Badminton England – The History of the Badminton Association


The Start of the Badminton Association.

Founded originally as the “Badminton Association”. In August, 1893 Major, later Colonel, S.S.C. Dolby, Hon Secretary of the Southsea Badminton Club, wrote to all the known badminton clubs, and also put a notice in “The Field” paper, that “A meeting is to be held at Dunbar, Waverley Grove, Southsea near Portsmouth at 2-00 p.m. on September 13th 1893 for the purpose of forming a “Badminton Association”.

The nine clubs at the meeting unanimously resolved to form a Badminton Association, and 14 mostly from Hampshire, Sussex and Devon area, joined the Association in the first year. The meeting framed and approved rules for both for the Association and for the game of badminton. The Badminton Association was founded and it would be the first Badminton Association in the world. Col Dolby was elected both Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer until he resigned in 1899 and was also the first President from 1893 – 1898, the committee comprised mostly of military gentlemen.

Prior to the formation of the Badminton Association in 1893 clubs were playing the game in various forms, without any generally recognised code of laws. There was certainly a printed code, which, with occasional modifications, was observed at some of the bigger clubs; but in most places, local rules were quite different to those observed elsewhere. Even such essential details as size of the court and height of the net varied enormously. Most clubs used the space available for their courts which meant that some courts were almost twice the size as we know them today. Under such conditions, it was impossible for the game to develop to any extent as players moving from one club to another found themselves participating in practically a new game, while interclub matches were hampered by the difficulty of recognising the diverse rules of the opposing teams. Bringing the clubs into line regarding the laws of the game was by no means easy, not unnaturally each club considered its own rules to be the best.

The Badminton Association was originally based on clubs in the Hampshire, Sussex and Devon area, but the game soon spread to other areas, especially London, another growth area was the North West. In the years up to the First World War, the number of clubs through various tournaments and competitions were authorised including the London league which was running successfully by 1901.

Ireland in 1899 and then Scotland in 1911 formed their own associations/unions then Wales in 1928. But they, like clubs worldwide, affiliated to the Badminton Association. The first foreign club to do so was that run by Baron von Maltzhan at Hamburg Spa. Then, as the games spread, individual clubs in Canada and Australia, New Zealand and USA, and later still overseas nations: France and New Zealand. Right up to 1934 the Badminton Association was responsible for writing and reviewing the laws of the game of badminton.

The First Ever Open Badminton Tournament.

The Guildford Badminton Club organised the first ever open tournament in 1898, where players from any club could enter. The tournament was played on one day and was such a success that the Badminton Association decided to organise their own tournament the next year.

The All-England Badminton Championships.

In 1899 the first All-England Championships were played at the London Scottish Drill Hall, James Street, Westminster, London and were confined to the three double’s events. The following year, 1900, both singles were added and the five Championship events have been played annually ever since, except for the years during both world wars when the Championships were cancelled. In 1902 the All-England Championships moved to Crystal Palace and in 1903 to the London Rifle Brigades Drill Hall, Moorgate, London. From 1910 until 1939 the last held before Second World War, the Championships were played at the Horticultural Hall, Westminster, London. Seeding was introduced for the first time during the 1930s. The Championships recommenced after the war at the Harringay Arena, before moving in the 1950s to the Empress Hall, Earls Court where it stayed until it moved in 1957 to the Wembley Arena. The 50th Championships was celebrated in 1961. In 1970 John Player and Sons became the first sponsors of these Championships until 1983. In 1984 the Yonex Sports Company commenced its sponsorship. In 1993 after a successful Badminton World Championships at the National indoor Arena (NIA), Birmingham, the Badminton Association of England decided the next year to move the Yonex All-England Championships to the NIA. 2007 saw the Championships joining the BWF’s Super Series and the 100th All-England was played in 2010. Spectator numbers continue to grow at the Utilita Arena, Birmingham as the NIA is now called, with its eight practice courts below the main arena plus many good hotels and restaurants in close proximity, it has become one of the finest badminton venues in the world.

The First Ever International Badminton Match.

The first ever international badminton match was played against Ireland in Dublin in 1903 during the Irish Open Championships, England won the match 5-2 and it became an annual fixture that was played alternately in Ireland and the All-England. Annual matches against Scotland started in 1921-22 and against Wales in 1932-33 until the war.

The Badminton Gazette and other magazines.

Initially the Badminton Association from December 1899 used a couple of pages mainly during the winter months in the Lawn Tennis and Badminton magazine as their official publication. In November 1907 the Badminton Association produce their own magazine called the “Badminton Gazette”. The First World War brought the publication to a halt for 6 years until October 1921. Again, during the Second World War the publication ceased, reappearing in November 1946 under the editorship of the Badminton Association of England’s newly appointed secretary Herbert Scheele for the next 25 years. The B.E.of E. decided with the advent of Open Badminton a glossier more professional image must appear on the bookstalls to gather a wider public. And so, the Gazette made its swan song in February 1979 after a life spanning 72 years. Publication was handed over to Marsh Publications who produced an excellent 12 monthly “Badminton” magazine. The magazine was not really supported by club members but for other reasons Marsh Publications went bankrupt. In 1982 B.A. of E. took their magazine back in-house calling it “Badminton Now” and under the enthusiastic editorship of Promotions Manager Tommy Marrs increased its circulation. Then in 1991 the B.A. of E. change the name to “Badminton” and another name change in 2009 to “Courtside” which was published by 2b Graphic Design. In 2013 “Courtside” ceased in its paper form with the last 6 digital versions being produced for online viewing.

The Start of County Badminton Associations.

When badminton commenced after the First World War in 1920 there was a steady growth of County Badminton Associations, it was not till 1928 that an official Inter-County Championships was initiated, organised in 10 regionalised groups, there was no provision for a play-off of winners. Two years later with 30 counties now divided into 7 groups, group winners played off, and London, through Middlesex, began its domination of the Championships. In the early 1930s the controlling organisation was the Badminton Association (England) which controlled badminton world-wide, allowed the inclusion of North and South Wales, East and West of Scotland. Later the Isle of Man and also Jersey and Guernsey joined in. Much later Leinster and Ulster entered the competition. The inter-County Championships became the core of the domestic game and grew rapidly in size and popularity, by 1937 there were 48 teams, which in 1992 had risen to 150 teams in 7 divisions.

The Start of the International Badminton Federation (IBF).

It was the officers and committee members of the Badminton Association in 1934 led by Sir George Thomas and Albert Prebble that were some of the main movers in creating a new world badminton governing body, the establishment of the new governing body was proposed by the Badminton Association; thus, its management followed the democratic one of the Badminton Association. The new organisation was called the International Badminton Federation (IBF) now called the Badminton World Federation (BWF). The nine founder members were Canada, Denmark, England, France, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Many of the new IBF’s core officers and committee members were also those of the Badminton Association. Sir George Thomas was elected the first president and held the position for 21 years until his retirement in 1955.

The Change to the Badminton Association of England.

In 1934 the Badminton Association handed over all responsibility for the conduct of the game to the International Badminton Federation on its formation, after which date the Badminton Association became only the national body for England and was renamed the Badminton Association of England (B.A.of E.). The B.A. of E. changed its name again in 2005 to Badminton England.

Sir George Thomas – The Thomas Cup.

The idea for the Thomas Cup originated on March 11th 1939, at a committee meeting of the International Badminton Federation (I.B.F.) held during the All-England Championships, when Sir George Thomas offered to donate a trophy for an international team competition for men. The I.B.F. committee welcomes his offer and at their 1939 AGM approved the idea in principle and thanked Sir George for his offer of a trophy. Sir George Thomas immediately commissioned a magnificent trophy, now known worldwide simply as “The Thomas Cup” he presented the trophy to the I.B.F. at their AGM in 1940. Sadly, the Second World War had started so the first competition was delayed until 1948-49. 10 countries entered the first competition and were divided into three zones. The only semi-final was played in the Kelvin Hall, Glasgow between Malaya and the USA. The winners Malaya would go on to play Denmark in the final at the Queens Hall, Preston, England on February 25th and 26th 1949. The B.A. of E. promoted the first final, at which Sir George Thomas personally presented the trophy to the winners Malaya.

Betty Uber – The Uber Cup.

Mrs Betty Uber, who played 37 times for England between 1926-1951 and won 13 All-England titles and countless others major tournaments, offered to donate a trophy for an international team championship for women. She presented this to the International Badminton Federation AGM in 1956, and the first competition in 1956/57 attracted 11 nations in 4 zones. England was entrusted to host both the semi-finals at Eastbourne and the final tie at Lytham St. Annes in which the USA beat Denmark. Betty Uber presented her fine trophy to the first winners USA.

Badminton Umpires Association of England.

The Badminton Umpires Association of England was founded in 1952 and was the first international organisation to co-ordinate badminton umpires anywhere in the World. At that time all umpiring was organised on an individual event basis and there was no common terminology, technique or presentation by umpires. The standardisation of umpiring became a prime objective of the new Association, along with a desire to improve the standard of umpiring. The ‘Instructions to Court Officials’ that are now appended to the Laws of Badminton are a direct result of the achievements of the Association.

English National Championships.

The winners of the English Invitation Tournament, started in 1953/54, were long regarded as English champions. As the invitees were limited in number, it was felt, in 1963/64, that in fairness every player desirous of competing should be given the opportunity to do so. Accordingly, the English National Championships were instituted that year at Wimbledon B.C. The entry was so big that two evenings had to be allocated to the qualifying rounds. Unfortunately, the event has recently lost some status as top players do not always enter because of paucity of prize-money or their overseas commitments.

The First Open (Professional) Badminton Tournament.

At the International Badminton Federation’s AGM in May 1979 the rules were revised to allow Open Badminton, this gave players an opportunity to receive money for winning while playing badminton. There had been much debate and heated argument for many years variously described as amateurism, professionalism and sham amateurism. The revised rules were adopted, which would not harm aspirations for badminton to become an Olympic sport, to receive prize money players had to be licensed. The Badminton Association of England anticipating that Open Badminton was coming had already starting planning, and was able to stage the First Open Badminton Tournament with the co-operation of Friends Provident Life Office and the Royal Albert Hall only four months later. The World’s first open badminton tournament was played in the Royal Albert Hall, London between 19th and 22nd September 1979. The event was the final of the first-ever ‘Masters’ – the world’s inaugural badminton tournament open to both professionals as well as amateurs. 20 of the top players in the world were invited and it was sponsored by Friends Provident. The tournament marked the arrival of Open Badminton and gave players an opportunity to receive money for winning while playing badminton.

Badminton Line Judges Association of England.

In January 1994 some long serving line judges decided to form an association to better organise the activities of line judges and to promote their activities at home and abroad. The Association was registered as an associate member of the Badminton Association of England, under the name of The Badminton Line Judges Association and was the first formal line Judges Association in the world. In 2009 the Association changed its name to the Badminton Line Judges Association of England (BLJAofE) to distinguish it from the other line Judges Association’s abroad that had also been formed since 1994. The BLJAofE has now been granted full membership of Badminton England, and is entitled to attend Badminton England General Meetings, and has voting rights in the decision-making process.

Geoff Hinder – Secretary and Trustee – National Badminton Museum.

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