Badminton Life

New Zealand Tournament in Jeopardy

New Zealand is a rugby-mad nation that is trying to boost the popularity of badminton among its population.

One of the best ways to raise a profile of any sport is to stage an internationally recognised competition.

The New Zealand World Grand Prix tournament is supposed to fulfill this objective. However, lack of sponsorship is threatening to derail the event and strip New Zealand of its only World Grand Prix tourmament.

The event, held at the Auckland Badminton Centre, has been sponsored by the Kuala Lumpur Rackets Club for the past two years, attracting enthusiastic crowds.

But there is a shortfall for this year's $50,000 event, which is scheduled to be staged at the North Shore Events Centre.

The KL club remain sponsors of the tournament but are unable to come up with the entire amount, which means subsidiary sponsors are required. By the end of last week, organisers were still looking for more funds.

Badminton New Zealand general manager Mike Kernaghan said he was amazed that sponsorship was difficult to find in a country where badminton is fast rising as a major sport.

He was quoted as saying by TVNZ: "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."

The tournament has already been guaranteed live television coverage into China, which has a massive potential audience who love their badminton.

Added Kernaghan: "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."

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