Friday, November 5, 2010

Professional Squash in America: Growth, or No?

The Boston Globe's Alex Beam wrote an irritatingly snarky column recently discussing the PSA-PST lawsuit, in which, after poking fun at the sport itself, making the obligatory reference to the vegetable, and generally attempting to dazzle the reader with his wordplay, he quotes PSA board member and lawyer, Richard Bramall:

“We are well established in other parts of the world, but in many ways America is the most important market for the PSA, because we want to grow in the US, and we are continuing to grow in the US.’

So that raises an interesting question, just how much has the PSA grown in the US? If you go onto the PSA's website and click on Calendar, there you will find the facts—all the tournaments and their purses through the years. I went back 5 years, to 2006, and compared the data. I reviewed all the numbers, separating out USA-based matches with those held in the rest of the world.

This tedious exercise proved two things: One, that I apparently have nothing better to do and my life is pathetically boring. And two, that the PSA's efforts in the US have not been particularly impressive. Here are some of the facts:

To be fair, one should keep in mind the economic duress of recent years, but even with that factor, it is hard to argue that the PSA's efforts in the US have been particularly stellar. Another way of looking at the data is to compare US purses with World purses over time:

This analysis shows that the total purse for the rest of the world has grown 48% between 2006 and 2010. During that same time period, the US purse has fallen 14%. The number of tournaments in the US has barely nudged upwards, while the rest of the world has many new tournaments. (The one mathematical oddity is that, with precious few tournaments in the US, the average player purse in the US is higher than the rest of the world. Oh, thanks.)

The stagnant growth in the US is one of the factors that has led to the alternative Pro Squash Tour, to help squash professionals in the US earn a living. They can't do it with the PSA alone, at least not with these numbers.


  1. I'd like to see the figures broken out for Europe as well. Pro squash may be languishing in the US, but it's faring worse on the PSA's home turf. In 2010 there were three U.S. tournaments (US Open, NA Open, TOC) with prize money of $80,000 or more, compared to one, the first-time British Grand Prix, in Europe. There are also fewer European small-money tournaments. Ironically, European fans must be getting their main pro squash fix from a non-PSA source, the leagues.

    The PSA has become dependent on the easy money of Middle Eastern benefactors, but depending on charity has a cost. It doesn't help grow the game if the biggest events are staged for the benefit of a few wealthy patrons who have little interest in filling seats or turning a profit. And it puts the sport on shaky ground when its existence depends on those patrons, who may grow bored in a few years and decide to find their entertainment, and spend their money, elsewhere.

    So perhaps the PSA is on the decline in the US, but it may well be doing better there than anywhere else. Is there anyplace else where tournaments are selling out at $50+ a seat?

  2. Interesting article. If squash was one of the major sports, everyone would be aware of this. But since it is smaller in stature, we need the Squashist to announce these things.

  3. Have you been exiled from the US Squash homepage?

  4. I often see New York Nick's comments on squash forums and he is always dead on, and so with the above comment. Most importantly, the over-reliance on middle eastern money to pad the overall world purse serves to obfuscate the health of the sport. It's great that squash is attracting good purses in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, etc. -- don't get me wrong. But the picture is lopsided, and for a world sport, that lopsidedness isn't healthy. One of the greatest things for me about squash is its true global status; we must preserve that and make it grow....

    And as for US Squash, they have indeed exiled me to their blog page, but that's a move i can understand. They wanted (and now have) one page where various squash blogs were aggregated, and having me on their home page gave my blog the perception of having perhaps semi-official status, which has never been the case. So i forgive them!

  5. I would like to see an analysis including Canada in with the US market (as they are basically the same area). I think Canada has many more tournaments now then they did 5 years ago. I would guess they have 15 events themselves bring the total for North America up to around 35.


Sorry, but due to increasing spam, I've added the Word Verification step. My policy on comments is anything goes, as long as it is about squash and as long as it isn't unnecessarily nasty....