Teenage rackets champion Ben Cawston banned by public schools from their tournament - because he goes to a comprehensive

Exclusive sport of rackets faces accusations of elitism after barring teenager from competition

A teenage rackets champion has been barred from entering a prestigious tournament because he attends a state school, leading to accusations of elitism and petty-mindedness within the sport.

In December, Ben Cawston, a 14-year-old pupil at Westgate comprehensive in Winchester, became the first state-educated pupil to win a national public schools title – which despite its name has previously allowed pupils from state schools to also take part.

Following his under-15 singles win at Queen’s Club, however, he has been denied entry to this week’s doubles tournament after rackets professionals from the 14 top public schools, including Eton, Harrow and Rugby, voted narrowly to exclude state school players for the first time.

Dr Peter Cramer, Winchester College’s master-in-charge of rackets – the historic forerunner of squash – condemned the decision. “It is appalling,” he said. “I was shocked when I heard and have no idea why the pros voted this way – maybe misplaced traditionalism.

“We live in a worryingly divided society and charity legislation says public schools should have outreach programmes and connections with state schools – but we all feel this is something a school like ours should be doing anyway, because it is morally right.

“Rackets is a hugely exciting minority sport but, if more state school players came in and a few more courts were built, the game would open up to the rest of world, and that could only be a good thing. This ban is a great shame, but I’m sure it’s something we can set right.”

David Makey, a professional at Tonbridge School who chairs the Rackets Professionals Association (RPA), said the reason was that state schoolboys did not play in inter-school doubles matches on which the national seedings are based. “The pros are very much divided regarding this issue, particularly as we trialled it with boys from Manchester, and debates at RPA meetings in recent years have become more tense and at times extremely unpleasant  and uncomfortable,” he said.

However, some insiders believe the real reason for the ban was that certain professionals feared their own star players might lose to Ben and his doubles partner, Thomas Foster, 14.

Ben trains with the squad at Winchester College, where his father, Tim, plays as a professional. The college headmaster, Dr Ralph Townsend, also believes it is unfair that Ben has not been allowed to enter. In a letter to the RPA,  Dr Townsend pleaded for state school players to be included. “To allow them to play in the doubles would seem to fit in perfectly with the sort of thing we all want, namely a generosity in the sharing of our many resources,” he wrote.

“With all the good work being done by independent schools to share time, resources and talent with the maintained sector, surely now is the time to loosen unnecessary restrictions.”

For now the ban remains in place and, rather than slugging it out with his public-school rivals at Queen’s, Ben will be cheering on his Winchester clubmates from the gallery.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week