Behind the scenes at YONEX All England

The YONEX All England Open may be known for its world-class action on the field, but the dedicated and tireless efforts of those holding this event cannot be ignored.

This year’s championship, to be held from March 16 to 20 at the Utility Arena in Birmingham, will once again host a range of staff and volunteers in a wide range of roles to help the competition run smoothly for players, officials, broadcasters and – for the first time since 2020 – spectators.

Assists in the selection and distribution of volunteers Jon Hancock, head of competitions and events in badminton England, who is currently preparing to welcome the latest group of new people and individuals returning to working hours.

“It’s pretty intense,” he said. “Excluding officials, this year we are looking at about 120-130 volunteers, and in the past, with everyone involved, there were about 250.

“We have a very dedicated workforce and a range of regular people who create a family feel.

“It’s a wonderful group of people. They come from all over the country and give their time to one of the best international events on the calendar. ”

Hancock grew up playing county-level badminton and is preparing for his sixth YONEX All England in Badminton England staff, of which the past three have seen him manage volunteers.

“There’s nothing like seeing the other side of the sport being delivered, certainly behind the scenes seeing the amount of work being invested in maintaining All England,” he added.

“It’s an amazing experience and we look forward to all of you coming back and enjoying it together.

“We get volunteers who are not necessarily badminton players, but become part of the family and love the event. He is incredibly special.

“On the day of the finals when you get a huge crowd, the biggest names, that last shuttle crashes and you can take stock of what you’ve managed to achieve. There is a huge sense of pride. ”

Someone with whom Hancock stays in regular contact through YONEX All England week is Gaye Jackson, the leader within the Field of Play Entry team.

Jackson has always been present since the Championship moved to Birmingham in 1994 and, along with her team, is responsible for liaising with officials, players and broadcasters to ensure that competing players go out on the field at the right time.

“It can be extremely challenging,” she said. “Players initially warm up down in the arena, which is located down six steps!

“We have to make sure that they are in the final warm-up zone at the right time, and it can be challenging when you wait for a match that looks like it will end in two games, but then it goes in three, or vice versa.

“But the players are very professional and know what they want to do – our job is to make it easier for them to prepare for the field.

“It’s always like I’m going home to my family. I know most of the people who work there, as well as my team, and it seems like a lot of people want to work on our team because there is contact with the player.

“They know they can’t ask for photos or autographs, but they can talk to all the players. Some players are extremely polite and remember you, which is always nice. ”

Mel Wyatt also sees players and their entourage up close in his role as team leader within the Stewarding program.

Wyatt is looking forward to his 12thth Championship as part of the workforce and will again play a vital role in protecting the backstage and player areas around the arena.

“I always went to All England as a spectator, and around 2009 I first applied for a manager,” he said.

‘I thought’ I’ll just help and I’ll also see some of the events. ‘ But it’s more than that – you make lifelong friends.

“When July comes every year and we start thinking about the organization, my anticipation starts to grow.

“I get in touch with people I haven’t talked to in a year and when you do you know it’s not far.

“I’m always really looking forward to the event, just to see everything again, like real badminton.”

Wyatt has also had several particularly memorable interactions with some of the world’s stars through his role in the Championship.

“I remember Lee Chong Wei telling his manager that my deputy and I were his bodyguards,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then.

“And the victory of Viktor Axelsen (2020) was a real highlight.

“His father Henrik had a bottle of champagne in the arena, and behind the stage he was giving me a plastic glass with a sparkling drink to celebrate with Viktor! That really stands out. ”

The YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships returns to the Utility Arena Birmingham with the best players from around the world from 16 to 20 March 2022.

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