Let us play: Badminton England puts faith in religious institutions

  • Governing body targets 200 new spaces for grassroots matches
  • ‘We cannot rely on leisure centres,’ says chief executive

The future of badminton lies in church halls, shul halls and Islamic centres, as the governing body looks to religious institutions to provide a solution to the crisis in grassroots sports provision in England.

A new strategy launched by Badminton England aims to make the sport the “most inclusive and accessible” in the country by opening up 200 new spaces in which to play. Alongside working with schools, faith spaces are seen as important facilities in attempting to grow the estimated 1 million people who play badminton in England.

“We believe we can get another 200 community settings opened up reasonably quickly because we can use schools, community centres, faith centres, church halls, all sorts of spaces,” said Sue Storey, the chief executive of Badminton England. “That’s a key part of what we want to achieve, based on the backdrop of massive pressure on indoor facilities and the government not putting enough money into the problem.

“The reality is that there is hundreds of millions of pounds needing to be spent on leisure centres across the country and the money the government is putting in is a drop in the ocean of what’s needed. As a sport we’re recognising that we cannot rely on the public sector leisure centres for the future, we have to look at other ways of opening up courts.”

The new strategy is based in part on the work of Louise Hewitt, who oversees projects for Badminton England in the north-west. Her work with communities in Manchester, Bolton and Bradford has shown that local, community spaces often provide a conducive setting for people who may be inactive or uncomfortable taking part in sport otherwise.

“It’s about doorstep sport for women who might not be able to access the kind of spaces that would be the normal place to play,” she said, describing the birth of one project in Bolton.

“I met a lady who runs a women’s centre and 300 people access it, it’s opposite a mosque, it’s above a garage and they do walking football. For cultural reasons it’s the only building they’re allowed to access, they can only come for a short window of time and because of their cultural attire they don’t feel comfortable going to a traditional leisure centre. She was like: ‘Is there anything we can do?’ and I said: ‘Of course we can.’”

Hewitt believes an approach taking badminton into communities is viable because of the sport’s qualities. Play is possible at distances of two metres, and equipment cheaper than comparable sports. It can also be played among generations. “We can get grandparents playing with grandchildren and it’s not adapted,” she said. “I think that’s where we’re different. It’s so multigenerational [and] in certain cultures that goes a long way.”


Paul MacInnes

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
GB Badminton ‘staggered’ after UK Sport rejects seven Tokyo funding appeals
Badminton, archery, fencing, goal ball, table tennis, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby have had their claims for money for the next Olympic cycle rejected

Sean Ingle

20, Feb, 2017 @1:27 PM

Article image
Sport England boosts weightlifting, badminton, archery and wheelchair rugby
Sport England is planning to soften the blow for four sports that had their elite funding axed last week by providing additional investment to help them bring young talent through

Sean Ingle

16, Dec, 2016 @2:38 PM

Article image
Sport England commits £250m for boosting activity in deprived areas
Sport England will invest £250m over the next five years to help people in around 100 of the most socially deprived areas get more exercise

Sean Ingle

06, Nov, 2023 @10:30 PM

Article image
Carlos Alcaraz has ‘no doubts’ he will eventually play in Saudi Arabia
After it was confirmed the ATP had talked to Saudi Arabian investors, Carlos Alcaraz said: ‘They have the power to have a lot of tournaments’

Sean Ingle at Queen's Club

25, Jun, 2023 @5:24 PM

Article image
Sport England tells its sports: funding will depend on fighting climate crisis
Sport England, which invests more than £300m of public money every year, intends to ask sports to do far more to fight the climate crisis as a condition of receiving funding, the Guardian can reveal.

Exclusive by Sean Ingle

11, Oct, 2023 @5:20 PM

Article image
‘Wrong side of history’: Ukraine athletes accuse IOC of ‘kowtowing’ to Russia
Ukraine athletes have sent a letter to the IOC, saying it ‘must choose a side in this war’, after moves to allow competitors from Russia and Belarus to take part in Paris 2024

Sean Ingle

09, Feb, 2023 @12:22 PM

Article image
WTF, FML and a brief history of sporting initialisms and acronyms
The World Taekwondo Federation has finally rebranded but it is far from the only sporting entity to cause controversy with an initialism or abbreviation

Niall McVeigh

26, Jun, 2017 @2:20 PM

England surrender badminton crown

Commonwealth Games: Favourites Malaysia thumped defending champions England in the team badminton final.

Staff and agencies

20, Mar, 2006 @1:12 PM

Article image
The Agenda: Badminton puts funding case and England seek netball upset
Women’s FA Cup reaches third round with Doncaster hosting Watford, Johanna Konta plays Fed Cup and England cross Severn to play Wales in Six Nations

Rob Bleaney

04, Feb, 2017 @10:00 AM

Article image
Too many sports were deferential after the Queen’s death. They must learn from this | Sean Ingle
In trying to get it right after the death of Queen Elizabeth II football, cycling and boxing were among those to get it wrong

Sean Ingle

18, Sep, 2022 @6:30 PM