The best squash players in the world do not get anywhere near the same level of exposure as many other sports. It is not part of the Olympics, and also it is not regularly on a premium TV channel such as Sky or CNN. Many people are therefore unsure of the question of whether it is a professional sport or not?
Squash is a professional sport, and it has been so since 1975. It was a central player in the drive to professionalize many sports that gathered momentum in the 70s. Only the very top players in the world earn a significant income from squash.
Roughly the top 50 to 100 players in the world are all able to make a full-time income from squash, and the top 10 make a lucrative living. There is quite a bit of history that has got squash to this point. I will look at this, and also show the amount of money that can be made from squash.
Squash Became Professional In 1975
When one considers the how much ground squash appears to have lost to other sporting codes in the past two decades, you will never believe that it was a major part of the conversation when the drive to professionalise sport started to gather serious momentum in the 70s and 80.
When the British aristocracy first adopted the ethos that sport should be a part of the school curriculum the move made total sense. The notion that participation in sport was an important part of a child’s development is not flawed.
In fact it is a proven technique and that hasn’t actually changed. A healthy mind is the product of a healthy body. At a primary and high school level sport never has been and should never be about winning. Being a good all-rounder is more important.
There are actually very few sporting codes that still fulfil that vision as well as squash does at a post-schooling level. Golf, swimming and tennis are three other outstanding examples of this.
This ethos is one that was originally adopted by the independent or private schools – schools that produced English gentlemen. At its core the notion of fairness. Amateur sportsmen were gentlemen. That link has not been totally lost today.
The Top Current Professional
The Premier Player in the world today is Ali Farag. Some call him Mr. Fantastic and there is a genuine reason for that. He is the most adorable human being you will ever encounter, a family man and an Engineering graduate from Harvard University of all places.
Ali Farag is your definitive gentleman. An all-rounder, a complete human being. The reality is, as much as we try to turn a blind eye to it, that being a gentleman is often defined by social class.
I once listened to an interview where he told fans that he felt privileged to turn one of his favourite hobbies into a professional pursuit.
Yes, he does mention squash being professional but at its heart is a sport that is viewed as nothing more than a healthy hobby – a great healthy hobby – by many who play it. That is a nut which needs to urgently be cracked.
Football – more commonly referred to as soccer in the United States – lifts millions out of abject poverty at a rate of rate of knots. It is the biggest sport in the world for a reason. It is not a hobby and not something people hope to play at university some day.
While squash continues to search for its soul, it does meet all the technical requirements of a professional sporting code.
The Professional Squash Association
The Professional Squash Association (PSA), which was established in 1975, services about 800 players from 60 countries around the world.
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the governing body of football and represents 211 national associations. There are only 195 countries in the world. People often joke about it but FIFA is more powerful than the United Nations.
What is also very interesting is the make-up of the PSA. Not one of the directors – including the Chairman and Chief Executive – are African or South American. More astonishingly, there isn’t even a director from Oceania, a regional that has produced some of the greatest to ever step onto a squash court.
There are regional representatives but again, Africa and South America appear to have fallen off the map. At FIFA, every continent has a seat at the main dinner table. The Secretary-General of the organisation is not only African but she is a woman.
This is not a dance. The gulf between squash and the biggest professional sporting codes in the world is huge, not just on a monetary level but also on a sheer scale of participation.
Enough about that though.
There is a solid base to work off and it would not harm to explore some of the more meaningful advances squash has made – as a professional product – in the past four decades.
At the heart of being a professional sport is both the need and the desire to entertain. The fact that the PSA World Tour now sanctions in the region of 200 tournaments worldwide suggests there is definitely entertainment value.
You cannot organise a professional tournament without there being a decent following, at the very least. Can the sport do better to entertain – of course it can. But this has been a massive step in the right direction.
There are four key tournament categories on the PSA World Tour.
Closed Satellite Tournaments
Firstly we have the Closed Satellite tournaments. The key word here is CLOSED. These tournaments are normally organised by national associations a feature players affiliated to those associations.
The idea is perhaps a noble one but in an environment that has become increasingly competitive, the restriction hampers the growth of the sport in a global village. There is also a very strong amateur element to this level of organisation that can only serve to hamper the growth of the professional game.
If we just use a practical application here, there is every chance that African squash talent exists….beyond Egypt (which isn’t always sure it is an African nation anyway) and South Africa (which is by far the most industrialised country on the continent).
Maybe he/she wants to try his hand at this game but Mozambique maybe doesn’t have the capacity to organise a national championship or just a tournament. I accept that I have maybe misinterpreted the rules of Closed Satellite competition but to my understanding, this would exclude a player from Mozambique who just wants to catch a break south of the border.
For all we know, the Mozambican fellow would have improved the quality of the competition. Too much potential professional talent is being hidden in squash.
We all know the story of the Khan Squash dynasty. That is a story that almost never, as the family patriarch Hashim Khan wasted most of his youth slaving away for the British Empire. He was satisfied that he had made it in life, working for the British Army and subsequent to that the Pakistan Air Force.
Everybody who followed squash at the time accepted that the British Open had showcased the best squash players in the world. Little did they know that there was a whole family in Pakistan waiting to dominate the British Open for about three decades.
Fine, those were the fifties. Easy to miss that kind of talent. However, even now – two decades in into the second century – we honestly have no idea just how much squash talent is falling through the cracks. Talent that could very possibly change the face of the sport.
The problem with many people reading this – and some custodians of squash – is that growing the game in Africa and South America will be viewed as charity. When in fact, it should be about securing the legacy of the sport and advancing the professional objectives of squash.
The next tier in squash is the Challenger level. It is at these tournaments that most of the young fresh talent is likely to feature prominently. Challenger tournaments have three separate structures in themselves.
There is not a lot of money involved at this tier but there is enough to get by on a shoestring budget. It is important to note that this is virtually entry level stuff. No glory here, just passion.
Challenger Tour 30 – $28,000 Total prize money available
– Open International de Nantes (Declan James)
– Pakistan Chief of the Air Staff International (Youssef Soliman)
– Queclink HKFC International (Max Lee and Annie Au)
– Walker & Dunlop/Hussain Family Chicago Open (Ryan Cuskelly)
– Kolkata International (Saurav Ghosal)
– Bahl & Gaynor Cincinnati Cup (Hania El Hammamy)
Challenger Tour 20 – $18,000 Total prize money available
– Open International de Nantes (Nele Gilis)
– NASH Cup (Emily Whitlock)
– FMC International Squash Championship (Youssef Soliman)
– Faletti’s Hotel Int’l. Men’s Championship (Tayyab Aslam)
– Cleveland Skating Club Open (Richie Fallows)
– DHA Cup International Championship (Ivan Yuen)
– Golootlo Pakistan Women’s Open (Yathreb Adel)
– Monte Carlo Classic (Laura Massaro)
– 13th CNS International Squash Tournament (Youssef Ibrahim)
– London Open (James Willstrop and Fiona Moverley)
– Edinburgh Sports Club Open (Paul Coll and Hania El Hammamy)
Challenger Tour 10 – $11,000 Total prize money available
– Australian Open (Rex Hedrick and Low Wee Wern)
– Growthpoint SA Open (Mohamed ElSherbini and Farida Mohamed)
– Tarra KIA Bega Open (Rex Hedrick)
– Pakistan International Tournament Women’s (Rowan Elaraby)
– Sportwerk Open (Youssef Ibrahim)
– Remeo Open (Mahesh Mangaonkar)
– NASH Cup (Alfredo Ávila)
– Madeira Island Open (Todd Harrity)
– Aspin Kemp & Associates Aspin Cup (Vikram Malhotra)
– Texas Open Men’s Squash Championships (Vikram Malhotra)
– WLJ Capital Boston Open (Robertino Pezzota)
– CIB Wadi Degla Squash Tournament (Youssef Ibrahim and Zeina Mickawy)
– First Block Capital Jericho Open (Henrik Mustonen)
– JC Women’s Open (Samantha Cornett)
– PSA Valencia (Edmon López)
– Swiss Open (Youssef Ibrahim)
– APM Kelowna Open (Vikram Malhotra)
– Alliance Fabricating Ltd.Simon Warder Mem. (Shahjahan Khan and Samantha Cornett)
– Brussels Open (Mahesh Mangaonkar)
– Open International Niort-Venise Verte (Baptiste Masotti)
– Saskatoon Movember Boast (Dimitri Steinmann)
– Securian Open (Chris Hanson)
– Betty Griffin Memorial Florida Open (Iker Pajares)
– CSC Delaware Open (Lisa Aitken)
– Seattle Open (Ramit Tandon)
– Carter & Assante Classic (Baptiste Masotti)
– Linear Logistics Bankers Hall Pro-Am (Leonel Cárdenas)
– Life Time Atlanta Open (Henry Leung)
– EM Noll Classic (Youssef Ibrahim and Sabrina Sobhy)
Challenger Tour 5 – $11,000 Total prize money available
– Squash Melbourne Open (Christophe André and Vanessa Chu)
– City of Greater Shepparton International (Dimitri Steinmann)
– Prague Open (Shehab Essam)
– Roberts & Morrow North Coast Open ( Dimitri Steinmann and Christine Nunn)
– Pharmasyntez Russian Open (Jami Äijänen)
– Beijing Squash Challenge (Henry Leung)
– Kiva Club Open (Aditya Jagtap)
– Wakefield PSA Open (Juan Camilo Vargas)
– Big Head Wines White Oaks Court Classic (Daniel Mekbib)
– Faletti’s Hotel Int’l. Women’s Championship (Mélissa Alvès)
– Q Open (Richie Fallows and Low Wee Wern)
– 6th Open Provence Chateau-Arnoux (Kristian Frost)
– Pacific Toyota Cairns International (Darren Chan)
– 2nd PwC Open (Menna Hamed)
– Rhode Island Open (Olivia Fiechter)
– Romanian Open (Youssef Ibrahim)
– Czech Open (Fabien Verseille)
– DHA Cup International Championship (Farida Mohamed)
– Aston & Fincher Sutton Coldfield International (Victor Crouin)
– Airport Squash & Fitness Xmas Challenger (Farkas Balázs)
– Singapore Open (James Huang and Low Wee Wern)
– Tournoi Féminin Val de Marne (Mélissa Alvès)
– OceanBlue Log. Grimsby & Cleethorpes Open (Jaymie Haycocks)
– IMET PSA Open (Farkas Balázs)
– Internazionali d’Italia (Henry Leung and Lisa Aitken)
– Remeo Ladies Open (Lisa Aitken)
– Bourbon Trail Event No1 (Faraz Khan)
– Contrex Challenge Cup (Henry Leung and Mélissa Alvès)
– Select Gaming/The Colin Payne Kent Open (Jan Van Den Herrewegen)
– Bourbon Trail Event No2 (Aditya Jagtap)
– Odense Open (Benjamin Aubert)
– Savcor Finnish Open (Miko Äijänen)
– Bourbon Trail Event No3 (Aditya Jagtap)
– Falcon PSA Squash Cup Open
– Guilfoyle PSA Squash Classic
– Mount Royal University Open
– Hampshire Open
A dollar for guessing where most of the Challengers take place. But we think the message is clear.
The PSA World Series
The PSA World Series is where the squash lions roar. These tournaments generally feature the cream that has risen to the top. There is a reason for that, as PSA World Series tournaments generally pay in the region of $180,000.
The World Series includes:
Among the list of Platinum Tournaments during a PSA World Tour Season are:
FS Investments U.S. Open – $169,000 Purse
Qatar Classic – $177,750 Purse
Everbright Sun Hung Kai Hong Kong Open – $164,500 Purse
Black Ball Squash Open – $180,500 Purse
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions – $180,000 Purse
El Gouna International – $165,000 Purse
British Open – $165,000 Purse
J.P. Morgan China Squash Open – $120,500
Oracle Netsuite Open – $118,000
Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill – $106,000
Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic – $100,000
Grasshopper Cup – $100,000
DPD Open – $100,000
PSA World Championships
SILVER TOUR – $70,000–$88,000
– CCI International
– Suburban Collection Motor City Open
– Oracle Netsuite Open
BRONZE TOUR – $51,000–$53,000
– Carol Weymuller Open
– QSF No.1
– Golootlo Pakistan Men’s Open
– Cleveland Classic
– Three Rivers Capital Pittsburgh Open
As it just so happens, there is ample opportunity to try and make money in a regular squash season – which starts August and ends in July. That is a pretty full schedule.
The World Open
However, the prize that both the men and women want more than any others is the World Championships. In 2019 the combined prize fund will be a whopping 1-million dollars up for grabs.
The best mark of a professional sport is a sophisticated ranking system, which squash has. It has had one since 1975. Squash rankings help determine the best players in the world and the bracket that they fall into on a squash tournament draw.
The Official Men’s and Women’s Squash Ranking is a merit bases system, determined by the points that are collected in a series of tournaments during the course of the season. The squash rankings are released monthly.
The hallmark of any professional is the capacity to stimulate and enhance debate about the greatest performers in the sport. The markers aren’t always an accurate reflection though, as the goalposts do tend to move over time.
The technology also evolves over time, which in itself is a good sign of professionalism in squash. The capacity to create a brand, market it and sell it. That is when you know a sport has reached its professional height.
Squash is most definitely a professional sport, and has been for over forty years. If you want to read more about how much a professional squash player is likely to make, then I recommend you to read this detailed article about How Much Pro Squash Players Earn. If you have aspirations in the game, then this may be the motivation that you need. Of course prize-money is increasing year on year, so who knows how much money will be in the game in the future.