NEW DELHI: There was a time in the early 2000s that England was famous for its doubles players, but they were not as good in singles. Years may have passed but the present situation in the European nation has not changed for the better, it’s probably worse off. Just seven months ago, the doubles duo of Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge had made Great Britain proud with a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics — their first in the sport since 2004.
But what followed was a big setback. A major chunk of the financial backing the sport was getting from the government was lowered. The decision that was taken by the British Olympic Association in December has left players in the lurch. In an era where other European nations are improving by leaps and bounds, England is struggling to provide its players with the best facilities and training, with the juniors suffering the most.
“It’s sad that despite producing an Olympic medal in the last Olympics, our funding has been reduced further. It’s difficult to provide the desired training to our players. Our juniors are hit the most due to this, as it is in formative years that you need the financial support the most,” England head coach Peter Jeffrey told Express on the sidelines of the India Open Superseries.
Jeffrey feels there is a need to increase the pool of coaches for seniors and juniors but that cannot be done without government support. In this situation, the appointment of foreign coaches is completely out of question. Getting private sponsors for players is an issue too, as sponsors usually invest money in popular sports like cricket, rugby and football.
“We want to expand our pool of coaches, but that is not really possible now seeing the reduction of funds. We can’t really think of getting a foreign coach. Finding sponsors is a big problem. They target popular sports and badminton is certainly on their list. We have some players who are talented but they won’t improve until they participate in more international tournaments. That will happen only when they have more sponsors,” Jeffrey added.
With the future uncertain, Jeffrey is setting short-term goals and wants the team to win a medal at the All-England Open, a feat last achieved by the duo of Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms, who won bronze in mixed doubles in 2005.