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11/11/2021
SQUASH MUST RESPOND TO GAMES THREAT

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SQUASH MUST RESPOND TO GAMES THREAT

World Squash President Zena Wooldridge says threats to squash’s inclusion in future Commonwealth Games are “not unexpected” and admits doubles may have to be sacrificed to boost our chances of remaining on the programme.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) announced on October 11 that the number of compulsory sports will be cut from 16 to just two (athletics and swimming) due to the spiralling costs of hosting multi-sport Games.

Squash will be one of 19 sports in Birmingham next year, but the CGF will allow the as-yet unnamed 2026 hosts to limit the total number to just 15. The likes of squash, netball and weightlifting may come under pressure from youth-led sports such as skateboarding and BMX which proved so popular at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
“This was not unexpected as all the multi-sport games are struggling to get bids,” Wooldridge told Squash Player. “We have to adapt our sports to the circumstances or not have them in at all. Squash is perhaps one of the most adaptable in allowing hosts to include it.”

One adaption squash may consider is removing doubles. “Doubles is costly to provide for,” Wooldridge explains, referencing the expense of transporting the doubles court used on the Gold Coast in 2018 for next year’s Games in Birmingham.
She sees a mixed singles team event as a possible alternative. “We have to be flexible, creative and adaptable. We must see this as an opportunity rather than a threat,” she insists.

Doubles is not included in next July’s World Games in Alabama but mixed doubles is part of the Asian Games schedule next September in Hangzhou, China. These multi-sport events are a key part of the WSF’s strategy to grow the game.

“We have moved past the goal of Olympic participation being our only strategy. We have to work on growing and strengthening the sport across the world,” says Wooldridge.

As we report on page 26, there are great efforts led by Squash United by Birmingham 2022, the PSA Foundation and others to create a post-Games legacy of increased and sustained participation in the West Midlands and beyond.

“We are the most joined-up sport in how we are approaching the legacy,” claims Wooldridge. “We have to join the dots to the community clubs which are the heartbeat of our sport. The Commonwealth Games is a great platform and we need to capitalise on it.”