plight of New Zealand's major international badminton tournament, the US$50,000 World Grand Prix event to be held November 11-16 is in the balance after a shortfall of sponsorship has left the tournament floundering and on the edge of being cancelled.
The KLRC tournament to be held at the North Shore Events Centre has been sponsored by the Kuala Lumpur Rackets Club for the past couple of years and has been held at the Auckland Badminton Centre where crowds have been at a sellout level and enthusiasm has been high.
KLRC will still be one of the main sponsors but there is still a shortfall which has not been made up.
Badminton New Zealand believed that despite a large player base in the country sponsorship for sports which were believed to be 'minor', wasn't forthcoming as a result of misunderstanding by the wider community.
"Sports such as badminton are huge in New Zealand and around the world. Secondary school badminton in the greater Auckland area has a problem of not having enough courts. It's that popular. Badminton is the fastest growing sport in secondary schools and our playing numbers are up through Waikatere, North Harbour, Auckland and Waikato particular and it's not just Asian immigrants as is the perception," says Badminton New Zealand General Manager, Mike Kernaghan.
Badminton New Zealand has until approximately 5pm Tuesday 30th September to make a firm decision on whether the tournament should be cancelled or if a savior can come forward. The North Shore City Council has been at the forefront of trying to keep the tournament going, but other backers are not forthcoming.
What has been hurting the governing body the most is that they have confirmed live television coverage to China, which would be a first for the sport.
"Having live television into China is something very rarely achieved in New Zealand, in fact who knows when the last time a sporting event held in this country managed it. Badminton is probably the number one sport in China and it would be a great opportunity for New Zealand to profile itself or a New Zealand based company to do so. The event is also scheduled to be broadcast live in a number of other Asian nations including Malaysia and Indonesia.
"It's a shame, but unless we get a late miracle it looks likely that an event which has been held and been successful the past four years could go by the wayside. The Badminton World Federation has granted us a licence, if the tournament was cancelled this year, I don't know if it would be so easy to get it back," says Kernaghan.
Over the past few years the tournament has provided top-class badminton for New Zealand players, officials and spectators and has had television coverage in the country. Highly ranked players from around the world have competed in the event such as Olympic and Commonwealth Games medalists and top-five ranked competitors as well.