Never let it be said that Paul Macari is afraid of a challenge. Alongside his day job as head of operations at Cricket Scotland during that governing body’s most turbulent period – and more on that later – the 53-year-old has also added to that recently by also becoming president of Scottish Squash.

It is the latter discipline that Macari, still a regular on court, admits is his true passion, something that ought to instil him with much-needed fortitude during particularly demanding times. Squash is still bouncing back from the Covid lay-off when it was one of the final sports to be allowed to resume and faces an ongoing fight to preserve existing facilities while also creating new ones.

Macari was heartened to see courts included in the recent revamp of Meadowbank Sports Centre but also knows that other places have eyed up the space a squash court takes up and decided that room could be better served for some other purpose.

It is at that point that the vicious circle starts spinning: not enough people playing squash – so can’t justify facilities – so fewer courts – so can’t get new people into the sport.

There is still an active squash scene in Macari’s native Edinburgh although many of the younger members have been introduced to it through their parents or other family members. Finding a way to grow a sport in the face of myriad alternatives and declining facilities is something that will, therefore, take centre stage during his presidency.

“A new four-year cycle of funding and strategy starts in April after going out to the squash community for consultation,” says Macari. “It won’t be massively different but there will be more focus on club and grassroots squash. There’s been a big emphasis on high performance in recent times but there’s an acknowledgement now we need to help the clubs more post-pandemic to get people playing the game again.

“We’re trying to find a way to get more people, especially kids, into our sport. Squash has struggled with facilities over the last 20 or 30 years. David Lloyd and Next Generation gyms have pretty much abandoned squash, turning some of the courts into fitness studios. I was really impressed that the new Meadowbank has courts but a lot of other local authorities don’t include squash now in new facilities. If there are towns and villages that don’t have a squash court then nobody there is going to play. It’s as simple as that.

“Scottish Squash goes into schools and can introduce kids to the concept of the game by hitting a ball against a wall. But unless you have courts it’s hard to replicate it exactly and that’s always going to be a challenge.”

Macari is more encouraged by developments at elite level. Former Scottish No.1 Alan Clyne recently retired from the PSA [Professional Squad Association] tour but others like Lisa Aitken, Greg Lobban, Rory Stewart and Georgia Adderley continue to fly the flag.

“Getting our first Commonwealth Games medal for 24 years [Lobban and Stewart winning doubles bronze] was massive,” he says. “We’ve got ambitions to get more of our players into the 50 or 100 of PSA and we’re definitely stronger now at high performance than we have been. The pathway is looking promising among the 16 to 22-year-olds in particular.”

Macari has spent six years at Cricket Scotland and there are areas of crossover when it comes to funding and growing what is effectively a minority sport.

“There are synergies between cricket and squash, for example in terms of how our regions work,” he says. “And there are other similarities too: the challenges of funding, a reliance on volunteers, how to make the sport accessible and welcoming and getting more kids playing. I’d imagine it would be the same story in a lot of other sports in a country totally dominated by football.”

This has been a year like no other for cricket in Scotland. The Plan4Sport review shook the sport to its core with findings of institutionalised racism and other inappropriate behaviour. A new chair has been appointed in Anjan Luthra to begin the rebuilding process and Macari believes things are moving in the right direction.

“It was a really tough summer but the last couple of months have undoubtedly been better,” he adds. “We’re in a much better place with a new board with real drive who can see where we want to be in five years’ time. The ambition is to be the most equal and inclusive sport in Scotland and that’s definitely an achievable goal.

“We still want to be full members of the ICC [International Cricket Council] but the goalposts often change on that front. We’re driving women’s and girls’ cricket which is a real growth area. Our development team does such amazing things – there’s so much going on. I feel really positive about next year now.”