badminton


badminton
   Badminton is played by a relatively large proportion of the British public, but it has long been in the shadow of tennis and lacks the latter’s media profile, television coverage and finances. However, the sport remains optimistic about its future, and universities and colleges in particular have strong badminton traditions; the game is also very popular amongst people of minority backgrounds. In 1996, it was estimated that some 4 million people played badminton, or about 8 percent of the UK population. But such relative popularity cannot hide the fact that British badminton has a low media profile, is short of finances and has a poor world standing. Of the top 50 women players in the world in 1996, only three were British, and only one of the top 50 men was British. This and the poor performances put in by the England side in the Sudirman Cup in Lausanne in 1995 prompted calls to end the historic underfunding of the sport. By comparison with Denmark, Indonesia, China and others, badminton in Britain is financially weak, and this helps explain the difference in international performance between these countries and the UK.
   That said, the Olympic status that badminton secured in 1985 (with full competition starting in Barcelona in 1992, after demonstration participation in 1988 in Seoul) has helped the financial situation, with total funding rising by 40 percent between 1992 and 1995. The top players get help direct from the British Olympic Association, leaving the national associations to focus their energies and resources on junior and upcoming talent.
   Despite its problems, badminton is clearly determined to expand and revive its fortunes, as seen in the formation in 1995 of the first British circuit, the Grand Slam. But this must address the problem of top players withdrawing from tournaments to appear in lucrative European events, making the home circuit hard to publicize and market to spectators. Badminton could also hope to expand if calls for it to become part of the school curriculum were heeded. Many schools already offer badminton, but were it added to the curriculum itself, then the sport could conceivably enhance its potential source of future talent. In the meantime, badminton in England is forced to hope that appointments like that of the former European and Commonwealth champion, Steve Baddeley, as director of elite play will improve standards and results, with all the spin-offs that can generate.
   Further reading
    Badminton Association of England (1994) Badminton, London: Black.
   REX NASH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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