Milja Dorenbos, Milou van der Heijden, Natalie Grinham, Sanne Veldkamp and Tessa ter Sluit did not get to know each other when they heard from SBN that there were insufficient funds to send them to the World Cup. These ladies finished third at the last European Championships and with Nathalie Grinham, the former number two of the world in their ranks, this announcement was a huge surprise. However, the ladies decided to take action immediately.
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One of the players took out a personal loan to at least pay the registration fee and to record the place of the squash ladies at the World Cup. They were convinced they wanted to go, all that was left was €10.000,- to sleep, train, eat and wear the orange colors. Many more ladies didn’t want and with Nathalie Grinham as playing coach that was also their guidance with which they were going to do it.
“Through new forms and movements that we see in sport, the sports federations are increasingly losing their grip on the athlete who has to represent them”.
At the beginning of September the squash ladies started their action “Road to Paris”, where they wanted to get one kilometer closer to Paris for every €10,- and thus the World Cup. In the end they had to travel 1035 kilometers to play in Paris. They succeeded and today they are playing at the World Championships! All this thanks to fun actions, clinics, pictures and some partners who help them with this. “It’s great to see that in such a short period of time we have received so much support from different parties and squash fans that we have been able to raise this amount of money! Also very nice what this has meant for us as a team”, says the squash ladies.
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“A team that comes in third at the European Championships just has to go to the World Championships,” said Niels Schut, the founder of Sportunity. “After we heard that these ladies could not go to the World Cup because of the financial difficulties with the squash union, we immediately contacted them. The enthusiasm of them soon ensured that we together this challenge towards the World Championships, but also the 2017 European Championships wanted to go. They are a typical example of the problems that play a role in the sports world with which we try to support the sports federations, so this cooperation also fits in very well with our corporate mission.”
Monday 28 November the ladies started their World Cup mission. The team, placed eleventh at this World Championships, hit Malaysia on Monday as third seeded and unfortunately had to acknowledge her superiority with a 3-0 loss. The next day the ladies revenged themselves with a 3-0 victory on the 16th placed Austria. Wednesday evening they took on the 6th placed Australian ladies. For Nathalie a nice opponent, since she has her roots in Australia, however, that knowledge was of no use and they lost 1-3. Today they will compete against India at 11:00 am.
Squash ladies example for other top athletes or the challenge for the future of (top) sport?
We remember the recent discussions between the top skaters and the KNSB about the distribution of the money, as also described in several articles on SportNEXT. Of course we also know the Honorary Division CV, in which all interests of the Honorary Division clubs are represented. Recently there was also a lot of attention for the new initiative Beat Cycling Club; a new initiative, with the ambition to implement the club model in cycling from a sustainable business model.
And finally, the squash ladies who now form a commercial national team with their partner Sportunity, where the goal is to find a cooperation with this partner in which these ladies become self-reliant and maintain their own commercial model to hire their own guidance, training etc..
By these new forms and movements that we see in the sport, the sports federations increasingly lose their grip on the top athlete who has to represent them. Sports federations are having a hard time and don’t know or can’t use their top athletes in the right way to get more money or use these athletes to let their sport grow and eventually to give back enough for this top athlete. The added value of the association for these athletes is becoming less and less and you can see movements like the Beat Cycling Club, but also the squash ladies who eventually go to the World Championships independently.
We don’t only see this tendency in this area, but sports federations are also reinventing themselves and reviewing their raison d’être in the face of the enormous number of members who have to deal with a lot of federations. Trends and developments in (sports) society demand a different approach from the unions. The so-called ‘unattached athlete’ is an example of this. The athlete finds the added value of the union or association too limited and finds his own way in the sport. This is a development of which the unions are very much aware, but which exists.