News Archive

News Archive 2001
also from 2000

Sue Rose is NOT the weakest link ...Jahangir turns his back on Pakistan ...Leilani in achilles op - out for a year ...All change in the Racket market ...Sponsorship battle to save British Open ...White's Commonwealth appeal fails ...Michelle Martin elevated to Aussie Sports Hall of Fame ...British Open crisis ... Fablon Crisis - chairman accused ...World Open rescue bid - another Indian hoax ...WISPA and Fablon break up ...World Open 'Postponed'  ... WISPA rescue Womens Worlds with last-minute fundraising ... WSF World Challenge receives prize boost for Melbourne ... Pakistan Open is the latest squash casualty ... WSF Men's World Championship cancelled amid Financial chaos ...Barada turns his back on squash ... Carol Owens to switch to New Zealand ...So where is the World Open ???  ... No end to Thong Fever as Botwright mania hits the states ... Willstrop on Nicol - "big mistake" ...Vicky in new media Thong Frenzy ... WISPA rule on the Thong - "abbreviated clothing is OK" ... Fitz-Gerald and Charman-Smith lead WISPA tour to Kenya ...Nicol in Connaught test versus world #1 transplant player ...Irving & Fitz-Gerald honoured by WISPA board ... Jansher Khan retires - official! ... PSA and Fablon announce £21 Men's World Grand Prix Tour ... Sabine Schoene retires from WISPA tour ... Van der Ven ousted from European presidency by Stahl ...

Rose is NOT the Weakest Link   26-Dec
Sue Rose made the last three in a special National Champions Boxing Day edition of "the Weakest Link", losing out to the Bog Snorkeller and Dog Groomer.

Jahangir turns his back on Pakistan  21-Dec
KARACHI - One of the world's most acclaimed sportsmen, squash legend Jahangir Khan, has decided to turn his back on the country of his birth, Pakistan, which he says affords him scant recognition, and is prepared instead to pander to military officers, reports the Asia Times Online  full story

Leilani in achilles op - out for a year  20-Dec
New Zealand's world No2 squash player Leilani Joyce has been airlifted back
to her home in Hamilton after apparently rupturing her Achilles tendon during
a training session in Queensland, Australia, this week.  More on the Grapevine

All Change in Racket market  17-Dec
Its all change in the racket markets. Prince UK has taken over Head, the Pro Kennex boss has grabbed the Prince distributorship and there are strong rumours that Slazenger has been sold off to the giant JJB sports chain. Where this would leave Tim Henman and Simon Parke if confirmed, and the Wimbledon ball come to that, is anyone's guess - and for that matter the top brand in Cricket, No.2 brand in hockey not to mention clothing or Golf.

It a bizarre upheaval, reminiscent of musical chairs. The former Benetton man Jeremy Sherwood has relinquished the distributorship for one of the top brands, Prince, and will now be promoting the Head brand (Head were formerly distributed in the U.K. by the Newbury based company Sportsline.) Sherwood has moved early and endeavoured to sign players to his new brand.

While Sherwood has teamed up with Head, Pro-Kennex boss Bob Johnson (who originally started in the racket business with Dunlop and had a short period with Prince before returning to Pro Kennex) has snapped up the opportunity to take over the Prince Distributorship for the UK. "The opportunity suddenly came up and I grabbed it with both hands," said Johnson. "Prince is the the arguably the second or third largest racket company in the world. It is a player's brand and we have good strong players. Prince is a quality brand and I like the nice clean image. They have innovative technology. They really created the modern squash racket with the extender innovation and recently the power ring and now they have really good indoor footwear as well".

Joining Johnson at Prince will be the former international contracts man Andy Bunting who left the company several years ago after building up Prince's stable of international professionals. "I'm delighted to be back," said Bunting. "You never know what's going to happen. I took some time to negotiate and think about it but I'm happy to be back working in the sport and Iım looking forward to it." This time around Bunting will be working with tennis and badminton as well as squash.

Prince, who once dominated the contracts market, still have Peter Nicol, Cassie Campion and John White in the UK. Head have ended up with a World No.1 in David Palmer. The Pro Kennex brand will now be handled by Steve Jolly, formerly of Donnay and recently of Pro Kennex.

In the racket rankings the top three companies are out on their own with Wilson, who promote their rackets with their "technological" story regarded as the No.1 in world wide sales, with Prince and Head vying for second spot.

While this major swap promises some interesting times, it is the Slazenger situation that is the most compelling - and the most closely guarded secret. It looks like Dunlop, who own the Slazenger brand and who were taken over by their bankers earlier in the year, have opted to unload one of the sport's most famous brand names for a quick injection of cash.

What's Your Racket ?
Joe Laredo surveys the racket scene for 2001/02

Sponsorship Battle to Save Open  07-Dec
A behind the scenes sponsorship battle is being waged to raise the necessary revenue to stage the British Open. Already significant funds are said to be in place. At this stage it looks like and Open could be funded by a consortium of interests and sponsors, some of whom are in place, with still others looked for to join the group and perhaps fund individual events held under the British Open umbrella.

"This event is the great tradition of squash. Being involved in it is being involved in squash history. There is a will being shown by many people who love this to put it on," said England Squash President Mike Corby. "There will be sponsorship opportunities at different levels available to be announced very soon. "

"We are looking at putting it on at Lambs and the new National Centre in Manchester. The Open will be a build-up to the Commonwealth Games were there will be the chance  to win medals for your country ­ it is something that should excite all English patriots."

Details on the sponsorship package are expected to be finalised soon and their availability will be announced on SquashPlayer.

Also see British Open Crisis

World number four John White will not be allowed to compete for Scotland in next year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester. The Commonwealth Games Federation insist that the 28-year-old does not fit the criteria required for competing for Scotland, despite the fact that he has played for the country since 1999 and in world championships. More on the grapevine

Twice U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter has been officially recognised as Australia's most inspiring athlete during 2001. The Wimbledon finalist received the annual "Don" award at Thursday's Australian Sports Hall of Fame dinner. The award is named after Australia's cricketing legend, the late Sir Donald Bradman, and recognises athletes who set an example both on and off the playing field.

Previous winners of the award include runner Cathy Freeman, swimmer Ian Thorpe, cricketer Mark Taylor and marathon runner Heather Turland. Golfer Bruce Crampton, equestrian rider Phillip Dutton, rower Nick Green, Australian Rules footballer Peter Hudson and squash player Michelle Martin were named as this year's five new inductees into the Hall of Fame. Martin joins Heather McKay in the prestigious list.

Hall of Fame details

British Open Crisis  29-Nov
Plans for the British Open are in chaos. With the collapse of the England Squash relationship with its rights holder the Fablon Group alternatives are desperately being thrown together but have become bogged down in indecision, competing interests, and time constraints.

Compounding the staging problems are a financial crisis at England Squash (SRA) and a leadership vacuum following the departure of the Chief Executive Stuart Courtney.

One bright spot for the association is that the completion of the new National Squash Centre in Manchester as part of the Commonwealth Games facilities provides an alternative venue to the NIA in Birmingham. The centre is due to be completed on February 11th, and holding the British Open there as a 'test event' for the Commonwealth Games could attract some addition funding.

One proposal for the British Open is that the early rounds of the event be staged at Lambs Club in London and then the event move to Manchester for the quarter-finals onward. The Open, formerly scheduled for early April, has now been booked in with the PSA from 11-19 April but this would preclude weekend audiences and these dates can be expected to be revised.

At this stage funding for the event is not in place although England Squash President Mike Corby is said to be behind moves to make sure the event goes ahead. Corby underwrote the 1998 event of which the early rounds were staged at Lambs and the later round at the NIA.

The staging of full age group events, and of a full womenıs event is not assured at this stage. It is possible that the Word Doubles Championships, due to be hosted by the SRA in April, will now become an invitation event and held immediately afterwards, given the availability of top players immediately after the conclusion of the Open.

World Squash Day launched  22-Nov
One of the biggest initiatives to promote the game of squash is taking place in January.

World Squash Day has been scheduled for January 12th 2002, with a special launch day in London the day before. Lambs Squash Club, situated in the heart of London's financial district, will play host to an eight-man professional invitation tournament, headed by world champion Peter Nicol, and a special challenge match between teams from London and New York.

Nicol, 28, has agreed to be the figurehead of World Squash Day and said: "I have had a great time playing professional squash and I am happy to be putting something back into the game."

World Squash Day, endorsed by the World Squash Federation and other governing bodies, will feature a host of promotional activities in thousands of clubs around the globe, with the emphasis being on attracting new players to the sport, particularly women.

The England-New York Challenge will be dedicated to the memory of former Scottish junior international Derek Sword. The US Ambassador has been invited to launch World Squash day alongside Nicol and England Squash President Mike Corby, owner of Lambs Club and a vice-president of the World Squash Federation. The teams will compete for the Derek Sword Trophy and the challenge is scheduled to become an annual event, alternating between London and New York.

World Squash Day is being organised by three squash enthusiasts, journalist and TV commentator Alan Thatcher, management consultant Laurie Maclachlan, a former Scottish junior international, and Steve Cubbins, who has constructed the  website, from which the entire global operation will be directed.

Fablon Crisis - chairman accused in financial investigation  20-Nov
Fablon Chairman Graham Gutteridge has been accused of wrong doing and misappropriating company assets following an investigation into the company accounts. Full story

PROFESSIONAL squash achieves a major breakthrough next week with live broadcasts on every match from the YMG Classic in Toronto. The widely acclaimed Canadian TV producer and film-maker Jean De Lierre is masterminding the live webcast commentaries from  Alan Thatcher from the event at the Allen Lambert Galleria in Toronto.

English sports journalist Alan Thatcher is flying over from London to head up the commentary team, with expert analysis being provided by the players themselves. Thatcher, a squash coach, author and event promoter, has worked with De Lierre before. They linked up at the 2000 Super Series Finals in London, when Nicol's 3-2 final win over Simon Parke was rated as one of the most breathtaking and entertaining squash matches ever filmed.

Thatcher has also been the lead commentator in Sky TV's ground-breaking live broadcasts from the last two British Open Championships from the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.

De Lierre said: "I am delighted to have this opportunity to take the game to a wider audience via a live webcast commentary. Our ultimate aim is obviously to have live pictures beamed around the world from major tournaments, but this is a vital stepping stone in that process.

"I am grateful to John Nimick, the YMG tournament promoter, and the Professional Squash Association (PSA) for the opportunity to take the game one step closer to full live webcasts. I am pleased that Alan is coming over to lead the commentary team. He knows the game inside out, he knows all the players, and injects humour as well as a deep squash knowledge into his commentaries."

Thatcher said: "I am honoured to be working with Jean again and especially at a time when squash has proved that it CAN make great television. This first live broadcast on the internet represents another major step forward for the game and I am looking forward to helping Jean and promoter John Nimick make the enterprise a big success."

"As the Tournament Director, I am thrilled that the YMG Capital Classic has the opportunity to be the first-ever audio webcast squash event," said John Nimick. "The coverage offered by Jean De Lierre is certain to stamp our event as one of the most progressive and pioneering on the PSA World Tour. It is a fitting development for Canada's only major squash championship."

The commentaries will be broadcast on De Lierre's own website ( but can also be accessed via SquashPlayer, together with full editorial tournament coverage.

De Lierre added: "The Internet's bandwidth having its limitations, the signal output only being as strong as its weakest link, the audio streaming may be more difficult for some to access than for others. In fact, there are still a few unknowns in regard to the web server's capacity to handle the intercontinental traffic load. Extensive testing will continue until the start of the event's first match on Sunday Nov. 18th , which features World number 1 David Palmer against one of England's best, Paul Johnson."

Full YMG Classic coverage    Grapevine packs the anti-moose cream

A widely-circulated email, purporting to be an offer to salvage the recently-postponed Men's World Open Championship, has been declared a hoax.

"The first I knew about this email, which appeared to come from the Indian National Coach, Cyrus Poncha, was when I received a response from PSA Executive Director Gawain Briars asking for further details," said Mr N Ramachandran, President of the Asian Squash Federation, from Chennai in India. "I immediately contacted Ted Wallbutton, Chief Executive of the World Squash Federation

"This is clearly the latest in a series of hoax emails which have emanated from India in recent months. The 'yahoo' address which was used is not the official one of Cyrus Poncha and if I had intended to make such an offer I would have made it personally and not delegated the task to my Head Coach," Ramachandran added.

Gawain Briars added: "In this difficult period for the world in general, leave alone international sports like ours, it is extremely regrettable that there are hoaxters around who are prepared to be so disruptive."  More on the Grapevine

Just one year into their eight year, $10m agreement, WISPA and Fablon have gone their separate ways. This follows the failure of Fablon to come up with the prize fund for the Women's World Open, forcing WISPA to fund the event from other sources at the last minute.

The latest issue of WISPA's newsletter thanks Fablon for their support over the course of several major events, but stated that WISPA "no longer feel confident that they could find staging and promoting partners within the sport due to commitments not resolved."

Wispa & Fablon sign up - Oct 2000 - More on the saga on the Grapevine

Grantham returns to BSPA circuit  08-Nov
The today announced the return of the Grantham Open to the British squash calendar. Joining the Prince Grand Prix in February, it promises to be the biggest tournament ever on the BSPA circuit. The Men's event is to have a prize fund of £5000 (with the winner picking up £1000), while the Women will battle it out for £2000 (a top prize of £500). BSPA's Tim Garner commented "it is fantastic to have the Grantham Open back on after an absence of a couple of years. We are pleased to welcome them to our circuit. Ron Moules and his team have done a fabulous job in raising a prize fund that is sure to attract a top class entry."' The tournament slips into the circuit just prior to the Nationals in Manchester and so will provide a good guide as to the form of the players as they approach one of England Squash's premier events. Full BSPA coverage

World Open OFF  02-Nov
Procam International announced today in Mumbai that the PSA 2001 World Open Squash Championship will no longer take place in India in December as planned.

"It is with great regret that we have had to reach this decision, due to the political and security ramifications of the war in Afghanistan," said a spokesman for promoters Procam. Alternative arrangements are being discussed with the Professional Squash Association with a view to promoting the event either at another venue or at a postponed time in India.

PSA Executive Director Gawain Briars added: "The PSA World Open has become another sporting casualty of the war against terrorism and both Procam International and the PSA will pursue all avenues in their ability to retrieve the prestigious event for the players and our loyal fans around the world. Further information will be provided as soon as possible."

World Open Crisis - Announcement Due  01-Nov
A crucial announcement on the Men's World Open, due to be staged in India at the beginning of December, is expected today - with "cancelled" the main probability. The final decision will follow a long period of uncertainty with sponsorship, venue and political questions unresolved. Following the cancellation of the WSF Men's World Championships in Melbourne PSA officials were desperate to stage an event, and this has lead to the delaying of any decision.

The only one likely to come out of the episode with a smile on his face is Peter Nicol who won the world title at the Al Ahram World Open in 1999 and is still the reigning World Champion. Nicol won the title after the 1998 champion Jonathon Power had withdrawn due to injury in the semi-finals against Ahmed Barada following a spectacular crash on court. Since that victory three Women's World Champions have been crowned.

Plans to reschedule the event could well run into 2002, where there is a long standing arrangement to hold the World Open in Belgium as part of the 700 years Flanders celebrations. That is an event that will not be able to be rescheduled.

Players have already travelled from Australia and North America to prepare for the World Open with the qualifying tournament due to take place in Cardiff on the 17-18 November. Cancellation, if confirmed, will result is much player dissatisfaction.

This World Open in India was to be the first of a five year rights deal guaranteeing a $1 million dollar prize fund. Cancellation would throw up all sort of uncertainties on the status of the deal.

PSA - World Open is "ON" - WISPA celebrate record prizes  30-Oct PSA Executive Director Gawain Briars, has issued  a statement regarding the state of the World Open scheduled for India in December. Briars said:
"Mumbai is still on subject to "war" difficulties which is now dominating the policy of almost every sport. PSA is holding a review of the matter at the end of this month with the promoters with a view to issuing the best advice we can in the prevailing circumstances."
  Hopefully that should lead to a definitive statement very soon.

Meanwhile, WISPA today issued a statement celebrating a record prize fund for 2001:
The WISPA World Tour has burst beyond an annual prize-fund figure of $750,000. The record $753,000 prize-fund for 2001 represents a 15% increase on the total for 2000. "The continued WISPA Tour growth is simple to explain," said WISPA Director Andrew Shelley: "Our players are our greatest asset.  Once they are taken on board, they are inevitably invited back. "We are three quarters of the way to our next target!" Shelley added.

After the late withdrawal of their backer, WISPA have managed to secure $61,000 from various sources to ensure that the Women's World Open Squash Championship proceeds as a centrepiece of the Melbourne International Squash Festival this week in Australia.

WISPA Director Andrew Shelley confirmed that the body had pulled out all the stops to maintain the high prize fund - and without using any of WISPA's own funds.

"We were fortunate to secure some great backing from various sources in the last couple of weeks because we couldn't even begin to support it from our own resources," said Shelley in Melbourne. "The Festival organisers have been hammered by the withdrawal of the underwriters, but with a fully-funded Women's World Open and Men's Team Championship to follow, the Festival will be able to follow Masters week."

Thatcher's view, on the grapevine

There will be a top prize of six thousand Aussie dollars from an enhanced prize fund of at least 30,000 dollars for the forthcoming WSF World Challenge in Melbourne, the event which is replacing the cancelled WSF Men's World Championship.

PSA entrants have been notified that, following the close of entries at 12 noon on October 12th, the draw will be made to accommodate a maximum of 64 players. If a 64 draw is achieved, the top 16 PSA players will be seeded into the second round. If the draw size is 32 the top eight PSA players will be seeded into the second round.

The top 16 players all receive prize money, which is an improvement on earlier plans to pay only the last four. The prize money breakdown is as follows (in Australian dollars) with the winner receiving $6,000;  Runner up $4,200; Third-fourth  $2,700;  Five to eight $1,800; nine to 16 $900.

The welcome from Festival Director Paul Vear says: "On behalf of the Victorian Squash Federation and Melbourne 2001 International Squash Festival Board we welcome you to Melbourne. Although we all have encountered some extreme difficulties in recent times, we hope your stay in Melbourne is a memorable one for all the right reasons.

The Pakistan Open Squash Championship, due to be staged in Lahore next month, has been postponed until next year due to 'the prevailing conditions' in the region. The PSA Tour 'Super Series Silver' event has become the latest squash event to be affected by September's terrorist atrocities in the USA, following the cancellations of the US Open in Boston last month, and the WSF Men's World Individual Championship in Melbourne this month.

"As you are aware it is warlike situation in the world - the security conditions have deteriorated in the region," said Squadron Leader M Sajid Waheed, Honorary Secretary of the Pakistan Squash Federation. "Although all the arrangements were in hand to hold the Pakistan Open 2001 in time, but with the prevailing conditions, it is impossible for us to conduct this event this year."

It s hoped that the Pakistan Open will now be re-staged early in 2002. The US Open, which was postponed mid-tournament in the wake of the September 11 attacks, has been rescheduled for 06-09 January, at the Boston Sheraton Hotel.

In a shock move the WSF Men’s World Championships, a centrepiece of the Melbourne Squash Festival, due to start on the 15th October, has been cancelled, following players' rejection of a proposal of a reduced prize fund. The Festival, with its three other world championships events is expected to go ahead, and a last minute stop gap men’s event is to be staged.

Full story from Ian McKenzie   plus ... Alan Thatcher reports

Eye Group supports Melbourne, says chairman
Following cancellation of the WSF Men's World Championship in Melbourne, the Eye Group have issued the following statement about their involvement in the Melbourne festival and their commitment to squash.
Statement from the Eye Group

Squash events around the world continue to be postponed due to the terrorist crisis, with the 2nd West Asian Games, due for 20-30 Oct in Kuwait joining the US Open and the South Asian Games on the pending list. The Qatar Classic and Pakistan Open are still on, pending developments.

"In view of the current circumstances in the region, and in the interest  of holding a successful Games, the Organizing Committee of the 2nd West Asian Games decided to postpone the Games which was scheduled to be held in the State of Kuwait during the period from 20th to 30th October 2001 to a future date of which will be notified after holding the extraordinary General Assembly of the West Asian Federation which will be convened shortly".

National League gears up for 2001/02  24-Sep
The National League season 2001 –2002 gets underway on 9 October with England Squash still looking for a league sponsor. There are some exciting ties in prospect.
It looks another season likely to go right down to the wire with much depending on player availability due to clashes with major PSA/WISPA events, particularly in the first half of the season. Full preview and details

Prince confirm BSPA sponsorship for 2001/02  20-Sep
The British Squash Professionals Association (BSPA) is pleased to announce that Prince will be continuing with their sponsorship of the British circuit. The 3rd year of the Prince Grand Prix will once again boast a minimum of 8 venues around the nation and will culminate, as it did last year, in the Prince Grand Prix Finals. Starting in Aberdeen in November it will once again offer Britain's professional players the opportunity to earn money and gain competitive experience without incurring large travel costs. "The original deal with Prince was for two years, so we are delighted that they have realised the benefit of their association with our circuit and look forward to building on it's success this year" said Tim Garner, BSPA Board Member. Full BSPA details and dates

With just minutes to go before the tournament was due to get underway, organisers of the US Open Squash Championships, at the Symphony Hall in Boston, took the decision to postpone the event (from Sept 13-16) until later in the year. Full details

Barada turns his back on squash

AHMED BARADA  has retired from the professional circuit, according to reports emerging today from Egypt.

The former world number three has struggled to regain fitness in recent months and withdrew from the Halifax-Equitable Super Series finals in London, then pulled out during the first game of his comeback match against Alex Gough in the Scottish Open in Perth.

Barada's decision comes a week before the 2001 Al Ahram tournament, where the Egyptian superstar is always feted by loud, partisan crowds. Last year he lost 3-1 in the Al Ahram final to Peter Nicol in the spectacular open-air amphitheatre at the foot of the Great Pyramids, where Barada had reached the World Open final the previous year. On that occasion he lost to Nicol in straight games.

Barada, 24, was the victim of an horrific stabbing outside his home in Cairo early last year. He was attacked by a mystery assailant as he parked his car outside his home after attending a party. No-one has been arrested for the assault.

Barada recuperated in Switzerland and then back home in Egypt. He was left with two massive scars that showed how close to his spine the knife penetrated. He returned to the circuit in the 2000 Super series but clearly his heart was no longer in the game. He claimed to be suffering from a loss of confidence as a result of the stabbing, and more recently he was reported to be getting engaged and pursuing a career in the movies.

Barada favoured a hard-hitting, attacking style, and beat both Nicol and Jonathon Power on his way to winning the 1999 Heliopolis Open in Cairo. However, he was rarely as successful outside Egypt as he was when competing on home territory.

His retirement is hardly a shock. He had put on weight during his absence from the game, and was clearly finding it difficult to summon up the motivation necessary to regain his former fitness.

The Cairo crowd will need to find a new hero for the Al-Ahram International, which gets under way in Cairo on 5th September.

The original Barada stabbing reports, from Alan Thatcher


Charman and Bailey lift the World Team trophyAs Tania Bailey ponders a six-month lay-off with a knee injury which forced her to pull out of last week's Hong Kong Open at the quarter-final stage, England ladies captain Linda Charman-Smith is celebrating the all-clear to resume training after suffering from a calf strain throughout the summer.

The Sussex player, who led England to triumph in the World Team Championships against Australia last year,  had a scan in London today (Thu 30th) and said: "It's great news. I have just come from the specialist and after the scan I was told that the calf has healed. Thank God! I will not be able to play again until I get the strength back to normal in the muscle, so I'm looking forward to doing weights for now. But at least I can train and look forward to getting back into action before Christmas."



WORLD champion Carol Owens has finally confirmed the worst-kept rumour in squash by deciding to turn her back on Australia and represent New Zealand.

Owens will qualify to play for the Kiwis in next year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the World Team Championships scheduled later in the year for Denmark. A top pairing of Owens and Leilani Joyce is bound to make the  New Zealanders the top seeded nation in the latter tournament.

Owns, aged 30, is sure to receive a hostile reception in some quarters when she defends her Women's World Open title in her home city of Melbourne later this year. There is no love lost between Owens and fellow Australian Sarah Fitz-Gerald, the new British Open champion who also grew up in Melbourne.

Owens, who won the World title in Edinburgh last November, waited until celebrating that particular achievement to unload a lot of emotional baggage harking back to her teenage years, when she claimed that Sarah's mother, who coached both girls, had claimed that Carol would "never make it".

She fell out with the Australian authorities over their selection policy, and to Fitz-Gerald's annoyance, refused to play for the team in Sheffield in December, when her presence would surely have swung the World Team Championship final in Australia's favour against an England side lacking the injured Cassie Campion. As it was, England triumphed 2-1.

Owens has been living in Auckland for three years and her game has improved significantly since linking up there with former England national coach Paul Wright. Owen confirmed: "I am now preparing to change allegiance and I will be eligible to represent New Zealand in September of this year, but as there is no Women's World Team Championship this year it won't be until next year before I play for my new country.

"We normally compete as individuals in most tournaments. The Commonwealth Games is different, though."

Owens, ranked two in the world behind her new Kiwi team-mate Joyce, has become the latest high-profile  player to change allegiance - indeed the latest world champion - following men's world number one Peter Nicol's decision to change international allegiance from Scotland to England.

Nicol lived in London for ten years before making the switch, while Owens has been a New Zealand resident for three years - the minimum required to earn national representation.

Owens told the South China Morning Post before this week's Cathay Pacific Hong kong Open: "The last time I represented Australia it was the last Commonwealth Games in 1998. I made the decision to represent New Zealand because I was training and competing well there and everybody was supportive of me," said Owens, who will defend her World Open title in Melbourne in October. I just received a grant from the New Zealand Sports Foundation and they have been very supportive."

Owens meets Malaysia's world junior champion Nicol David in the first round in Hong Kong.

Full SCMP article

Owens receives the World Championship trophy
from WSF President Susie Simcock,  a New Zealander

Stuart CourtneyIIn a shock move Stuart Courtney, the Chief Executive of the SRA (England Squash) has resigned. Courtney has led the association through a difficult period for several years and follows a number of the association's heads who have had short periods of tenure. He will leave the association on 31st August.

His imminent departure came as a shock to staff. “It hurts.There have been a lot of improvements especially on the international side. He has done a fantastic job for the organisation,” said a senior member of staff.

Courtney, a former leading player and England’s most successful squash manager was seen by many as a modernising influence with a robust management style. He termed the departure ‘disappointing’ and perhaps had the feeling that he was not receiving the support at board level that he should have. Courtney commuted from Surrey to Manchester to fulfil his office based duties and this is said to have put added strain on his role.

“It was becoming difficult. It got silly. People were not supportive. A lot of people didn’t see the bigger picture. I have had a lot of support from John Treharne and working with the counties was great,” said Courtney to The Squash Player.

The England Squash chairman John Treharne praised the Chief Executive’s role : “Stuart’s contribution has been considerable. He has improved the perception of the SRA in counties and clubs. In the past there has been the criticism that there has not been enough presence. He has spent an inordinate amount of time visiting counties and clubs and turned this perception around. He has also been extremely helpful in appointing a regional development team.”

“There have been difficulties in recent years securing sponsorship for the British Open and in keeping events on and he has managed this very well. One of his other big contributions was in extracting the association from the Acton headquarters, relocating it to Manchester and eventually to the new centre for the Commonwealth Games.”

The association has been plagued by declining membership and revenue and the still faces the perennial problem of funding high profile international events. It thought it had found a saviour for these events in Fablon/Eye Group, the sports rights acquisition group that has obtained rights to the SRA events, but this relationship has proved a fraught one that has all but broken down. Although the group has sponsored three British Opens, the revenue coming to the association form the rights sale of the SRA’s events has not been forthcoming in full and this has put considerable pressure on the finances of the association.

Courtney wanted to see a more modern SRA and perhaps he was at loggerheads with the traditionalists. As England manager he was opened up to more international influences and was behind the name change of the traditional body to that of England Squash.

Following his departure the associations chairman John Treharne will take on a more hands on role.

“We will take stock of the situation and we will advertise the position at a suitable juncture. We could look to replace Stuart over the next 3-6 months,” said Treharne.

SRA Statement, from Chairman John Treharne
Stuart Courtney has resigned his position as Chief Executive of England Squash and his last day in post will be the 31st August 2001. John Treharne, Chair of the Association, paid tribute to Stuart saying:

“During his time in office, he has worked hard at fostering better relationships between the governing body and our affiliated clubs, counties and individual members and was also responsible for bringing major sponsorship into the British Open, an enjoyable but difficult task. He has worked hard at the introduction of a new membership scheme, a scheme that has to succeed in order for England Squash to gain a far more solid financial base and one that will start to roll out during the next few months.

Stuart should also be remembered for his role in the nineties as manager of very successful England teams, a role that I know he got enormous amounts of joy from. I also know that he will be sad at missing England’s involvement in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and at seeing the Association move into its new headquarters next year, at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

I hope you will join me in wishing him all the very best wherever his future career takes him”.

from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle
THE lucky winner of the Internet auction for Vicky Botwright's thong will receive his prize in person from the world No.18 glamour girl.

The top bidder, Reuben Woo, lives in Hong Kong, and Vicky's next tournament appearance happens to be the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open in three weeks' time.

Woo's top bid was £305, which went into the kitty to raise more than £5,000 from two weekend exhibitions in Newcastle featuring Vicky and world champion Peter Nicol.

Vicky said: "We decided to auction off the thong to raise money for John Dale, a fellow professional squash player who has been in Newcastle General Hospital suffering from a brain tumour, so I was delighted that we were able to raise so much money for a good cause.

"I will be pleased to hand over the thong in person in Hong Kong."   Full story

Three times World Champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald recorded an impressive 9-3 9-4 9-1 victory over British No1 and 1999 World Champion Cassie Campion in the first World Champion Challenge held in conjunction with Squash Wales at St. Mellons Country Club.
Full details


Steve Waugh with Sarah and Nick ..THE SRA  glass showcourt stopped the traffic in central London today as the Commonwealth Games 2002 countdown was launched in Trafalgar Square.

Australia and England’s sporting stars forgot their rivalry (briefly) to help launch the 2002 Commonwealth Games – a year to the day before the multi-sport event starts in Manchester. British Open champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald had a fun knock-up with fellow Australian Steve Waugh, the Ashes cricket captain. Nearby, in a  boxing ring, Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne exchanged playful punches with former England rugby skipper Lawrence Dallaglio, while British gymnast Annika Reeder demonstrated her floor routine on the roof of a London cab.

Surprisingly, reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist Peter Nicol was not invited to appear, despite the fact that he lives in London. The event was designed to promote the Games to a wider audience following a survey revealing that four out of five people living outside Manchester did not know the Games were taking place in the city.

Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a message of support. His statement said: “After the tremendous success of our sportsmen and sportswomen at the Sydney Olympics, I am really looking forward to next year’s Commonwealth Games. I am sure our home teams will again do us proud. “As well as being one of the highlights of the sporting calendar, Manchester 2002 will also be a centrepiece of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. It should be a marvellous event.”

Squash is a major part of the Games, with singles and doubles competitions taking place on a new glass court that will be floated on a bed of air from its permanent home in the new National Squash Centre to the middle of the main event arena. 

From Alan Thatcher & Steve Cubbins
MYSTERY surrounds plans to stage the early rounds for this year's men's World Open in Cardiff - with the finals in Bombay two weeks later!

The latest WSF calendar shows the qualifying and first round scheduled for Cardiff from November 17-20, with the second round onwards taking place in Bombay from December 3-9. Calls to squash governing bodies failed to clear up the mystery, with the WSF confirming the dates but the PSA saying it must be a mistake, and no official announcement has yet been made.

Earlier in the year the PSA, based in Cardiff,  were celebrating a long-term association to stage the World Open in partnership with an Indian promotions company. Then the whole thing was shrouded in doubt when it appeared that no sponsorship was forthcoming to stage the jamboree.

However, a new event, the World Championships for men, was included in the Melbourne Festival to be staged in October alongside the Women's World Open, the Men's World Team Championships, and World Masters age-group events.

One leading player said: "This is typical. There was no World Open last year. Now three events come along at once." It should be an interesting journey from Wales to India, something like The Last Dais Of The Raj.

PSA Press Release  20-Jul

Final details of the 2001 Men's World Open Squash Championships were discussed in London this week at a meeting between event promoter Anil Singh, of Procam International in India, and Gawain Briars, Executive Director of the Professional Squash Association (PSA).

The $150,000 event will be staged in India in the first week of December, leading to the final on Sunday 9th December.

The 2001 Men's World Open signals the beginning of a historic four-year agreement between the PSA and Procam which guarantees a record $1,000,000 prize fund for the PSA Tour's leading event over the period.

"We expect to reveal the identity of a major international sponsor for the event within the next two months," said Procam's Managing Director Anil Singh on his flying visit to London to meet with PSA executives.  "The event will be the largest and most high-profile squash tournament ever to be held in our country."

The new all-glass squash court, from which the much-hailed first live TV coverage of the British Open was produced this and last year, will be shipped to India for use in the 2001 World Open. 

"The 2001 World Open will provide a magnificent climax to an action-packed
final five months of the year, which kick off with the Hong Kong Open in August and continue with the Al-Ahram International and US Open in September, the Qatar Classic in October and the Pakistan Open and YMG Capital Classic in
Toronto in November," said the PSA's Gawain Briars.

Anyone who thought they'd heard the last of Vicky Botwright's thong was wrong. The famous article of clothing, never worn in anger, will be auctioned off next weekend in Newcastle in aid of the John Dale fund, but the story lives on as US National papers, radio stations and websites catch the wave. Features in the USA today website and magazine and other journals have sent visitors scurrying by the thousand to Vicky's newly launched website . One radio station in Chattanooga awarded it "site of the day", as the visitor count hit a quarter of a million in just three weeks.

Vicky herself is preparing for the exhibition matches next weekend followed by the Hong Kong Open, and is amazed at the turn of events. "There have been so many lovely messages sent from the website, and I’ve done interviews with TV stations all over the world. It's great publicity for women's squash and I must admit the response has been overwhelming."

WISPA chief Andrew Shelley is more than pleased with the exposure created for women's squash. "We are delighted that the story keeps running and the pictures are appearing in newspapers all over the world, even in places where squash has a low profile. It is all good news for the development of the game and we look forward to photographer Stephen Line buying us all a drink or, better still, sponsoring the odd tournament."

One of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments on the world circuit, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open, marks the start of the new season from 21-26 August with a much enhanced package. Prize fund in the PSA event has been upped to $100,000 and the women will be there too, for the first time since 1995, with a $63,000  WISPA event. 

Full details on 



A NEW Vicky Botwright media frenzy broke out this week as TV, newspapers and radio stations followed up an announcement by WISPA  concerning a ruling on players' clothing (see below).

WISPA,  the women's players' association, discussed the issue of Botwright's "thong" ban at the recent British Open and decided to leave the choice of clothing to each player's  discretion, bearing in mind the issues of good taste and any religious sensitivities apparent in any country where they might be performing.

Fleet Street, totally unhinged by the non-appearance of Anna Kournikova at Wimbledon, and therefore at a loss as to how to fill the papers for the next fortnight, leapt on to the story with an enthusiasm not seen since, well, er, three weeks ago when Vicky threatened to wear a revealing thong on court at the National Indoor Arena.

Hits on photographer Stephen Line's website soared from an average 5,000 hits a day to more than 25,000, with fans eager to refresh their memories of the poses made public during the British Open.

Vicky herself was besieged by callers from all sections of the media and a number of national newspapers offered financial inducements for her to appear in revealing poses, which Vicky and her new management team turned down. One well-respected national Sunday paper wanted Vicky to appear in a fashion spread, wearing a collection of her favourite dresses and the new Vicky Botwright Collection put together by Dunlop, Hi-Tec and, but back came the order from the London picture desk: We want Vicky in a new thong.

Any thong would do, they said. Surely Dunlop must have a thong, they reasoned. When politely told that No, Vicky had done her thong thing, and now wanted to move on and concentrate on her squash, the offer was withdrawn.

Vicky, meanwhile, is quietly gearing up for this weekend's Women's Challenge during the Scottish Open in Perth, when she will be appearing with British Open champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald, former world champion Cassie Campion, and another player as yet unnamed.

Vicky trained with Cassie today and said: "I am feeling quite happy with my form at the moment and looking forward to playing in Scotland. I have been training quite a bit with Cassie just lately and she seems to be playing better and moving better each time I see her. "

A fresh set of pictures, featuring Vicky in her new on-court clothing collection, is about to break. So, watch this space ...

Full story and photos ...The Women's International Squash Players' Association, which recently suggested to one of its members competing in the British Open that wearing a thong was inappropriate, has decided that no specific ruling is required in relation to the revealing garment.

WISPA director Andrew Shelley said: "The WISPA Board is happy with the current clause in the clothing rule which states that 'all clothing shall conform to the accepted standards of decency and cultural/religious traditions of the country in which the competition is taking place'. What we would term abbreviated clothing is okay, and we have faith in the common sense of the members." 

England's Vicky Botwright became the worldwide focus of attention during the 2001 British Open in Birmingham earlier this month when photographs of the Manchester-based world No18 wearing a thong were published in a variety of British newspapers.

"We should be able to wear skimpy clothing if we want to, as some of the more conventional outfits we wear can be quite restrictive," said 24-year-old Botwright, dubbed the 'Lancashire Hot Bot', at the time. "I'm sure if we were allowed to wear things like this, a lot of players would."

Full story and pictures at  also at 

Leading international squash players Sarah Fitz-Gerald and Linda Charman-Smith, the world No3 from Australia and world No4 from England, respectively, arrived in Nairobi for the beginning of their three-day WISPA promotional visit to Kenya fully refreshed.  Full Story

A crowd of over 80 turned up on Thursday 14 June at the Connaught Club to watch a special charity challenge between world number 2 Peter Nicol and World Transplant Games number 1, Ami Sehmbi. The event was in aid of the Donor Card Awareness Campaign and to help to raise the £1500 Ami had to find to be able to defend his Gold Medal at this year's World Transplant Games in Kobé, Japan..  Full Story

Liz Irving and Sarah Fitz-GeraldAustralian squash stars Liz Irving and Sarah Fitz-Gerald were honoured by the Women's International Squash Players' Association for their services to the sport at the WISPA AGM held during the British Open in Birmingham.

Irving, the former world No2 appearing in her 18th successive British Open, was standing down from the Board having first joined in 1988. Fitz-Gerald, who went on to claim her first British Open title after beating her compatriot earlier in the tournament, was marking ten years as President of the Association.  Her award was inscribed "Sarah Fitz-Gerald, WISPA President, ten years, so far……"

"WISPA is blessed with a number of players willing to give their time and energy to both the association and the well-being of women's squash around the world.  Liz has been hugely supportive over many years - a top pro 'giving something back'," said WISPA director Andrew Shelley.

"Sarah, meanwhile, is a great ambassador for WISPA. Such an asset, in fact, that we have an agreement that she can only stand down as President when Australia get a man on the moon!" Shelley added.

SQUASH legend Hashim Khan will make an emotional return to this year’s British Open in Birmingham - at the ripe old age of 86. One of the greatest players of all time - and founding father of a line of Pakistan players bearing the famous Khan name - Hashim won his first British Open title in April 1951 and went on to win six more. He will compete in the event’s over-60 event this year. The Eye Group's event promoter Paul Gittings said: “Hashim is as much revered in the world of squash as Don Bradman was in cricket - and we are delighted he is still keen on participating in British Opens at such an age."

Hashim was due to be joined in the over-60 event by Jonah Barrington. However, the six-times  champion has aggravated a hip injury during training and has withdrawn from the event. He will, however, still be in action at the Open,  in the TV commentary box  with Alan Thatcher. The Open semi-finals and finals are again being broadcast live by Sky Sports.

British Open 2001 - full details on the official site: 

Pakistan's former world number one said he intended to formalise his position on June 15, his 33rd birthday. He had completed only one match, a first round defeat against Jonathon Power in Maastricht, since losing in the final of the 1998 British Open to Peter Nicol in Birmingham. Jansher has not been a member of the PSA for some time and his announcement came as a surprise only because most people thought he had already retired.

Jansher told the Reuters news agency from his home in Peshawar: "I have made up my mind to call it a day. It has been a difficult decision but considering a two-year lay-off because of injuries, I think it is better to forget about staging one last comeback."

His fall from the top slot, now fought over by Nicol and Power, was accelerated by knee and groin injuries. He had a series of operations but failed to find the same agility, rhythm and court coverage which made him the heir to compatriot Jahangir Khan, who won a record ten consecutive British Open titles and six World Opens. Jahangir is now a vice president of the World Squash Federation and is spearheading the game's bid for Olympic recognition. 

Jansher was always more of a rival than a friend of Jahangir's, but in retirement he reveals his admiration for the man who ruled the game so totally until Jansher came on the scene promising to end his domination. Jansher said: "Of all the highlights of my career, more than anything I would remember my duels with Jahangir, who has not only been a role model for me but for squash enthusiasts the world over."

It remains to be seen if a role in squash can be found for Jansher. Certainly his experience and expertise would be welcomed by the Pakistan SRA, which finds itself in something of a competitive vacuum following almost five decades of global squash dominance. Their failure to compete on the international scene is regarded as an acute embarrassment by the Pakistani squash hierarchy, although Jansher has given no intimation of any desire to take up coaching.

He was never one of the game's great communicators, preferring instead to let his racket do the talking for him in such eloquent and dazzling style. To return to the game at his age, and compete at the top level with super-fit athletes like the current world champion, Nicol, would have required a superhuman effort. Jansher has opted not to go through the pain barrier for one final swansong, as romantic a notion as it may have seemed.

Sabine SchoeneSabine Schoene, Germany's most successful squash player of all time, has announced her retirement from the WISPA World Tour after 13 years. The 27-year-old from Parsdorf, near Munich, became German National champion for a record 14th successive year in January, and will continue to play in national leagues and in European team championships.

"I've had a great time travelling the world since going full-time in 1988, but for the past two years I have really felt quite lonely as the only German on the international circuit," the former world No6 conceded.  "I'm now looking forward to spending more time with my family and boyfriend Michael - and to developing my other career as a paramedic in the army," added Sergeant Schoene.

A runner-up in the world junior championships in 1991, Schoene won the European Junior title in 1992 to add to the British Junior Open crowns she claimed in 1992 and 1993.  She reached her first WISPA World Tour final in October 1988, as a fourteen-year-old in the Olympia Cup in her home town Munich, and went on to secure five titles in 13 final appearances.

World #1 Jonathon Power completed a full set of 3-0 victories in the Canadian Nationals in Toronto, beating Graham Ryding 9/2 9/3 9/0 in the final. "I was a little surprised to win that easy but Shahir worked Graham pretty hard (in the semis)," Power told Squash Canada, with his fourth career national title. "I knew it would eventually take its toll. I was pleased with my play this week and I reached my goal by winning every match 3-0. It means a lot to me to win here and I'm really pumped up about it."

Top seeded Melanie Jans won her third national title in four years, beating Margo Green 9/6 9/4 5/9 9/3. "I woke up pretty sore this morning," Jans, the Pan Am Games champion in 1999, who also had a tough 3-2 semi-final win, told Squash Canada. "But I seem to always play well when I had a tough match the previous day. I seem more focused and in more control. Today I hit the ball where I wanted it to go."

England No1 Sue Wright, twice a British Open finalist, has decided to retire from the international squash circuit.

After suffering with viral pneumonia for more than eighteen months, Wright made a sensational comeback at last October's British Open, dismissing seeded players in each round before becoming the first qualifier to reach the women's final - almost ten years after competing in the 1991 final.  Then in February 2001, she re-claimed the British National title for the fourth time.

Aged 30, Wright reached number three in the world in addition to periods as national number one.  A Board Member of the Women's International Squash Players' Association since 1995, she has accumulated 11 WISPA World Tour titles in both North America and Europe since 1996.  Her successful senior career followed her captaining the England team which won the World Junior title in 1987.
One legacy of the pneumonia has been the ear problems that have prevented her from flying, thus limiting access to events on the WISPA World Tour. Furthermore, she has had to restrict and plan her exertion periods to maintain her health.  Wright plans to continue competing in the UK whenever possible - and, health permitting, will be working towards a possible selection for the Commonwealth Games next year.

"It has been a tough decision to make, and without question I will miss the tour and the people associated with it," said Oxfordshire-based Wright, who is originally from Biggin Hill in Kent.   "But I'm not giving up completely just yet, just being sensible with my health and body."

WISPA Director Andrew Shelley added:  "Whilst we are sorry to bid farewell to Sue's international career, we are delighted that her fiercely-competitive style will not be lost to courts in the UK.  Sue is just as forceful off-court, as a member of the WISPA board looking after the interests of all our players, and we are glad that she will retain that role."

Wright appropriately crowned her full-time squash-playing career on the eve of her retirement announcement by winning the BSPA (British Squash Professionals Association) Prince Grand Prix Finals title - beating compatriot Jenny Tranfield, the world No16, in straight games in the final in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

For now, squash will be combined with off-court work, which Wright plans to expand accordingly.

Van der Ven Ousted by Stahl  01-May
In a dramatic European AGM following the European Team Championships, in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, European President Philip Van der Ven has resigned after what amounted to the loss of a vote of confidence. Criticism of the president was galvanised by a letter sent before the Championships to European delegates from the VP Hugo Hannes of Belgium who is responsible for the European junior circuit. Hannes explained the difficulties in his relationships with the President, made a number of criticisms and offered his resignation stated that he would no longer be able to work with Van der Ven.

Other criticisms were expressed during the Championships. Danish President Oluf Jorgensen (who was defeated by Van der Ven in the presidential race four years ago pointed out that Van der Venıs election pledge to abolish National Affiliation fees had not been fulfiled.

Van der Ven had been the only nomination for the presidency when nominations had closed. However before the vote Thomas Troedsson, the Swedish delegate raised the issue of Hannes's resignation offer, of the general discontent, and questioned whether Van der Ven would wish to continue as President if there were a majority of abstentions. Support for this view was put forward by a number of countries including Austria, Denmark and Ireland.

Van der Venıs approach was to hold the secret ballot and then assess the situation. A secret ballot was held, Van der Ven received just one vote with the rest abstentions.

"I am sorry it has come to this," said Van der Ven. "I do no enjoy the support of the majority and have no alternative but to resign."

In the absence of other candidates VP Chris Stahl, the former England manager, who is the delegate from Croatia was appointed to the presidency for the next 12 months in a vote of confidence on a show of hands.

World No.1 Leilani Joyce has been forced to withdraw from a tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, after a car accident in which she suffered whiplash injuries. She was not believed to have been seriously hurt but reports on her condition are unconfirmed.

Joyce is due to play in the British Open starting on the 6th June and was expected to be No.1 seed. At this stage it is not know whether the accident will affect her participation.

Beachill and England no strangers to European success ...Yorkshire's Lee Beachill has been recalled by the England selectors for the team which will defend the European Team Squash Championships men's title in the 2001 event in Eindhoven, Netherlands, from 25-28 April.

European Team Championships results

The 23-year-old from Pontefract, who has been overlooked by England selectors since making his debut in the 1999 European Championships, stunned the British squash world in February when he won the British National Championships. Since then he has also claimed the scalps of world No3 Welshman David Evans, the British Open champion, and world No2 compatriot Peter Nicol, the world champion - and has risen to a career-high England No2 ranking.

Joining world No16 Lee Beachill in the men's squad will be England No1 Simon Parke, 28, the world No7 from Nottingham; world No9 Mark Chaloner, 28, from Lincolnshire; Paul Johnson, the 28-year-old world No11 from Bromley in Kent; and 29-year-old Nick Taylor, the world No22 from Manchester. 

The women's line-up, led by 29-year-old world No4 Linda Charman-Smith, from Hailsham in Sussex, will include world No6 Tania Bailey, 21, from Stamford in Lincolnshire; Gloucester-based world No9 Fiona Geaves, 33; and Kent's Stephanie Brind, the 23-year-old world No10 from Bexleyheath.  British National champion Sue Wright, the new England No1, is unavailable.

England beat France in last year's men's final to celebrate their 25th triumph in the event since the inaugural championships in 1973, whilst England defeated Germany in the women's final to extend their unbeaten reign in the competition since 1978.

European Team Championships results

Five months after undergoing surgery on her back, England's former world champion and world No1 Cassie Campion will mark her WISPA World Tour comeback at the Women's Milo Open in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 11-14 April.

"I just can't wait to get back onto the WISPA tour again after not playing for so long," said the 28-year-old from Norfolk, now based in Halifax in Yorkshire. "Everything seems to have gone really well since the operation - my training has gone magnificently and I feel really mobile, without any twinges in my back. I'm now looking forward to a sequence of daily hard matches to get my eye in, then a number of events in the US in May - before June's British Open, where all my troubles started last year," Campion added.

Campion, currently ranked 12 in the world, is top seed in KL, and will meet local player Sharon Wee in the first round. Her anticipated opponent in Saturday's final will be Denmark's No2 seed Ellen Petersen.

It's taken 26 years but Sussex squash finally claimed the Men's Intercounty Championship, with a hard fought victory over long time rivals, Kent. The players in both teams had battled on many occasions in the junior ranks and then continued the conflicts in recent years in the senior game, reports Tim Garner.

The final began so well for Kent as Adham Abou Taleb put them one up with a straight games victory over Angus Kirkland. The Sussex man had only been on court five times in the previous 6 months but still posesses one of the deadliest short games around. However, Taleb is no slouch with the racket himself and the crowd were treated to some exquisite squash, with Taleb proving just too mobile for the Sussex no.5.

Before the final, Sussex captain Tim Garner had commented he thought they needed one of the first two rubbers if they were going to capture the title. He must have been rather despondent to see a resurgent John Russell put in a magnificent performance against Julian Wellings. Leading 2-1 but trailing 4-8, Russell fired in four unreturnable shots and went on to capture the tie for Kent after 80 minutes of pulsating squash.

With their backs against the wall, the Sussex dream seemed to be over as Tim Vail fell behind 0-2 and Pete Genever trailed 0-1. However, in an amazing turnaround Vail scorched through opponent Ben Ford to win in five. Using the back of the court rather than the front Vail won the last 3 games for the loss of just 3 points. Meanwhile, Genever was producing a comeback of his own to beat World no.11 Paul Johnson in four. Genever has steadily climbed the world rankings this season and once again he demonstrated how much he has come on, reeling in his more illustrious opponent.

Over the meal the night before, Kirkland had mischievously said that he thought a captain's innings might be required by Garner. How right he was! With Sussex back in the match, Garner faced one of England's shooting stars, Adrian Grant, to decide the destiny of this year's championship. The match seesawed backwards and forwards as Garner led 1-0 and 2-1 but each time was pegged back by Grant, who finally lead himself, 4-0 in the fifth. Garner was down but not out and, urged on by his friends/team-mates, he clawed his way to match (and championship) ball. Grant hung on and saved four matchballs with precision accurate winners, but eventually cracked as Garner took the match 9/7 in the fifth.

The Sussex/Kent encounter lasted nearly 4 1/2 hours and was a fitting way for Sussex to pick up only their second title in 50 years. It was evident from their joy that they had waited sometime for this success.

In the semi-finals Sussex swept aside Nottingham 5-0, while Kent eased past Yorkshire 4-1, with Closed Champion, Lee Beachill, Yorkshire's sole winner. The Ladies' title was taken by Nottinghamshire, beating Lancashire in the final.

Northumbria's John Dale in shock brain operation  30-Mar

John Dale SQUASH lovers everywhere were stunned to learn the news that popular professional John Dale was in hospital suffering from what has been described as a brain tumour.

The genial Geordie giant is in Newcastle General Hospital. He had been suffering from headaches in recent weeks and a scan revealed the shocking nature of his illness. Swelling on the brain was stopping vital circulation flow, and surgeons operated on Friday to remove a growth. Test results are still awaited to determine the exact nature of the removed material.

John is five-times Northumbria champion, and the reigning Maidstone Open champion. Maidstone tournament director Alan Thatcher commented "I had been looking forward to welcoming him back to the club at the end of April for this year's event, which is the final tournament in the Prince BSPA Grand Prix Series. I am sure his many friends in the game, especially in his native North-East, will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery."

Nicol with Stuart Courtney and Matt HammondENGLAND ATTRACTS WORLD CHAMPION PETER NICO21-Mar

Scotland's world squash champion Peter Nicol has switched his allegiance to England to take advantage of the Lottery-funded World Class Performance Programme run by the sport's English governing body, the Squash Rackets Association (SRA).

The 27-year-old world No1, who won the sport's first men's gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia in 1998 and was honoured with an MBE in June 1999, was born in Inverurie, near Aberdeen - but has been based in London, training at the Connaught Club in Chingford, for more than ten years.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to compete on the world stage against players that are being supported both by comprehensive performance backup programmes as well as through government awards and grants," said Nicol.  "By moving to England, and being a nominated player within the SRA's World Class Performance Programme, I hope to maintain the position I have worked so hard to secure over a number of years."

England's World Class Performance Programme was launched in October 1997 and came into full operation in January 2000.  The Programme, supported by Sport England through the Lottery Sports Fund, put in place a performance environment designed to provide players with a full range of facilities - such as sports science, sports psychology, sports medicine, funding for tournament commitments, coaching, video analysis, etc. - required to move to the top positions of the world game.

Matt Hammond, the SRA's Performance Director, said:  "Peter has had to watch a number of his key opponents receive support from their own government agencies which has enabled them to move closer to him.  He has acknowledged that our World Class Programme represents the best all-round support programme in the world and wants to take advantage of that opportunity.  He is not only a great athlete but also a fine ambassador for the sport, and he will provide the ultimate role model for the younger up-and-coming players in our system."

Since Nicol has lived and trained in England during his formative years under the guidance initially of current England national coach David Pearson and now Neil Harvey - both of whom were honoured with the National Coaching Foundation's prestigious Mussabini Medal earlier this season - there will not be any immediate difference to his training, preparation and competition schedule.  The significant changes, however, will be made in the areas of sports science and sports medicine, and in particular the introduction of match analysis information for all-round technical and tactical improvements.

Nicol's move has been ratified by the World Squash Federation, though he will not be able to represent England until 2002, three years after he last played for Scotland.  He added:  "I have had an opportunity to look at the state-of-the-art application of information technology to squash and want to be part of the game's evolution - as well as being the highest ranked player in the world!"

Since the launch of the SRA's World Class Performance Programme, England have won a number of world squash titles - including the men's world team crown in 1997; the women's world team trophy in 2000; the men's world junior team titles in 1998 and 2000, and the World Cup in 1999.  Also in 1999, Norfolk's Cassie Campion became the women's World Open champion for the first time.  In the sport's Commonwealth Games debut in Malaysia in 1998, England claimed seven medals (two gold, one silver and four bronze) - more than any other country.  Furthermore, England recorded their 25th men's title in last year's European Championships, the women's team extending their unbeaten reign since 1978.

Paul Johnson welcome the new recruit ...

The Scottish Squash Association has told World No.1 Peter Nicol that he will make a 'big mistake' if he turns his back on Scotland to play for England. Scottish Squash spokesman George Meiras has been quoted as saying, "It's a very big mistake on Peter's part."

The 27-year-old Nicol however feels he has been left with no choice because the country of his birth has failed to give him the financial support he deserves and needs. The move, if it is confirmed, will put Nicol's participation in the Commonwealth Games in jeopardy.

He is the reigning Commonwealth Games titleholder and his participation in the Games has been seen as of major value to Scotland, to the sport of squash and to the Games themselves.

"I was stunned when I heard and could not actually believe it," said Louise Martin, Chairman of the Scottish Commonwealth Games Council. "As far as we are concerned Peter is still a potential team member for the 2002 Games. He launched the sponsorship on December the 21st and is a supporter of everything Scottish. I am trying to speak to him at the moment."

"He played for Scotland in Malaysia in 1998 and won a gold medal and has proved to be a great team member so I find this quite unbelievable. He certainly hasn't spoken to or contacted anyone here and it is really upsetting because he is a great ambassador for the youngsters as well."

"He hasn't been in touch with us for quite some time as he's not even eligible to represent England until the end of this year. The only way he can play for them anyway is if he writes for special dispensation. He has already played for Scotland anyway and whatever country he wants to represent he has to get support from the Commonwealth Games Council and the Scottish Commonwealth Games Council to do that. Personally I would be very loath to agree to that because it would mean that he would be competing against us in future. I have left a message on his phone and I am waiting for him to get in touch. He was in Germany in the weekend which is the last time I heard."

Nicol's Scottish compatriot Martin Heath however, has said he understands Nicol's position while the international shot putter Steph Harwood, who defected to Ireland because he didn’t feel valued in Britain, has also come to Nicol's defence: "I fully support Peter's position. It was a shock to me but I fully understand where he is coming from," said Harwood.

An official announcement is expected on Nicol's future on Wednesday, at a press conference at Lambs Club, London.

World Champion Peter Nicol, one of Scotland's most successful sportsmen has made moves to change his allegiance to England. The announcement,  made in interviews with English newspapers and on Radio Five are likely to cause dismay north of the border. The move will almost certainly end any Scottish hopes of winning a first squash world team title.

It is believed that Nicol will sit down with officials of the Squash Rackets Association this week. Nicol's coach and advisor, Neil Harvey, is a former England team coach.

Nicol has stated that he is fed up that his achievements have not bought any financial support in Scotland  and he wants to take advantage of the lottery funding available in England.

Nicol did not compete for Scotland in the last European or World Team Championships and under the new four year rule will be eligible to play for England in two years time but will not be eligible for this year's extravaganza in Melbourne.

Nicol's moves follows a foot injury in October which put him out of British Open contention. He has stated that his income has been slashed for 4 months and that it made him realise that at the age of 27 he needed to take action to prolong his career. He has said that he has to pay for Harvey and play league games to supplement his income.

"My decision is nothing to do with money" said Nicol. "It is to do with making sure I  receive the kind of support a professional athlete requires to stay at the very highest level. I guess some folk in Scotland might be calling me all sorts of names after the story broke that I am considering the option of playing for England. But it is not a course of action I am taking lightly. A lot of people in Scotland have done a lot for me and helped me throughout my career and I am grateful to them all. If things go smoothly then it looks like I might be going there as an England player. The decision is tearing me in half. I hope, for the sake of Scottish sport, that proper funding is put in place to look after our best athletes so that this situation is not allowed to happen again."

'Hurghada,' the Red Sea extravaganza, involving the 32 draw Men's Al Ahram PSA Masters and the Women's Grand Prix Finals is back on and confirmed for the 13-19th April. The event was in doubt following its postponement due to TV scheduling difficulties. Egypt have a World Cup football clash with the earlier dates limiting the possibilities for TV coverage and this led to the postponement.

The top eight players from WISPA's Grand Prix events are to play off in the association's finals, including newcomers Tania Bailey and Vanessa Atkinson. World No1 Leilani Joyce, winner of four of the season's major titles including the British Open, heads the list of players. The 2001 World Grand Prix Finals will also feature the return of Australia's three-times former world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald, who convincingly beat Joyce in the Munich final recently, and the World Champion Carol Owens.

Owens is the titleholder and seems to produce some of her best squash in Egypt. Also competing are England's Natalie Grainger, Linda Charman and Suzanne Horner.

The Al Ahram PSA Masters and the Womenıs WISPA World Grand Prix Finals scheduled for the 25th to the 31st March, at Hurghada on the Red Sea, have been postponed and are in doubt. The shock news came just 10 days before the event is meant to get underway and has caused chaos with players and officials travel schedules. Egyptian TV could  not cover the event in the times scheduled and the tournament was therefore postponed.

Promoters have said that it is hoped to reschedule the event but officials have accepted that it may not take place at all. They have requested a written confirmation of the verbal offer the organisers have made to pay flight cancellation fees.

The sanctioning player organisations WISPA and PSA are consulting members on a proposal to hold the event in April, which could be the 13th -19th, straddling the Easter Weekend. With eight women  in the Grand Prix finals and 32 men in the main PSA Masters main draw plus the qualification, players there may be difficulties in co-ordinating a rescheduling exercise at short notice.

In a shock move the Queens Cup, an eight country invitational squash championship, billed as offering the largest winner's purse in squash has been cancelled. The cancellation follows immediately on the heels of the cancellation of the Irish Open due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic. The Queenıs Club was due to take place from April 3rd to April 8th 2001 the
the historic Queenıs Club in London.

"As a new event we were willing to take an initial loss but we were unable, in the time available, to attract the minimum sponsorship required in order to produce a first class event," said Jonathon Smith, MD of JMS Marketing who where promoting the event.

In essence the lack of sponsorship and the uncertainty surrounding the ticket sales for a new event made the event financially too big a risk. "We had to draw the line and we have done that in time. In a month or so we will look at the future of the event. We have a big TV package in place for next year which is important for a headline sponsor. Perhaps this is a blimp, a bump in the road. We would love the event to take place."


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