Squash: England facing a boycott

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THE BOYCOTT of the English national championships, which most of the leading men have been threatening for more than a month, became a certainty yesterday. England is thus at risk of being without a proper team for both the world and European championships.

The Squash Rackets Association is sticking to England team criteria linking selection to participation in the nationals (one of the reasons for the boycott), even though it withdrew its threat to cancel the men's national championships in Manchester next week if the boycotters refused a peace plan. All but the England captain, Phil Whitlock, did so, thus only two of the top 16 could be in today's draw, featuring 51 mostly lesser players.

'We remain disappointed that some of the top male players have decided not to play, but respect their freedom to make their own decisions,' Chris Gotla, the SRA chief executive, said.

Another shift of policy, perhaps giving England a chance of defending the world's silver medal position it achieved last time, may also be possible. Gotla yesterday offered to host next month's players' meeting in London, and said that England's selection criteria, like other SRA policies, were part of 'a review process'.

If there is no change in this, the remarkable loyalty which Peter Marshall has shown the rebels will be tested. The British national champion has supported the boycott even though he, like Whitlock, agrees with the peace plan, and even though he and England's No 2, Chris Walker, remain technically eligible for selection by England because, by qualifying for the Super Series final in Zurich, they gain exemption from the national championships.

Marshall says he agreed to abide by a players' majority vote and for this reason has lent his name to the boycotting list. If players on this list are excluded from consideration from England, then Marshall and Walker will refuse, so they say, to play for their country.