Networking Breakfast in Birmingham
Date: 3/10/2014 6:29 PM
Published by : Manuel Røsler

On Sunday the 9th of March Badminton Europe’s Women in Badminton (WIB) working group hosted a networking breakfast as a belated celebration of International Women’s Day.  The breakfast was well attended by many different stakeholders of Badminton including the President of BWF Poul-Erik Høyer, BWF and Badminton Europe council members, representatives of Badminton England, FISU, Peace and Sport as well as four of our own working group members, Emma Mason, Cheryl Evans, Kristiina Danskanen and Corina Dan. The breakfast was a relaxed and informal morning designed to recognize the achievements of the women in sport movement as well as to consider areas where improvements can still be made.

All the attendees were given courtesy tickets to attend the finals of the Yonex All England Badminton Championships kindly provided by Badminton England. I would like to personally thank Badminton England for their support of this event and for their wider enthusiasm for the promotion of women in badminton.

The WIB were delighted to welcome as guest speaker to the breakfast Amanda Bennett the current English Women’s Rugby u-20 coach, director of Fair Play and former Head of Governance for UK Sport. Amanda gave a very engaging account of her experiences in Welsh Rugby and of the changing attitudes toward women in sport throughout her sporting and professional career. A relaxed but enthusiastic speaker to whom those in attendance felt able to relate to Amanda outlined that much has changed for women since she began in sport. When she began as a small girl at school she was told that women weren’t allowed to play rugby. When she represented Wales internationally at rugby they were only given team tracksuits for the first time when a clothing manufacturer made the mistake of sewing the pockets round the wrong way and so could not sell them! Amanda. That is thankfully a stark contrast to the situation the women’s Welsh rugby team and most of our female players would now experience.

Touching on the media and their presentation of female athletes Amanda told that when she first began working on equality policies some questioned why equality was relevant in elite sport: after all isn’t elite sport about being different and striving to be better than every one else? Amanda explained that she has always understood the elite sport mentality (she herself has 26 caps for Welsh rugby) but that she firmly believed equality has an important place. Women’s sport generally faces a problem in garnering equal television interest and coverage and Amanda was clear that she believes one of the problems is the way women’s sport is valued: drawing a neat comparison to boxing she allowed the attendees to dwell on the fact that nobody in their right mind would say a boxing match between heavyweight Lennox Lewis and the lightweight Amir Khan would be a fair fight but yet nobody questions the sporting prowess or the quality of Amir Khan’s boxing abilities. Why then do we continue to hear the argument that because men are generally stronger and faster that women’s sport is less interesting?

It would be a brave man who told Amir Khan that because he is a lightweight his boxing is less appealing than Lennox Lewis’s…! Equality does have an important place in elite sport: those of us working in sport must ensure we place equal value on male and female athletes. If we do so then our fans, the media and other sports will follow our lead. Amanda touched on the advantages that badminton has over other sports: our men and women compete together, in equal events and with equal prize money. Very few sports can say that and it is a fact of which we should be proud and which we should promote. Our female badminton players are of course different to our male players: the style of game and their skill sets are quite distinct but that does not make them poorer players or less interesting and we must continue to support them equally and strive to find ways to best promote their attributes to our fans and the wider media.

I would like to close by thanking all those who attended yesterday for helping to make the breakfast a success. Your continued support of WIB events will help us achieve our aim of strengthening the position of women in badminton within Europe.  I hope that you enjoy the photographs as a reminder of the morning and that we see you again for a belated International Women’s Day celebration next year!

Article by Emma Mason. Photo by Cheryl Evans.

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