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Badminton England enlists church halls to boost players of the game

06 October 2023


CHURCH halls in England are being enlisted by badminton’s ruling body in an effort to make the sport the most “inclusive and accessible in the country”.

Faced with a lack of government investment in public facilities, and increased pressure on existing civic leisure centres, Badminton England wants to recruit 200 new spaces to boost the numbers of the estimated one million people already enjoying the game.

‘Let us play’

“We have to look at other ways of opening up badminton courts,” the chief executive of Badminton England, Sue Storey, said this week. “We believe we can get another 200 community settings opened up reasonably quickly. As we look to grow the one million people who play badminton in England, we know we have to look outside the public-sector leisure centres, and faith spaces are ideal for this. That’s a key part of what we want to achieve, and I am excited by the opportunities to grow our wonderful sport.”

She continued: “We’re recognising that we cannot rely on the public-sector leisure centres for the future. The reality is that there is hundreds of millions of pounds needing to be spent on leisure centres across the country, and the money the Government is putting in is a drop in the ocean of what’s needed.”

Badminton England believes that community spaces offer an incentive to people who might be inactive or uncomfortable taking part in sport, especially among women in minority communities. The sport’s characteristics mean that play is possible at short distances; equipment is cheaper than that of comparable sports; and it can also be played by all generations.

The church hall at All Hallows’, Twickenham, west London, hosts four badminton clubs each week, together with other community groups, ranging from the Scouts to yoga classes. The Vicar, the Revd David Bell, describes them as a lifeline for the church.

“We have a small and ageing congregation, but the hall is a community resource that helps keep the church going,” he said. A recent audit of the hall’s use showed that about 1200 people visit each week.

“Not all of the people who come here come to church,” he said. “Some are of different faiths, but it can introduce us to new people. It makes us part of the community, and shows we are here for everyone, which all helps to improve that feeling of well-being — and it also provides a steady income.”

Judy Weleminsky, who organises the Richmond U3A group at All Hallows’, said: “We have been going for ages. There are no big leisure centres near by, and we like it here because it is very cosy and informal. There is just one court, and we can have the place to ourselves.”

The Church of England’s senior church-buildings officer, David Knight, said: “Church halls are no strangers to badminton and other indoor sports and activities, which provide vital opportunities for people to improve their physical well-being. In many communities, particularly in rural areas, churches and church halls remain where other amenities, such as pubs and shops, have closed down, and public transport routes have dwindled.

“Alongside the regular pattern of worship, church halls play a vital role as community centres, hosting vital services for people who could otherwise be isolated.”

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