National League breaks new ground for English badminton

A new era of badminton in England began in 2014 as Badminton England announced the National Badminton League, a televised professional circuit to begin in October featuring the best of […]

A new era of badminton in England began in 2014 as Badminton England announced the Badminton League, a televised professional circuit to begin in October featuring the best of the current British players.

By Fontaine Chapman, Badzine Special Contributor and current top ranked English women’s singles player. Photos: Badminton England and Badmintonphoto

In April 2014, Badminton England announced the development of their new game-changing National Badminton League (NBL) set to begin in October 2014. Mixed doubles Olympic silver medallist Nathan Robertson (pictured above) was announced right away as the NBL’s ambassador and kicked off the promotional campaign with nationwide television and radio appearances. The NBL is hoping to attract new and regular sports fans to the game, as well as build upon the growing profile of badminton, not only in England, but worldwide.

Robertson expressed his excitement for the NBL in an interview with Badminton England: “The new rules will enable games to get to critical points quicker making it so much more exciting for the fans and the players. There will be no interruption to games, meaning non-stop action. It’s fantastic news for teams, players and fans. I just wish the NBL could have been around when I was playing.”

It is not yet confirmed what the new rules are or how the format of the matches will run, but they will be played to an abbreviated scoring system including a tiebreak set. The confirmation of this new attacking format will hopefully be announced in a few weeks time, after a number of tester days at the National Badminton Centre where the best players in England have tried out new scoring systems to see how it may work.

The NBL is comprised of six inaugural franchise teams, and includes the top GB and England players, new and emerging talent as well as a number of international players. Badminton England’s Chief Executive Adrian Christy believes the NBL will revolutionise the way badminton is viewed: “Badminton is booming in this country right now and the NBL gives fans a chance to get behind a team and support their favourite players.”

On June 1st, the UK had its first ever NBL player auction, held at the Stadium:MK in Milton Keynes where the English National Badminton Centre is based. The six teams had a budget to stick to; they must have at least £9,000 but could spend up to £18,000, and over £100,000 was spent on GB’s greatest talents as bidding wars began from the onset. The NBL Twitter account followed the action as world number five and ex-World Championship silver medallist Chris Adcock (pictured above) caused a “hotly contested bidding war”, as well as a “fierce battle” for doubles player Alyssa Lim (pictured below).

The NBL franchise teams must be comprised of five female and five male players, as well as reserve places. The franchises will now have an opportunity to fill the rest of their team spaces with other English players, young English talent (under 21s), as well as the option to include international players from Europe or the rest of the world. Until now, many of the English players have only had the option of playing for international clubs across Europe.  Most have competed in countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, but they now have an opportunity on home soil.

The NBL will be shown monthly on Sky Sports, with each team having an opportunity to compete on national television. Sky Sports Commercial Director Richard Verow explained that badminton fans that are not able to access Sky Sports will also be able to view the NBL action via a live Internet feed.

Alongside Olympic medallist Nathan Robertson, the NBL will also see former world men’s doubles and mixed doubles medallist, Anthony Clark employed as commentator. The NBL is not short of support from GB players past and present who have expressed their excitement for the matches to get underway in October. With the players right behind the NBL and a highly regarded and experienced team developing the league, it will definitely be one to watch in the coming months.

The teams:

  • Birmingham Lions – Heather Olver, Alyssa Lim, Sarah Walker
  • Team Derby – Andy Ellis, Rajiv Ouseph, Kate Robertshaw, Chris Coles
  • Loughborough Sport – Harley Towler, Peter Briggs, Lauren Smith, Marcus Ellis
  • University of Nottingham Badminton – Kieran Merrilees, Chris Adcock, Panuga Riou
  • Surrey Smashers – Gabby Adcock, Chris Langridge, Matthew Nottingham, Tom Wolfeden, Emily Westwood
  • Milton Keynes Badminton – Paul Van Rietvelde, Sophie Brown, Peter Mills

The full team list will be announced once all franchises have confirmed all of their players.

The NBL fixtures begin on October 6th with a televised tie between Milton Keynes Badminton and the Surrey Smashers and will culminate in a one-day playoff final featuring the top four teams in June, 2015.

Click here for a complete list of NBL fixtures

You can watch, on YouTube, highlights of the auction which includes reactions from each team, and the players they bought


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