Monday 6th October will see Gail return to the Badminton court for the first set of matches in a new nationwide league. The former World, Commonwealth and European Badminton Champion is set to pick up her racquet once again and play for Team Derby, one of six franchises taking part in an exciting new initiative created by BADMINTON England. This will be the inaugural season of the country’s very first national league, the aptly named National Badminton League (NBL).
Gail, who we all remember taking silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics with her partner Nathan Robertson has been named as one of an eleven-strong Team Derby squad and is looking forward to testing her mettle once more, this time against Birmingham Lions. She will be joined in the new look squad by Great Britain No.1, Rajiv Ouseph, and Andy Ellis and Kate Robertshaw, who both competed at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The German 2014 European bronze medallist, Karin Schnaase, is an exciting addition to the team, as is Scotland’s Martin Campbell, another high profile performer from the Glasgow Games.
BADMINTON England has noted the success of cricket’s Twenty20 format in recent years and come up with a radical, game-changing plan of its own, designed to encourage attacking play and faster action. In the new scheme, matches will be played on a best of 5 basis and an exciting tie-break system has been introduced. The scoring system has been overhauled so as to be much more abbreviated and each match night will feature 5 matches – men’s and women’s singles and men’s, women’s and mixed doubles.
Sky Sports have picked up on the potential of this new format and will be screening NBL games live and streaming them around the globe, particularly to South East Asia where the sport enjoys a very high profile. Each of the 6 teams will play each other over the course of 6 match nights between 6th October and 27th April next year and the new league is completed by Loughborough Sport, the Surrey Smashers, University of Nottingham Badminton and Milton Keynes Badminton.
Gail is thrilled by the prospect of getting back on court, telling us “I can’t wait to get back out there! I’ve missed out on a lot of Badminton due to my kids but I’m ready to show that I’ve still got it. The standard should be really high and the new format and coverage will breathe new life into the game in this country. It’s a great idea and I’m flattered to have been asked to get involved. Like I say, I’m really excited!”