BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: World badminton chief Poul-Erik Hoyer has warned that European players need to find urgent solutions after their disastrous performance at the All-England Open if they want to avoid a permanent power shift to Asia.
Hoyer won two All-England men’s singles titles and an Olympic gold medal for Denmark during the 1990’s, but last week’s tournament saw Europe fail to achieve a semi-finalist spot in any of the five events for the first time in the tournament’s 115-year history.
With vast sums invested by some Asian countries, a fear that the sport could become further dominated by one region, a potential threat to its Olympic standing, has been increasing.
And Hoyer, the President of the Badminton World Federation (BWF), hinted at possible European solutions needed whilst celebrating the phenomenal Asian success.
“Setting up combined facilities so European players can share and create higher quality – that could be something which countries should think about,” said Hoyer, who also became an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member last month.
“Maybe there is a possibility of delivering at a higher level if they (countries) cooperate more.
“I do believe European players can benefit from transnational cooperation.”
Hoyer is mindful that the BWF’s ability to influence this process is limited by the relative autonomy allowed to continental federations within the governing body.
“There is huge competition and about 80 percent of the market is in Asia, and there is a huge interest in badminton in Asia, so presumably it’s quite natural that there’s a polarisation towards Asia,” Hoyer said.
“It’s been fantastic and pleasing that this part of the world, both financially and desire-wise, has been so strong over the last couple of years.
They have moved faster society-wise than European countries.
“What’s happening in the world economy is part of it. Countries in Asia have the finest programmes where they are supporting players and encouraging development.”
A notable example is Thailand, which is now showing it is possible to compete against China, the sport’s outstandingly successful nation.
Ratchanok Intanon, Thailand’s 19-year-old women singles sensation, recently became the youngest ever world champion.
“We have a good programme in England and a good programme in Denmark, and a good programme in Germany,” said Hoyer.
“However the competition is now greater if they want to compete at this high level.”
Competition between England and Denmark especially, and to some extent between other European countries, has existed for 60 years, which can militate against cooperation in training, facilities and ideas.
However a time where these attitudes may need to modify appears to be accelerating closer.
“We all want to see the game grow here, and we have had some cooperation between various countries,” said Brian Agerbak, the General Secretary of Badminton Europe.
“But the question is whether it is enough. We are more than willing to do anything we can to support more of it.”