Olympic bronze medallist Marcus Ellis fears a lack of clarity about the future funding of badminton beyond Tokyo 2020 will deter aspiring players from taking up the sport.
Badminton has been on a funding rollercoaster over the past few years with Huddersfield-born Ellis right at the centre of it.
In the wake of London 2012 UK Sport gave badminton £5.5m for the next four-year cycle and a target of one medal for the Rio Games, an incentive Ellis and his men’s doubles partner Chris Langridge met with their thrilling run to clinching bronze.
Despite that success funding was cut entirely months later, forcing Badminton England to let a number of their talented prospects leave the programme.
There was a reprieve in February, 2018 when UK Sport invested £630,000 for the remaining period of the Tokyo Olympic cycle, but it was a grant that came with certain conditions.
Through it all Ellis has had to supplement his income by playing in professional franchise leagues in India, while maintaining his strong form in national colours by medalling in both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships last year.
Now, as next month’s Yonex All England Championships loom and the qualifying period for the next Olympics gets set to commence, Ellis is calling for unity between Badminton England and UK Sport over the direction of the sport.
“Badminton England are doing an incredible job with the limited resources they have,” said Ellis, 29. “The only thing is we don’t know the longevity of that support, through no fault of their own other than trying their best to keep the programme as sustainable as it could be.
“It’s expensive to run a programme and, if they do find themselves in financial difficulty, they will have to reduce the amount they give us, which would impact on us again.
“From my point of view I’d like some consistency. We don’t need to be the best funded sport in the world, but just to the level that we know we’re never going to get lower than. I think that would be very much appreciated among the whole squad.
It would be a real shame for there not to be a programme, and for people to turn on the TV to watch the Olympics in Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles and there not be GB represntatives, that would be really sad.Marcus Ellis
“I can’t see it coming before Tokyo, but maybe it’s something that the sport should seek going forward; maybe not go looking for the millions of pounds of funding, but to go to UK Sport and say ‘with ‘X’ amount of money we can run a programme, it will be limited, but we can run one that allows us to have people representing GB’.”
Without such a compromise Ellis believes future prospects could be lost to badminton.
“It would be a real shame for there not to be a programme, and for people to turn on the TV to watch the Olympics in Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles and there not be GB represntatives. That would be really sad,” he said.
“I’ve reaped the benefit of the system for 10 years, and couldn’t have done it without that support. Looking at it now it is very sad that these talented 18-year-olds are being lost because they don’t see a future where they’ll be supported. That scenario could quickly spiral out of control. It’s a credit to Badminton England that they have kept it going.”