sport

Badminton league to be launched

Badminton England has unveiled plans for a bold and exciting national club league involving the country's best players.

The National Badminton League will launch this October featuring six new franchise teams and a short, dynamic match format.

Fixtures will be played monthly and televised by Sky Sports with the governing body hoping the competition will engage existing fans and attract new audiences.

Team squads will be assembled following an auction in June, when the new franchises will be able to bid for Great Britain's best players as well as emerging talent.

The possibility will also exist for teams to bring in European or international players.

The six franchises awarded for the first season, which will run until April 2015 and be followed by a top-four tournament in June, are Birmingham Lions, Team Derby, Loughborough Sport, University of Nottingham Badminton, Surrey Smashers and Milton Keynes.

Teams will consist of eight players and matches will feature men's and women's singles, and mixed, men's and women's doubles rubbers.

Nathan Robertson, Olympic silver medalist in 2004 and a former world champion, has been heavily involved in the planning of the competition and is an ambassador for the NBL.

He believes the match format, which will feature a new scoring system designed to bring games to critical points quicker, will prove a hit with viewers.

He said: "This is the first time we've had a professional league in the UK and I wish we could have got one up and running a long time ago.

"The players are right behind and I feel it is a game-changer for our sport.

"The modifications to the rules mean games will be faster than ever and there will be no interruption to games, meaning non-stop action.

"I believe it can be a success and it should also boost the profile of the players."

Badminton enjoys high participation levels throughout Britain but success at elite level has been meagre in recent years.

With relatively thin media coverage - particularly outside of Olympic years - reflecting that lack of success, the NBL is an attempt by Badminton England to boost popularity.

BE chief executive Adrian Christy said: "I am incredibly excited to announce the launch of the first-ever professional badminton league in the UK.

"This amazing new project will present our sport in such an exciting way - the fastest racket sport just got even faster.

"It will not only showcase our current players but provide a real inspiration for younger players to want to be part of in the future.

"Traditional badminton, with long games and long days, can be difficult for broadcasters but this new format overcomes that and it should be quite a spectacle."

The announcement comes a week after the Badminton World Federation revealed their season-ending World Superseries Finals would be held in Dubai for the next four years.