GARNER : A QUIET MAN
Tim Garner is a very busy man!
Not only he is a university graduate (not that common on the squash circuit), now the main coach at Lambs, plays league for a number of teams including St Georges during the season and he is also the tour director of the BSPA.
But that was not enough for this discreet young entrepreneur.
With Peter Nicol and Angus Kirkland, he has created Eventis Sports Marketing, a new company to promote sports events. Their first big event was nothing less then the English Open at the Crucible in Sheffield, and they just hit the nail on the head with the recent Canary Wharf Classic.
Look out squash world, here he comes!
When you started your career,
what was your ambition?
My ambition, when I was a junior player, around 13, was to become the 28th English player. At that time, I was living in Lingfield, and I was coached by Grant Miller, and his ranking was 29th in England. For me, he was the greatest, so, I just wanted to be better than he was, and I was sure that if I achieved that, I would have made it big!
How did you arrive on the circuit, and when?
I was never good as a junior, not good enough to make a career out of it, I thought. So I went to Loughborough University for three years, to study physical education and sports science. I had a great time at University, and realised that I was playing better and better, getting some good wins, which I didnít really expect. I finished University at the end of Ď91, and I went home to try and save a bit of money, as I was not earning any money yet! I then started working part time for an accountancy firm each morning, and in the evening, I was playing league matches. As I was not very well known, nobody would pay me any money. I did that for about 6 months, and then I went to South Africa to train for another 6 months.
When did you meet Peter Nicol?
When I came back from my six months of training in South Africa, in January 93, I joined PSA, which is pretty much when Peter did. Then, Peter and I were both qualifiers in our first PSA tournament, at Tours Central, in France. When we made it into the main, we didnít know anybody else. So we very logically decided to share a room, and that is when our friendship sort of struck up. I used to drive up into London, and practice with him, at Cannons or at other clubs. He was always badgering me ďyou should come up and have some coaching with NeilĒ.
And thatís when you started
training with Neil Harvey ?
Yes. I was having coaching at the time, but I was pretty on my own down in Lingfield. So I started to train occasionally up there, training with Peter and joining the group session. Neil and I got on very well very quickly. I have never been afraid of working hard, you see. I have always been aware of my limitation as a squash player. I knew I had to work hard. I was never a good junior, I had to rely on the fact I was a good athlete. I really enjoyed the training with Neil, and, as I was starting to establish myself on the world rankings, I wanted to give myself the best chance possible to improve at an international level.
When did you start working with Neil full time ?
Well, in April 95, Peter asked me if I would rent a room from him if he was to buy a place in Chingford. I accepted, thinking that was not about to happen, as Peter was never getting round to do anything at that time. Literally, about 3 days later, he called me and said that he bought a place in Chingford, and asked me when I was moving in! So, I moved up there.
How would you describe your friendship with Peter
I would consider Peter to be one of my best friends. It is obviously great to have the World's best player as your friend but I never really see him as that (which is why I am always annoyed to lose to him!!). Better still is to have one of your best friends playing on the circuit with you, it makes being away at events such more fun. He has also been a great example of how to focus on achieving things, though obviously his superior talent helped him achieve more than me!!
As a player, did you feel that you
benefited from Neilís coaching?
Oh yes! My game improved immensely. I had a few seasons in the best 30s in the world, my best ranking was 26, and I donít think I would have gone there without him. I was sort of stuck around 45s in the rankings, and it is one of the reasons that pushed me to start and work with Neil. He makes you work very hard, but you will get the rewards from it. I had a couple of very close matches which, if I look back, could have led me easily in the top 20 in the world, like my match in the world Open in '99 against Dan Jenson in a very close 5 setter, for example.
What did he bring to your game in particular?
One of Neilís biggest strength is that he reads the game better than anybody in the world. He is one of the best coaches in the world, but in terms of reading the game of squash as it is being played, I think he is the best in the world. When he came to an event, I never played badly (well maybe once!), and every time, I played better than I ever played. The advice he gives you during a game is spot on every time. You can trust his analysis completely. He is also excellent at finding the right words to say to you in between games. Because he has been there when you were doing the hard work in the sessions, he knows what you are capable of, and he can advise you to take a certain action knowing full well that you are actually able to achieve it. He is definitely a great person to have in your corner.
Why did you decide to reduce your
involvement in the Pro Circuit?
I have been for a few years in the top 30s in the word ranking, I am still ranked in the top 20 in England but I am now suffering from a recurrent injury, a knee tendonitis. So I had to slow down on my squash at a professional level. I know my body is now 33, but inside, I still feel like 23! I didnít decide to stop playing squash at a pro level, my body decided it for me somehow.
Letís talk about the BSPA.
An important part of my life is dedicated to the BSPA (British Squash Professionals Association). It was set up ten years ago by Tony Hands, Chris Walker, Neil Harvey, Mark Cairns and myself. The BSPA is a bit like my baby, and I have now taken over the role of chief organiser! I guess I always had a very proactive attitude. Itís a family trait, Iím afraid. I take after my mother, who takes after hers. You should see the way my grandmother organises club and activities for people much younger than she is. She is just so busy all the time!
I was told that the BSPA organises
a circuit of tournaments?
With Prince sponsoring, we built it up to a circuit of 8 tournaments a year around the UK and an end of season finals event. The British circuit got fairly decimated over the years through England Squash not having the resources to give it the attention it needs. The main aim initially was to give the professionals the opportunity to earn money and the younger players the chance to play the better players and gain experience with out having to pay out on expensive travel. However, it has almost been a victim of its success. The prize money has grown and although the younger players were getting to play the better players, we did not feel they were winning enough matches to learn how to do that as well.
So, did you decide to aim at the
young players more specifically?
Yes, I decided that we should set up an Under 23 circuit and rejuvenate the British Under 23 Closed, which used to be a great event but fell by the wayside. Last year, thanks to the backing of the Millfield Partnership, we had 3 circuit events around the country and the Millfield Partnership British Under 23 Closed in Manchester. To play the circuit any players under 23 could play, but obviously they had to be under 23 and British to play the main event. Hopefully, this year it will continue as I feel it is an important stepping-stone between junior and senior squash. Ten years ago you could be a teenager and compete with the best men but the game has changed and that is no longer possible, so this is an important area.
I was told you value a lot the people that work
for the development of squash in the UKÖ
You know, there are a lot of keen squash people out there, they just need a bit of guidance. They are a lot of phenomenal people in squash that will do a lot of hard work, but sometimes, they just donít know how, or need a bit of recognition for their work. So thatís what Iím trying to do: I try to service them as much as possible, give them the attention they need, make sure that people feel appreciated make sure that, after the event is finished, everything is organised for the following year, and especially, not to forget to say thank you for their hard work.
How and when did you decide to create
Eventis Sports Marketing Ltd?
Well, the company was actually created about a year ago by Peter (I have known him for now 10 years, we started on the PSA at the same time, in 93), Angus (I know him for even longer, we used to play juniors together) and myself, but we have been talking about it for about ten years. We used to have a lot of conversations, the three of us, and we realised we wanted the same things, that we had the same attitude towards sports events. So we decided to do something about it. Our ambition is to start with squash, because that is where we have all the contacts. But we also want to go into different sporting events.
What makes squash difficult to promote?
Squash is a great sport, and I wish more people would have access to it. The problem is to make people come to the event. Once they are at a squash competition, they are having a great time. I never heard of anybody going and watch a squash match thatís come away disappointed. But the problem is to make them come. This is the most frustrating at the moment. Once people go to an event, they love it. But squash is not in fashion, so people donít go and watch it. So that is why I think communication is essential to promote squash in general and squash events in particular. Back in Lingfield, when I was at the beginning of my career, I would bombard the local newspapers with articles about squash, results, news, etc. I thought that they would get so tired of me sending them stuff that they would eventually start printing it. And indeed they did!
Your first big event was the English OpenÖ
For the Prince English Open in Sheffield, we (Peter, Angus and myself) have been working very hard for the people to have a great time. We could have tried and made more money, but we just wanted the best for everybody, to really establish the tournament for the years to come. We secured the best players in the world, the venue was wonderful, we did our up most best to give people the best entertainment possible. Because it was a first time event, it was a tough sale event, because people donít know what you are selling. When you put the British Open on, people turn up to it because it has been going on for years. Our ambition is to be at the Crucible for a number of years, to get established, and then people think, oh yes, the English Open is on, letís go and see it.
Along with co-promoter Alan Thatcher, you just finished Canary Wharf Classic, that Iím happy to say, was a great event. Was it hard work?
Initially, the 2004 Canary Wharf Squash Classic was a very exciting project in the heart of the London's fastest expanding business community. We did set up the portable glass court in a spectacular new exhibition space called the East Wintergarden. We knew is was going to be a huge amount of work to make this the event we wanted it to be but we were sure it was be worth it and a great opportunity to showcase what exactly squash has to offer to the key decision makers in companies, right on their own door step, so it made getting them along easier!
Are you happy with the outcome?
Considering that we had a little over 3 months to put the Canary Wharf Squash Classic together, we think we did a pretty good job. There were definitely areas that can be improved but as a first major squash event in a brand new arena, we were happy with the end product. The East Wintergarden, as we anticipated, was loved by everybody and the portable glass court complemented it beautifully. The players were once again a pleasure to work with. There is no doubt that fact that we are all current or ex-pros helps, but they were willing to help with any PR activity requests we had and these will undoubtedly assist in building the event in the future. It was great to hear the positive reports from all areas regarding our scoring system. There will always be detractors when one tries something different, but on the whole it seemed to be liked by all, from players to spectators to retailers.
How do you inform people of a new event?
One of the ways to achieve that is to reach the squash players at a club level. That is why we concentrated on marketing. Posters and information letters were sent to club managements to ensure that the information would reach every squash player in England. The worse, when you prepare an event like the English Open or the Canary Wharf Open, is to hear people say to you ďOh, I didnít know it was on!Ē So that made us to sit back and think: how are we going to get the information to these people. They come or may not come along, but at least, we want them to know that the even is on.
Do you see yourself as a natural leader then?
No, not really, not at all in fact. Iím more of an organiser. One of my strength is that Iím good at getting things done, so Iím very good at logistics. But Iím not necessarily a front person, Peter is perfect in that role, not only because he is number one, but also because he is naturally a brilliant character and also he has a lot of experience of being in the limelight, I donít. I like being in the background. I like people to know that I have done the work that needed to be done, but I'm not worried about getting the applause!
In ten years time, where do you
see yourself professionally?
Iím not sure I have all the answers, but I would like to think that Eventis Sports Marketing Ltd will have a number of employees working on various events and projects around the world. Meanwhile, the founders Messrs. Garner, Kirkland & Nicol will be reaping the benefits whilst enjoying golf in the summer and skiing in the winter! Failing that the company will be in a position where we are all able to work on events on a full time basis, earning a nice income whilst also promoting squash on a global scale.
Any thoughts of settling down ?
Let's say that in the years to come, I would like to have found a girl whom I find both fun to be with and physically attractive, and who I really enjoy being with. Marriage? Not sure about that just yet, but maybe a girlfriend!
Iím sure you had some expectation as a youngster.
Have they changed?
The world has changed unbelievably from when I was younger and I guess my expectations have altered accordingly. Now I would think nothing to travel to New York for a weekend, back then it was a big thing driving to Wales to go on holiday. When I was younger I think I probably expected to have a 'proper' job and wife & 2.4 kids by the age of 30, whereas now I would question what is a 'proper' job and the family thing will happen when I am ready for it not when society thinks it should happen ... which is lucky for me!
BERNARD PIVOT QUESTIONNAIRE
What is your
Live events (concert, great football game, nail biting squash match)
People who are rude.
Courtesy costs nothing.
Scraping of chalk on a board
In my dreams? Someone who performs in front of a great audience
Put your kit on,
the match starts in 5 minutes!