Magazine article Management Today

Pugnacious on and off Court

Magazine article Management Today

Pugnacious on and off Court

Article excerpt

With his extensive business interests, former BL chairman Sir Michael Edwardes (left) has to book his squash games months ahead. The sport suits him, he tells Times squash correspondent Colin McQuillan, because it's for scrappers

'I love this game,' says Sir Michael Edwardes, peering down into the centre court of the squash complex at the RAC Club in London's Pall Mall. 'I played when I was a lad and rediscovered it at 41 when there was not enough time for golf and no sensible rationale for returning to rugby. I needed exercise and some release from stress. Squash provides both in a time package that fits into the busiest diary.'

His first club was Richmond Town, in Surrey, a flourishing doubles scene. 'I took to doubles happily at Richmond. I found I could keep going longer, getting more enjoyment without exhaustion and the variety of shots and tactics makes it much more interesting.' Teaming up with fellow South African Toddy Berman, a former British vintage singles champion, he began a doubles partnership that now carries 133 years of experience into matches carefully scheduled weeks, even months, ahead on courts all over the world.

Edwardes started playing squash in South Africa, but only as a second game to rugby, while at St Andrews College in Grahamstown and later, at Rhodes University, where he was studying law. In old school photographs he looks more like rugby mascot than player but contemporaries say he was a ferocious serum half. In business discussion he has a considered approach that is at odds with the fast and inventive action he takes to the squash court.

With Berman and two other doubles regulars, he researched the ideal dimensions for doubles play on a court in Bournemouth, and persuaded the RAC club in Epsom to build a court to these dimensions. He later got the World Squash Federation (WSF) to adopt them as an international standard for the softball doubles game now gathering such interest around the globe. 'Most people play doubles on a 32ft long, 21ft wide singles court,' Edwardes explains. 'But we found that the ideal width to take the extra spread of cross-court lob and drop is 25ft 3in.' The Epsom court was built to this width, but the plasterers reduced it to 25ft, and the WSF accepted this as the international standard. 'It plays havoc with my backhand cut drop across the face of the front wall,' he insists. …

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