Adrian Christy: ‘We’re looking forward to the Commonwealth’

When ADRIAN CHRISTY took over as Chief Executive of Badminton England in September 2006, he announced a ‘100-point programme’ that would propel England to the top within 10 years. While England is some way yet from the top, there has been plenty of activity around badminton, and the organisation is showing urgency in achieving its objectives with the London Olympics just over two years away. Dev S Sukumar caught up with Christy on the sidelines of the All England:

When you took over in 2006, you set a 100-point programme for Badminton England, keeping the London Olympics in mind. How many of these objectives have been achieved?
I think we’ve delivered significantly. We’ve gone through an exercise of reviewing the plan at the end of last year. One of the big targets was to improve participation – we’ve increased participation by 22 per cent across all categories — adults and juniors; we have more than four million people playing – it was nowhere near that before. At the outset we wanted to establish local performance environments. In two years we have put that into place; we have 1200 players in those environments, we have more coaches with them. We have three major events – two European and the World Championships. We have also increased volunteers, and we have more younger players coming to Milton Keynes (high performance centre). So we are making progress. Where we want to continue making progress is how we turn good players into great players, and great players into podium players. That’s what we are focussed on.

You pulled out of the World Championships in Hyderabad. How difficult a decision was it?
Ultimately, the decision was mine. I wasn’t in Hyderabad; the players and coaches and support staff were. They’d done their due diligence with authorities in India at that time. They weren’t able to get the reassurances they wanted. And that was one of the toughest decisions I had to take – probably the toughest decision – to bring them home.
But now we’re looking forward, to going to Delhi for the Commonwealth. We’ve already been to Delhi last year, we had a look at the practice areas, the village, the arena. Andy Wood (Olympic team manager) and Ian Moss (Performance Director) went back in October, and we’re due to go again soon, and to make sure everything is as we want it to be. Of course we are mindful of security, and challenging everybody around security, but it’s no different from sending players anywhere else. Not for one second are we thinking that we won’t be going to the Commonwealth Games. We’re looking forward to seeing what Delhi’s going to present. I’ll be there, from the beginning of October.

Erland Kops, the seven-time All England champion, said that for him, the All England meant Wembley Arena. Couldn’t you have organised the All England at Wembley instead of NIA, especially since this was the 100th year of the event?
There is a lot of tradition at Wembley and it was fantastic. But we’ve moved on a lot from there. We’ve had the event here (at NIA) for 15 years. We’ve got spectacular audiences here, ticket sales have been great. We will be going to Wembley for the World Championships next year. We’re looking at one event in London, in addition to the All England – not a Super Series but a world level event. With the World Championships and Olympics, badminton can have another event in London. The All England has an established home here now.

There has been plenty of speculation over the venue of the Olympics, after the organisers talked of cutting costs.
It hasn’t been decided. We expect the decision to be made soon. That’s a decision BWF (Badminton World Federation) has to make, with the LOCOG (London Olympic organisers). Badminton England doesn’t decide that. The travel time (from the village) to Wembley is an issue. We hope a sensible solution can be made. We’re sympathetic to what LOCOG’s challenges are – we’re in a different economic climate to what we were in when the Games were bid for. We appreciate the cost involved in making what is essentially a temporary venue. But at the same time, all I’m interested in is our team delivering medals. I want the best environment for our athletes to enable them to do that. I’m not fussed about where it is – it can be at Wembley or somewhere else – as long as our players can deliver.

In the past, there were Test matches between England and India. Is that something you want to revive? And would a world club league, like the IPL in cricket, interest you?
In the past we’ve looked at what events will benefit England. That’s where we have to be focussed on. There’s been talk of a league, but with a congested calendar of Super Series, and European championships, our focus has to be on peaking for these events. We’re increasingly selective, and that will continue. If the concept of a world league came up, and we felt we would benefit, we’d be interested.

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About badmintonmania

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the Indian in Thoreau's Walden who makes cane baskets and is surprised nobody wants them. A. was talking about discipline when she said: "But Dev, if you want to move ahead in life, you'll have to be like that," and she may as well have defined everything else for me. I've played the low percentage game for too long to believe there's anything in it but the romance; the odds keep getting jacked up higher and higher; and you may be a good Idealist but a worse Fool.
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