By Doug Woodburn
Higher player compensation, more tournaments and better media coverage are just some of the mooted benefits of a “major” new deal announced today between the PSA and billionaire investor Mark Walter.
Through his Sports, Media and Entertainment Group (SM&E), the Chicago-based philanthropist has acquired a stake in the PSA’s commercial arm, Squash Media & Marketing (SMM).
The move, which has been rumoured for the best part of a year, was hailed as a “game changer for professional squash” by PSA CEO Alex Gough.
It will lead to more events on the tour calendar, higher player compensation, greater mobility in the rankings, improved marketing of the sport and the players and the development of new digital products and services for fans, the duo claimed.
The new funds have also been earmarked to “ramp up the creation and distribution of engaging content”.
Who is Mark Walter?
Known to English football fans for investing in Chelsea FC last year, Walter heads up financial services outfit Guggenheim Partners and is worth an estimated $5.2bn by Forbes. His other sporting interests include Major League Baseball franchise the Los Angeles Dodgers and Women’s NBA side the Los Angeles Sparks.
Along with his wife Kimbra, Walter already sponsors the Windy City Open and PSA World Championships. The latter (the 2023 women’s winner of which, Nour El Sherbini, is pictured, top) became the first event to offer a $1m purse – with equal compensation for men and women players – four years ago.
“We believe that having the financial backing of The Walter Group will be a game changer for professional squash. Mark Walter has been an incredible supporter of the sport since 2015 and his investment will enable us to accelerate our development of the professional game,” Alex Gough
Walter hailed squash as a “global, highly diverse and exciting sport with a tremendous growth opportunity”.
“We believe that having the financial backing of The Walter Group will be a game changer for professional squash,” Gough added.
“Mark Walter has been an incredible supporter of the sport since 2015 and his investment will enable us to accelerate our development of the professional game.
“We have an ambitious strategy that aims to modernise and grow the sport at the highest level. We will also be looking to streamline the PSA Tour structure to increase the playing opportunities and earning potential for our athletes, as well as helping them rise up the PSA World Rankings.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for everyone involved in professional squash. Since our Chairman Ziad Al-Turki came aboard in 2008, the professional game has gone through unprecedented growth and this investment represents the next step in the sport’s evolution. We look forward to releasing details of our long-term strategy to the squash community in due course.”
Walter added: “We are excited to invest in the future of the sport and look forward to working with the PSA to make this a broader and more inclusive sport and to bring it to more fans.”