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19 November 2021

Open letter to the badminton community in England

On behalf of the Board of Badminton England, I am writing to give you an overview of activity in the last few months. You will appreciate that much of what I will cover is still moving, but this provides a comprehensive update at the time of writing.

Changes of Leadership

Over the last two months our CEO, Adrian Christy, and Performance Director, Jon Austin, have stood down from their roles, though Jon remains with us to support a number of projects in the wider organisation. We have now begun the process of putting the people in place that will lead the transformation of the organisation, and with that badminton in England.

Pete Fitzboydon, an existing Board member and recently the Interim CEO of Cycling UK following many other roles in sport, has started work as our Interim Chief Executive. Amongst his focuses, he will look to address our organisational culture, stabilise the World Class Programme, and facilitate a full and flourishing return of the grassroots game before providing a comprehensive handover to a new permanent CEO.

We have engaged a recruitment firm to help search for a permanent CEO and the advert for the position is on our website. The vacancy closes today and we hope to be interviewing a short list of high-quality candidates before Christmas.

World Class and England Performance Programmes

As you will know, there have been some well documented challenges regarding our world class performance environment at the National Badminton Centre, with appeals to Olympic selection decisions as well as questions around athlete welfare.

Since the concerns were raised we have been in dialogue with those affected and, along with GB Badminton, we appointed UK Sport to perform an independent culture health check of the WCP and EPP on completion of the Games.

In this independent review, interviews or discussions were held with around 70 players, coaches, and staff, based in both MK and in Sheffield. We have recently received their initial findings, and the recommendations will form a keystone of our action plan to rebuild a programme that all young players aspire to, and all participants can thrive in. We will communicate openly the contents and subsequent actions as soon as is practical and are confident that all parties will work together to deliver the right outcome.

Our Performance Director stepping down and our withdrawal from the Thomas Cup (due to multiple injuries) has no doubt caused concern in some areas. However, the Board are working through this complex and sensitive situation and whilst there is much work to be done, we are confident that the emerging roadmap will allow us to make rapid improvements over the coming months.

Grassroots game

At the same time, the most significant part of the badminton community has been looking to return to play, many for the first time in 18 months. It has been fantastic to see our sport getting back to normal and players across the country enjoying the physical, mental and social benefits that have been so missed over the pandemic. But we know that we are not yet out of the woods, and many are still facing issues such as facility availability and rising hire costs. We are working at both a national and local level to help resolve these issues, with some notable variations in challenges between different parts of the country. We will continue to work with all our stakeholders and are determined to build participation levels to pre-pandemic levels.

Last year we conducted our biggest ever consultation with the badminton community, and this dialogue has already helped to influence some changes to our organisation. For example, our “Discover Badminton” strategy is being updated to include a fourth pillar, titled ‘support for the badminton system’, which ensures we are focussed on growing and supporting the core of the sport.

We are also looking at how we can grow and become stronger by becoming more inclusive and diverse, both as an organisation and as a sport. While we have an enviable position from which to start, we know there is more we can do.

The dialogue with the badminton community will continue to help develop a detailed strategy for the game; one that will be aimed at improving standards, supporting investment into player and coach development, and ultimately driving greater success at the highest levels.

Cultural changes

As we end one chapter, it is clear to me that we need to make a fresh start, albeit building on the sport’s strong foundations of dedicated workforce and players. The results of a recent culture survey have given us a clear mandate for change, and we are starting a programme that aims to change the way we all work together and with the badminton community.

I believe we need to be:

  • prepared to take a longer-term view than perhaps we have in the past, as we look to emerge from the pandemic to firstly rebuild and then enhance the sport. I say this from both the standpoint of the challenges we have today and due to continued resource constraints. We will need to be clear on our intent and be determined, but while there are many immediate improvements we can make, we are also going to have to be patient for us to reach the heights to which we aspire.
  • a more open organisation, ready to listen, engage with a wide range of partners, and inspire and collaborate in different ways. Crucially, we need to communicate clearly on what we hear, and act quickly and decisively to drive improvements for the sport.
  • prepared to do more than report the good news and the successes, we will be open about the challenges and we will learn from the past.

What we set out to do is important, but how we do it will make all the difference.

The last few months have been extremely challenging, and we are not out of the woods yet, but we have a clear idea of what needs to change, and that journey is firmly underway. The Board is both optimistic and looking forward to making a fresh start continuing the process of supporting the sport to reach its full potential.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or comments.


Mike Robinson


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