SBJ/Nov. 8-14, 2010/This Week's Issue

Squash tour sues international circuit over player ban

A startup U.S. squash league is suing the sport’s international circuit for banning its players from competing on the new tour.

Pro Squash Tour started last year with four events, created by Boston native Joe McManus. This year there are 12 events, but the lawsuit alleges the global Professional Squash Association (PSA), based in England, last month prohibited anyone competing in its tournaments from playing in the new U.S. league.

“It’s an attempt to strangle the baby in the crib,” said Mark Smith, an attorney with Smith Valliere, who is representing Pro Squash Tour.

Squash is a blip on the U.S. sports scene. PSA has roughly 250 tournaments across the globe, only 21 of which are in the United States. Many of the events have purses as small as $500. In total, PSA awards roughly $3.45 million in prize money, according to the complaint.

PSA’s largest U.S. event is the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York’s Grand Central Station, which awarded $97,500 this year. The promoter of that event, Event Engine, is also named in the complaint.

John Nimick, founder of Event Engine, referred questions to PSA board member Richard Bramall.

“When served it will be the intention of the PSA to vigorously contest the Court Proceedings,” Bramall wrote in an e-mail. “The Pro Squash Tour started life as a series of exhibitions in North  America. … The format of the events were unique and we were happy for them to have the benefit of PSA members playing them. The Tour then re-branded themselves as the Pro Squash Tour and developed a ranking/points system that was clearly designed as a rival to the PSA Tour in North America and [possibly] in other regions. This will hopefully explain why the PSA took the action they did to protect their members’ Tour.”

In the complaint, the new tour says it does not have a ranking system, but it does have a point system designed to measure how purses should be divided. The lawsuit is filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York and is named American Pro Squash v. Professional Squash Association, John G. Nimick and Event Engine. The complaint asks for damages to be determined later.

Most squash events are played at country clubs, with the players competing on courts encased by glass so spectators can watch.

McManus said the tour is backed by venture capital but is designed to be profitable this season.

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