Commonwealth Games shake-up would threaten its integrity, Nick Matthew warns

A Commonwealth Games shake-up which could see e-sports replace events such as squash, netball and cycling would threaten the competition’s integrity, three-time gold medallist Nick Matthew has warned.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 12:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 8:10 am

Plans have been unveiled to cut the number of compulsory sports at the quadrennial event from 16 to just two, with future host cities ‘encouraged’ to propose new innovations and sports appeal to younger audiences.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) - the organisation responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games – wants to give hosts more flexibility over their programme and improve costs.

Only athletics and swimming will enjoy protected status.

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Nick Matthew of England competes against Vikram Malhotra of India in the Squash Mens Singles match on day two of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Oxenford Studios on April 6, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

But Sheffield’s Matthew, who has been appointed England Squash’s assistant coach for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, said: “We are talking about health and well-being and mental health a lot and squash has been proven as one of the most demanding sports [with health benefits].

"I’m a big fan of e-sports, I think it’s great that they have packed out their arenas however it’s a different category from the Olympics for me.

"Are we really then challenging people to spend 25 hours at a time on a computer game? I’m not sure I would want that for my children.”

E-sports involves people playing video games against each other competitively. Tournaments take place all over the world and attract huge crowds to arenas.

The industry is now worth millions.

Sport as we know it is evolving, with five new events with a focus on youth – karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and baseball — added to the Olympics for Tokyo 2020.

Future host cities now also have the option of suggesting new sports and events for inclusion in their edition of the Games, with competitive breakdancing set to be introduced for Paris 2024.

Matthew previously described the Commonwealth Games is the ‘pinnacle’ of his sport and toured the UK last month to help it ‘relaunch’ post-lockdown.

He added: “The Olympics has to be the pinnacle. There’s a lot of sports in there that, first of all, are like an X Games sport.

"Over the years the lines have been blurred and I hope the Commonwealth doesn’t do what the Olympics is doing.

"What concerns me is a future away from the Olympic ideals. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but to me that’s the Olympics.”