Squash! How the Open got closed

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IT’S the case of the disappearing sporting event.

Tim Gavel
Tim Gavel

The Australian Squash Open had become a fixture in Canberra since 2010, staged in a specially constructed glass court at the National Convention Centre.

It had built up a solid following. A good event, it was accessible, it showcased squash and it was well run.

It was scheduled to continue in Canberra this year and next. But a quick glance though at the Squash Australia website and a subsequent phone call to CEO Garry O’Donnell has revealed that the event won’t be happening this year while the 2014 tournament is in extreme doubt.

So, it seems the event has just disappeared. There was no public announcement as such; there was no speculation about its future. It just evaporated from the public conscience.

Mr. O’Donnell says his organisation had no option but to pull the plug on the 2013 tournament for financial reasons. He says the net loss from last year’s event was into the six figures and it couldn’t be sustained.

As for next year’s Australian Squash Open it would appear as though it hangs in the balance with no commitment either way from the sport’s governing body on whether it will go ahead. In the end it will come down to money.

It raises the question, had we known as a community that the event was under threat, would we have rallied to save it as we have done with sporting teams facing the same fate? I doubt whether there would have been a rallying cry as such but there may have been a groundswell among supporters of squash in Canberra.

 

Take me to the ball game…

 

A NIGHT out at the Narrabundah Ball Park is becoming a sporting experience reminiscent of the glory days of the Canberra Cannons at the Palace in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In those days, the team was riding high on success in the NBL, it had a band playing during the games and there was standing room only.

It would appear as though the Canberra Cavalry has taken the same approach, with the game itself just a part of the entertainment package. There is singing and dancing – it is akin to being transported to baseball heartland in the US where games in country towns attract around 1500 fans packed into small venues.

Canberra’s previous baseball team the Bushrangers played games at Canberra Stadium and there was a cavernous feel about it. There was little atmosphere and the team suffered.

The success of the Cavalry is no doubt contributing to the enjoyment factor, but there’s a sense that it’s a night out, a chance to escape.

If the venue was to be expanded, there is a danger that it would lose the closeness that exists between the players and the fans.

So far it has been one of the real success stories in Canberra sport in terms of capturing a niche market and catering to that market. It is obvious the team has listened to what its fans want and baseball is just part of the package when they go to Narrabundah.

 

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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