. I managed to corner both the Director of the
WSF’s Rules and Referees Committee Graham Waters and WSF Int’l Referee
Mike Riley prior to Wednesday’s semi-final action. It was high time someone
sat down with two of the top officials in the game and found out what
they had to say. I posed some pointed questions and here are the responses.

SquashTalk: Not to beat an old horse to death
or anything but you guys definitely live in the Rodney Dangerfield world
of getting "No Respect" First off do you agree with this statement?
How does it weigh on you and is this something you wish could be changed?

Graham Waters: Of course we’d like it to change.
I don’t really agree that we get no respect. I think it goes with the
territory that the referees or officials are open to criticism and the
press not necessarily pick on them but they comment on the referees performance.
That’s fair territory. As for the players I think we do earn their respect
over time and we certainly have the respect from our peers.

Mike Riley: I definitely agree with Graham that
it does take time to get that respect. I know certainly that it took a
few years for the players to get used to having me around . Now I think
I’ve finally convinced them that I’m pretty competent out there and we’re
all out there doing our best.

SquashTalk: Obviously referees want all officials
to be adequately trained in order to properly call each and every match.
Players have been screaming for years that they want the standard of officiating
to improve worldwide as presently it varies from country to country and
person to person. Both the men’s and women’s tours travel to practically
every corner of the globe and have been for years yet the officiating
still fluctuates. How on earth can you upgrade the standard of officiating,
make it more consistent worldwide when there are little or no capital
resources available for you to adequately train your people?

MR: I really can’t comment on that as I really
don’t know to much about what goes on in that situation. Graham has a
better feel for that.

GW: I don’t think you can without funding. You
need the proper resources to develop proper refereeing programs around
the world. Some countries do have very good refereeing programs and have
developed some good referees and other countries have no programs whatsoever.
The countries that have the programs might be willing to share them and
will probably want some return on their investment for developing the
resources. Like everything else in the world referee training does cost
money. If you want to send instructors out to developing countries someone’s
got to pay to get them there and put them up while they’re there and cover
their expenses or it’s never going to happen.

SquashTalk: This leads to the idea of having
professional salaried referees who travel worldwide servicing both the
men’s and women’s tours. I’m thinking you would have 10 people who had
a "Job Title" of Professional Squash Referee. It would become
mandatory for these individuals (not all 10 but lets’ says 3-4 out of
the 10) to be present for the tournament or it wouldn’t receive either
PSA or WISPA status. Thus the integrity of our sport would not simply
depend on whichever volunteer could possibly make it to whichever event.
A rotation would occur with those individuals not in active tournament
duty where they would be sent to other areas of the world to train, educate
and promote the sport of squash…

MR: I think that would be a great idea! You
would get to know the idiosyncrasies of the players and you would see
them on a much more regular basis so you would get to see how they move
around the court and what they’re capable of doing in given situations.
You would pick up on the players body language as everybody has their
own special styles and you’d be seeing it more often and it would certainly
benefit the game.

GW: There’s no doubt that it would be an advantage
for everybody. The officials themselves would get used to what the players
can and can’t do and also for the players in reverse. The players would
understand where we’re coming from. They would know what to expect with
regards to decisions as they’ve seen us last week, the week before, the
week before that. As to the practicality of it? I don’t know that the
game can support traveling referees and I’m not sure that there are enough
people in the world who would want to do it full-time. Personally I wouldn’t
want to do it for 12 months a year.. Maybe for two or three months then
go back later.

SquashTalk: Monetarily if it was worth it. How
does that sound for year round employment?

GW: Money isn’t everything. It’s obviously a
factor. I’ve got a family and a life so that would obviously enter into
it as well.

Speaking
of money.
… With squash it’s always the money issue or lack
of it that seems to hold the game back. Why couldn’t both the PSA and
WISPA allocate a small percentage of each membership to this fund? If
I was playing on tour why would I take the chance that an unqualified
official could potentially cost me some cash.

Why couldn’t tournament
promoters be told that in order to have a sanctioned event you must pay
for officially sanctioned referees? It’s only going to allow you as a
promoter to showcase a better product and be good for the sport as a whole.
Why do we have three associations all involved within the same sport creating
so much duplication in services? Other sports don’t do this or need this
to operate globally. Let’s look at the big picture here. The cost savings
that could be achieved by amalgamating into one association, charging
fees to all members and promoters could quite possibly translate into
making this Tournament Talk a reality. You be the judge.