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Action Station for Commonwealth Games

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Action Station for Commonwealth Games

Mike Dale reports on plans to give squash a spectacular platform in the build-up to this summer's Commonwealth Games.

An all-glass court is to be installed in the dazzling atrium of Birmingham New Street train station to showcase squash in the build-up to this year’s Commonwealth Games.

Plans are afoot for the court to host community clubs, local schools, university students, children from urban squash programmes, pro and legends exhibition matches, coaching sessions and a World Championship qualifying event during a week of feverish activity in early April.

Over 170,000 passengers pass through the recently redeveloped station every day, giving squash a golden chance to attract attention and create a buzz leading up to the start of Birmingham 2022 in late July.

The project is the brainchild of ‘Squash United by Birmingham 2022’ – a collaboration of just about every major squash stakeholder you can name, including the PSA Foundation, England Squash, the WSF, Rackets Cubed founder Michael Hill as well as Mike Harris and Ming Lee who have been leading the promotion of squash in the West Midlands with such gusto over the last year.

The week’s activities in the station will be led by Harris, head coach at Wolverhampton Tennis & Squash Club, who kickstarted the pre-Games promotion by taking two specially-built three-wall perspex mini courts (manufactured by Melior Sports) to the ‘One Year To Go’ event in Birmingham’s Centenary Square last July (assisted by Joel Makin, Declan James and Millie Tomlinson).

Harris and the Squash United by Birmingham 2022 team then took the mini courts on a ‘roadshow’ to six West Midlands community festivals, introducing the game to 5,000 children (with a target of reaching 50,000 at further events by this summer).

The Squash United team plan to create sustainable growth by linking in with Off the Wall Squash’s schools programme (see page 42), building accessible outdoor courts, reaching new communities and rekindling participation to at least pre-Covid levels.

Rackets Cubed, an official United by Commonwealth Games charity, is in the process of launching several integrated squash, education and nutrition programmes in the region in partnership with the PSA Foundation and England Squash. This forms part of larger expansion and programme legacy from the 2022 Games.

“We want to create a global squash pulse with a West Midlands heartbeat,” co-founder Lee told Squash Player. “We recognise squash is a relatively niche sport and doesn’t have much money, but we do have people who are prepared to dig deep, make things happen and get it moving in the right direction again.”

Adriana Olaya from the PSA Foundation added: “The way everyone in the group has united behind one cause – to make squash the star attraction of the Commonwealth Games – has been incredible. The Birmingham New Street project will be the jewel in the crown of this unique collaboration.”

England Squash CEO Mark Williams commented: “The glass court event, combined with all the other projects and ideas Squash United are leading on, will have a big impact on promoting the sport to new and diverse audiences. Squash United has shown us the blueprint for how we can have a big impact in a short space of time, the really exciting question therefore, is what else can we achieve across the game by working together?”