British Open still bound for Hull despite setback for ‘sports village’

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WORLD-CLASS squash will be staged in Hull in 2013 in spite of plans to build a £114m Sports Village at the KC Stadium biting the dust.

The British Open – regarded as the jewel in the crown of the sport’s calendar – has been absent for two years due to governing body England Squash and Racketball being unable to secure adequate funding.

It was announced last week that Hull City FC owner Assem Allam had agreed to become the title partner for the event, enabling England Squash to bring the event back next year by staging it at London’s O2 Arena.

It was also agreed that the event would switch to Hull for the following two years, with Allam planning to stage it at the proposed sports village which he had hoped to build alongside the KC Stadium.

But those plans – which would have included an Olympic-sized swimming pool, gymnastics arena and tennis courts as well as a world-class squash centre – are now on hold after the Allam family and Hull City Council failed to agree terms on any sale.

Alternative sites are being sought in and around Hull but fears that the British Open would not be staged in Hull as originally planned have been quashed by the governing body.

“It would be fantastic if the proposed sports village were completed in time for staging the British Open in Hull in 2013,” said Jim Lord, operations director for ES&R and the man who has led discussions with the Allams.

“But if it isn’t there are one or two options available to us – one of which would be staging it inside the KC Stadium.

“It’s great to have somebody with Mr Allam’s passion and support involved.

“It’s been disappointing not to have been able to stage the event for the past two years, but we simply haven’t had enough commercial clout.

“Staging the event on a smaller scale, with less prize money, wasn’t really an option – it wouldn’t have done the event – the most prestigious in the game – any good.”

The last time the event was staged, at Manchester’s National Squash Centre in 2009, saw Sheffield’s Nick Matthew edge out Leeds’s James Willstrop in a five-game, two-hour thriller, considered by some to be one of the best matches ever.