Alexandria Bell addresses the HSBC new BWF World Tour as hopeful for underfunded Badminton England players and more recognition for the sport
At the Rio 2016 Olympics, badminton men’s doubles pair Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge brought home an incredible bronze medal for the sport, and country. In an interview released by Badminton England Ellis admitted the pair were ‘deflated’ after their semi-final loss but with pure determination they came back to win the bronze and ‘hoped that the medal would also inspire future stars’. They had wanted to get further support for badminton at home after the dedication they put in to winning the bronze, saying that “This is an amazing sport and we’re so passionate about it and hopefully we’ll have inspired a few people to pick up a racquet.”
So when it was announced, just a few months after winning the Olympic medal, that UK Sport had made the decision to strip GB Badminton of all £5.74 million of its funding, alongside four other sports bodies – despite achieving the same as Judo, who still receive £7 million in funding – badminton players and sports fans were shocked. The news was received as catastrophic for the sport, making headlines as many professionals spoke out against the decision, such as ex-Olympian Gail Emms who feared “badminton will return to being a hobby sport if funding cuts are not overturned”. There was a concern that the impact would be devastating at both professional and amateur levels as players of all levels across the country felt disheartened and neglected due to the lack of acknowledgement and support for the sport.
However, in a positive turn of recent events the Badminton World Federation (BWF) has unveiled a new structure to the World Tour as they lately presented HSBC as its Principal Global Partner for 2018 in a sponsorship deal that will drive badminton prize money to record breaking heights and provide more accessible coverage to badminton fans on their new portal http://bwfworldtour.com.
The investment which has greatly increased the prize money for both finalists and runners up alike is a great positive step towards preventing Badminton from ‘returning to a hobby’ that was previously feared after the cuts from UK Sport, as players feel that badminton is gradually achieving more of the global recognition and presence it deserves as a such physically demanding and highly popular sport not just in the UK but globally.
This table demonstrates clearly the significant increase in prize money, with single’s players receiving almost double the previous amount:
|All England prize money
|Total prize money
Whilst this is a huge progression and will surely benefit the future of badminton, there is still a long way to go in regard to a highly unfair pay difference between racquet sports – in particular with tennis. The winner of the BWF World Tour now receives prize money of US$120,000, which is belittled by the US$3.7m won by the singles title in the US Open.
Yet, the impact of this much needed acknowledgement of badminton as a serious competitive sport has created a much greater incentive to compete for those players progressing from a national to international standard as there is now a confirmed prize for runners up, so that those who make it past the first rounds in the international tournament now do not go home empty handed.
It will also create high profile tournaments, with the All England (which is part of the BWF Super 1000’s) being held in Birmingham, so hopefully the new attention from the HSBC funding will attract more people to participate in the sport on both an amateur and professional level, starting with Badminton England’s scheme ‘No Strings Badminton’ which aims to increase the sport’s popularity amongst many new adult players, especially encouraging beginners to participate and enjoy the sport.
Come down and pick up a racquet! Give badminton a try – with your first session free! – and join us at our weekly sessions;
Social/ Beginners: Friday (6-8pm)
Intermediate/ Advanced: Wednesday (8-10pm) and Sunday (10-12pm)
all in the Penryn Campus Sports Centre!
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