THE SPORT of badminton lost one of its greatest champions this week. Not that Tom Marrs enjoyed success on court much beyond representing Cumbria from 1957-1974. But as a tournament director he was world class and a pioneer of how major tournaments are presented today.
When the game turned professional in the late 1970s, he was the trailblazer in attracting TV coverage for events – even if watching a match involving Gillian Gilks on Grandstand was interrupted by the 3.30pm at Lingfield races.
Tom had the persuasive talent of an impresario in being the first man to stage badminton at such a prestigious venue as the Royal Albert Hall, which hosted the first Friends Provident Masters in 1979. He had quickly grasped the importance of sponsorship if badminton was to be a commercial success. Which is why subsequent sponsors of the Masters were household names like British Airways and The Famous Grouse, the whisky brand which appropriately sponsored annual England v Scotland fixtures.
He also had as good a contacts’ book as any journalist, which is perhaps why three years after the Masters was launched, the Thomas Cup Finals (men’s world team championships) were staged at the Albert Hall with Her Majesty The Queen attending the finals – the only time she has visited a badminton event.
Tom went to school at Carlisle Grammar and his first job was as a youth employment officer. But in 1978 Tom’s career path took a change of direction and he became promotions manager at the Badminton Association of England, now Badminton England.
He was to become the tournament mastermind behind Masters events, European Championships and his absolute passion, the All England Open Championships, overseeing the tournament’s successful move from Wembley to its current home in Birmingham.
The International Badminton Federation (now the Badminton World Federation) were quick to harness Tom’s abilities and chief executive Neil Cameron invited him to be technical consultant to the World Championships in both Seville in 2001 and Birmingham in 2003.
No-one will deny that Tom’s lasting legacy is the Yonex All England Open Championships as we know it today, introducing innovations across the board as the oldest Open tournament in the world game was shaken out of its amateur era time warp and transformed into a dynamic and precisely organised major televised event. No wonder it today sits proudly among the top three annual tournaments on the BWF’s international circuit.
Tom, who died on Tuesday in Northampton General Hospital aged 83, is survived by his wife Margaret and daughter Sandra and her son, Lee.
They are in our thoughts while Tom will always live long in our memories. His many friends are keen to arrange a fitting tribute whenever it will be possible but, in the meantime, we can raise a glass in recognition of his pioneering spirit.
Thomas (Tom) Ernest Marrs - February 14,1937- April 14, 2020
Badminton England wishes to thank William Kings for such a fitting tribute.