Briars Attacks Scoring Changes

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Gawain Briars

Chief Executive PSA 1999 to 2008.               

In 2004 the Professional Squash Association introduced at the Hong Kong Open the reduction from 15 to 11 points, with a “tie break”, as the new official scoring system for all world tour men’s professional events.

This modification was introduced for the men’s game alone. There was never an intention from either myself or the PSA Board that this “new” system would become the thin end of a wedge in that it should eventually be introduced by WISPA or, ultimately, be rolled out for all recreational players.

Neither I nor the PSA Board ever advocated that par to 11 be introduced also as suitable for the club player. The traditional game to 9 points, hand in hand out, should remain safe from interference.

I do not believe that there is a justification to alter the above traditional system for recreational players. The primary claim that it will assist the Olympic bid, by unifying the sport’s scoring systems, is erroneous.

I have spoken on more than one occasion with an IOC member who is very close to our sport,on this subject.  His response, when asked specifically if alleged scoring confusion in the minds of IOC delegates is really what is holding back squash from joining the Olympic family, was an emphatic “no”.

A proposed marriage of scoring systems for all levels is a red herring when it comes to Olympic inclusion criteria. It is a useful political football. It is, I believe, a distraction from tackling weightier issues.

Neither was it an oblique intention of the PSA that the women’s professional division should eventually introduce a totally new scoring system (both point a rally and 11 points) to their tour, for the sake of conformity with the men’s.

That said, when asked at the time, I suggested that a unified scoring system at the professional level alone may have advantages from a marketing perspective and that a joint system par to 11 could be coined “Pro-scoring”.

I qualified this, though, by adding that whilst the women’s professional division would enjoy the extra intensity of par to 11 there was possibly an insufficient depth of quality, at that time, through a draw, to make up for the number of shorter matches, in any one tournament, that would therefore cancel out the benefits of the change.

I did not believe at the time, however, that the anticipated shorter match times in the men’s game would overly detract from the benefits of par to 11. Indeed, if two players have a will, matches can still be and are played to well over two hours. This is an amazing testimony to the skill and fitness levels of the players when taken in the context that a game can be lost in just eleven rallies.

Neither did I believe that the “comeback” factor would be lost. I witnessed first hand the grinding, inexorable climb back in the fourth game that David Palmer produced in Cairo to snatch the World Open final from Gregory Gaultier. I have seen many finals and many comebacks – and that ranked as one of the very highest in drama. 

Gaultier was left in shock and disbelief at what had happened. He just could not understand how, with such a long lead and only one rally to win, he lost. Every single rally counted. And, as Palmer got closer and closer, Gaultier’s arm became tighter and tighter. It was awful to watch, and it was brilliant. That was sport at its best.

The previous system in the men’s division to 15 pointshad become too unwieldy in that 15 as a target was too far out and often produced run away games.  Consequently, a lack of urgency was often perceived as missing from the start of games, and their passage, until the final few points were reached, had often become pedestrian.

The starting gun effect of 11 points (not 9, and not 13) has evidenced now, after four years of play, just how much more entertaining the men’s professional game can be. Par to 11 can still produce either attacking or defensive play. But the rewards are now far more weighted to favour an attacking style.

Of course, there is no guarantee that a more attacking, exciting style of professional squash will provide a broadcast bonanza. But it certainly hasn’t harmed the product, and it can only increase its appeal to both the initiated and the external market.  As a positive spectator experience, the men’s game is fully delivering.

To conclude, the reduction to 11 par by the Professional Squash Association has achieved its objective in that the men’s professional game has spawned a new generation of ultra skilled flair players that have adapted their training regimes and styles to an 11 par scoring system which has produced a visual experience far more exciting to watch for all levels of spectator.  The levels of skill, fitness and strength required to play this type of game are reserved for only the best players in the world.

There is no requirement or justification, however, to seek to align the international recreational game with the professional game’s scoring system. The governing bodies and federations should stand firm in retaining the traditional international scoring system to 9 as the one that makes our game such an enjoyable experience as a participant sport.

Gawain Briars
Ex President ISPA
Chief Executive PSA 1999 to 2008.


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