The Federação Nacional de Squash in Portugal has outlined a new ‘club squash map’ vision which will aim to increase participation in the nation to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like in many countries around the world, squash came to a halt for two months in Portugal before returning in May, 2020 but that period of downtime was fatal for some clubs, which were forced to close due to a lack of players.
To fight the dropping player base and impact the coronavirus has had on clubs around the country, the Federação Nacional de Squash are hoping that their new ‘club squash map’ will enable them to establish the best ways of returning the sport to its former glory pre-pandemic.
“We are very concerned as we are watching some clubs struggling to come back to their normal attendance and we have already witnessed some court closures,” said Federação Nacional de Squash President Luis Ferreira.
“Having this in mind, even before the COVID-19 crisis, we started to draw a ‘club squash map’ so that we can have the real number on our side. We must know how many active squash courts really exist and how many people play there, how many squash courts exist but are not in use and what we need to do to bring them back to a natural squash environment.
“We also need to know how many play squash in our country. So we thought of drawing a map, similar to what consulting companies use to analyse their businesses, where we could divide our squash scene in Portugal in four quadrants; growing, selling, fading and delivering.
“We feel that if we gather this information with quality, we will be able to adapt our strategy and put all of our energy in accordingly so that we can react in time and optimise those who are on track. We feel that we need to bring confidence to all the squash community that it is safe to play squash and to come to tournaments – we need to think on a different and creative approach so that we do not lose players.
“We also feel that it is crucial to market squash in a different way, using marketing campaigns, having more presence in social media and keeping track of the results.”
COVID-19 has slowed the development of squash in the country, but Ferreira says that even without the coronavirus changing life as we know it, the sport requires an image change.
“We need to look at the best practices on how other sports promote their sport. We cannot rely on those old marketing campaigns that says that squash is the healthiest sport in the world, which is a fact, according to a certain Forbes article written in 2003. We need to act globally, get out of our comfort zone inside our squash clubs and get on social media, have more marketing campaigns on events like World Squash Day.
“We need to make our sport an attractive sport again, for those who do not know it yet and motivate even more all those who still play. We need to turn squash sexy again.”
With tournaments now back up and running as of October 24th in Portugal, there are signs that the country is getting back to something resembling normality, and Ferreira opened up on what life is like now following the pandemic.
“Here in Portugal, we are trying to get use to this so called ‘new normal’. Those companies who can are working on shifts, 15 days in the office and 15 days working from home. Kids are all back to school and we are able to circulate.
“However, as numbers start to increase again, our government has already prepared some more restrictions to implement on our day to day life. Shops are closing after 20:00, there are restrictions on public events, no more than five people together in the streets and so on. We hope not to go on another lockdown again.”