We asked 5 questions to Alex Gough (WAL) - Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) :
1. You have reached the top 5 world 20 years ago, what has really changed since then on the international circuit ?
That feels like a very, very long time ago! The sport was very different back then.
The first three or four years as CEO were incredibly tough - we were just a small team of less than five people - one of the biggest changes is that we have grown significantly as an organisation and we are now involved in everything from scheduling, acquisition of new events, through to the membership registration to TV deal negotiations.
SQUASHTV was launched in 2010 , and has been one of the biggest changes. The technology - from court technology, to racket technology, camera technology amongst others - has made the sport much easier to watch on television and also for spectators in the venues. We are now able to deliver 500 matches a year, which means that we can reach many more people with a lot of great content and this should help to jump the sport forward.
We now have a much more structured Tour calendar. In my playing days we never really knew what events were coming that season and it was really difficult to plan anything as a player. We couldn’t give broadcasters a list of the season’s events because we didn’t know them! Nowadays, we can plan way further ahead and this is helping in lots of areas.
The standard of play has increased also. The players are fitter and faster now, they have more access to sports science and are more dedicated to full time training than 20 years ago.
The nature of the game has also changed. The influx of attacking Egyptian players changed the mentality of the game and made it more dynamic, whereas matches were much more attritional in previous eras.
And we continue to try and develop the sport every day: we have over 800 members and more than 200 events a year - there is always something to be done and it is never boring!
2. The PSA is in charge of organizing the international squash circuit, you are interested in the Open International de squash de Nantes since 2 years, you will be in Nantes this year, what does this event mean to you ?
Nantes is an exciting recent addition to the PSA World Tour and a tournament that captured a lot of attention in the last two years. We are very excited to see how the event continues to develop and what the future may hold.
3. You travel through the biggest tournaments in the world, what distinguishes Nantes, do you see this event as a banner of the circuit ?
The production levels - the staging, the lighting, the alternative approach to marketing and the enthusiasm from the organising team - were all traits that really stood out from the event last year.
The team behind the event have a very different approach to many other tournaments and are really focused on pushing the boundaries, trying new ideas and emphasising the spectator experience away from the squash court.
4. On September 13th, the Olympic City will be chosen. France being the 3rd nation in the world for 10 years, after Nantes, the team squash world championships is organized at the end of November in Marseille, what is missing in the squash to integrate the Olympics especially if Paris was the elected of 2024 ?
We have been trying hard for the past decade to see squash become an Olympic sport and many times we have been very, very close to getting Olympic inclusion only for the criteria to change or the rules to change. Despite that the spot has continued to grow and develop and I feel that we must continue to ensure that happens irrespective of the Olympic decision.
Of course, should Paris stage the 2024 Games then we have a golden opportunity. Because the IOC introduced the ability for host nations to choose sports that they want to have in the games - such as karate in Tokyo 2020 - we may have another great opportunity. France have a great history with the sport, some of the best players in the world at present and of course it is a Frenchman, Jacque Fontaine, who is President of the World Squash Federation.
Despite all of this history has taught us not to get too excited however. We will wait to see what happens in September.
5. A PSA World Series in Nantes, like a French Open, somehow, in the near future, is it for you an eventuality, would you support this project ?
Having a World Series Event in France - in mainland Europe - would be a great boost for the sport. With players like Greg Gaultier, Mathieu Castagnet, Camille Serme and others really achieving success for France at the highest level, and other players like Simon Rösner and Borja Golán at the top of their games for Germany and Spain, a mainland European World Series Event would give these kind of players a great platform. There is also a large squash playing audience in Europe who currently don't have the chance to easily attend a World Series event.