Yonex All England: The Four Just Men

THERE is much to celebrate at this year’s Yonex All England Open Badminton Championships, not least the magnificent 30 years of continuous title sponsorship by the world’s No. 1 badminton brand.

It is thanks to the contribution of Yonex that the All England enjoys and maintains its Premier status on the OSIM BWF World Superseries circuit.

The celebrity and prestige is, in no small part, due to the international stars who compete year after year in these great Championships. But they wouldn’t be what they are today without the loyal support of the many staff behind the scenes who work so hard to make the All England the success it is.

For that reason I would like to pay tribute to two stalwarts of the All England workforce and I am only sorry that they are not involved with the Championships in this 30th Yonex year.

Cumbria’s Jack Stalker was enlisted by former events director Tom Marrs to work on his first All England back in 1979. In those days the All England was at Wembley Arena and it was fitting that Jack was able to return there in both 2011 and 2012 to work on the Yonex BWF World Championships and then the Olympic Games last summer.

Just as Jack knew the backstage area of Wembley inside out, so to he knew where everything was in this National Indoor Arena. In his role first as BADMINTON England’s arena manager and then as liaison officer with the NIA staff, he made sure all technical issues, big or small, were resolved quickly and without fuss – although a loud voice
and a big smile helped.

Lancashire’s John Alexander – the good doctor (of Biology) – has been in charge of line judge recruitment and organisation since 1982. Before the advent of electronic signs, he was also in charge of making the player nameboards – and he had great fun doing that, especially with some of the very long Thai names. I have one or
two of them in my garage so I know all about the work that went into them.

With the technological advances, John then switched his attention to making the accreditation badges for all the players, officials, staff and volunteers. Now that is a job to try people’s patience – and John won’t mind me saying that it sometimes did!

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to two great friends. Many of you badminton fans may not have known John Gowers by sight but you would recognise “The voice of the All England” as he announced players on to court. John, who passed away last year, was tournament secretary from 1984 and it was his job to collate all the entries.

He added the announcing role to his list of responsibilities and loved it so much that when he took a comfort break he even took the microphone with him so no-one else could steal his thunder, although his calm, clear, pleasant
voice never thundered.

Lastly I would like to salute another great friend, the legendary Eddy Choong, who died in late January aged 82. I was lucky enough to play Eddy on Herne Bay Pier when he and his brother David first came to London as students in the 1950s. But there wasn’t much they needed to learn about badminton. Eddy may have stood only 5ft 4in but he became an All England giant (see tribute on Page 33) and he transformed the game and helped turn it into the speedy, athletic spectacle it is today. He was the Lee Chong Wei of his day.

Eddy will be sadly missed. All I can say is thanks for the memories, Eddy. To Eddy, Jack and the two Johns … gentlemen, I salute you all.

Geoff Rofe
President, BADMINTON England

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