European Squash Championships and tours have been cancelled for 2021
Squash in Europe is still suffering from the problems due to Covid-19. The ESF Board has recently taken the very difficult decision to cancel all 2021 European Championship and Circuit events.
In the first place the ESF Board regrets to cancel all its Championships 2021 (8), all of the junior tournaments (18) and master circuit (13). Before one cancels almost 40 events one has given it a serious thought and it has been a long process with many consultations which found its conclusion on Monday April 19, when the ESF Board made the final and unfortunate decision.
We realize it is not good for the restart of squash in Europe we all are longing for, that it hurts the finances of ESF (in 2021 between € 60.000 and 70.000 less income), but our decision is to protect the safety and the health of the players, the coaches, the referees and the many volunteers. This also allows the oppertunity for MNF:s to get their national activites going during the autumn, in order to prepare for a international restart 2022 where hopefully all countries can participate..
The Board has been advised by the Championship Committee, the Junior Committee and the Masters Committee who have members from all over Europe. We spoke with different National Sport Federations and medical advisors. Within our Board we have a medical doctor who through her contacts with different health organizations and experts have advised that there will be disturbance and uncertainty the whole 2021. In her professional capacity she is an occupational physician working with COVID in all workplace environments. Other members have been Event Directors for many years or have been Board Members of their national federation and they have enough insight in the concerns and worries of the Member Nations. Just to say we did not take the decision lightly!
As the ESF Board we must be concerned about two major parties. In the first place the hosts who are willing to organize one of our championships or tournaments. Secondly the participating nations, our members and their concerns.
A host may want to organize its championship and shows its willingness and creativity, but the COVID protocol is never 100% safe. The ESF Board must guarantee the host that the event keeps its value. It would be no good that top teams and players would not participate. Less participants might even unbalance the budget.
The ESF Board must also look at the needs and the worries of the participating nations, at the moment we are all faced with quite a number of uncertainties. Currently, nobody really knows how the virus is going to behave, even the experts are guessing!
In many European countries the figures have not got better. The only thing that is sure is that everything is very unsure. We were advised that it would not make any difference whether we make this decision now or one month later. The rate of the infection in the host country at the time of the event is not really that important, of much greater relevance is the rate of infection in the countries from where the teams are travelling and the prevalence of variants.
We have too many unanswered questions regarding the COVID protocols, the quarantine regulations, the travel restrictions, the ventilation of the venue, the increased cost for the participating nations, the spreading of the virus in the warm indoor environment of the squash club, the number of people in the club, the consequences if a team needs to withdraw or is disqualified, if team members get infected, …
Once we have reached the group immunity in all European countries we can start organizing events. End of July many countries will have vaccinated the +60 years. Our target group is 20-40 years old. The likelihood at the moment is that the European population will not be vaccinated until late summer or autumn. The virus doesn’t recognize borders between countries.
Is squash more contagious than other sports? This is a question that even the experts and the governments won’t be able to answer. We should not compare apples with oranges and for two reasons:
- these other sports have professional athletes who are tested many times a week and their federations have more financial resources than any of our MNF:s has for their national squash teams.
- in many European countries squash is seen as an ‘indoor contact sport’ and in quite a number of countries the venues have been closed since end of March 2020. An exception is made for professional players, but at this moment in some countries the players haven’t been on court for 14 months! They couldn’t practice, couldn’t play competition and have no match rhythm. What about the injuries when these nonprofessionals are allowed to play again? Is an MNF willing to pay for the travel and accommodation for players who are not ready to compete? On top of that it wouldn’t be fair to compete with players who have been on court all the time. A player needs a proper preparation and at his moment in a number of countries there is still no indication when they open again. We also need to understand that the vast majority of the players, coaches and referees are not professionals. They have jobs, schools and families to think about. We have been asked by MNFs to decide early as some countries will have difficulty to fill up their teams due to all this.
The national governments decide whether squash can be played in their country or not.
The EICC, ETC3, U19:s, U15/17:s and the EMIC have been canceled in agreement with the hosts, and the ECC is cancelled because in most countries there wasn’t a competition and thus no champions.
We cancelled the junior and master circuits, but if an MNF wishes to hold an event, it surely can, but outside the ESF circuit and without ranking points.
The board belives that if the situation permits, MNF:s should have the oppertunity to get their national activites going during the autumn, in order to prepare for the international restart 2022.