Friday, 14 Jun 2024

NEWS

The YONEX All England Open is not just about the world-class action on the court. The dedicated and tireless efforts of the staff and volunteers behind the scenes play a crucial role in making this event a success. From March 16-20, this year’s Championship will be held at Birmingham’s Utilita Arena, and it will welcome a diverse group of individuals in various roles to ensure a seamless experience for players, officials, broadcasters, and spectators.

Leading the selection and allocation of volunteers is Jon Hancock, Badminton England’s Competitions and Events Manager. With years of experience in managing volunteers at this event, Hancock is preparing to welcome a new cohort of passionate individuals.

“It’s quite intensive,” says Hancock. “This year, we expect around 120-130 volunteers, and in the past, the number has reached up to 250 when including everyone involved. We have a very committed workforce, and many familiar faces create a sense of family.”

Hancock, who grew up playing badminton at the county level, finds it rewarding to witness the behind-the-scenes work that goes into hosting the All England tournament. “It’s an incredible experience, and we look forward to seeing everyone come back and enjoy being together,” he adds. The volunteers, some of whom might not have a background in badminton, become part of the All England family and develop a deep appreciation for the event.

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Another key figure in the event’s smooth operations is Gaye Jackson, the leader within the Field of Play Entry team. Jackson has been an integral part of the Championship since it moved to Birmingham in 1994. Her team is responsible for coordinating with officials, players, and broadcasters to ensure players take to the court at the right time.

“It can be extremely challenging,” admits Jackson. “We need to make sure the players are in the final warm-up area on time, which can be tricky when matches go into unexpected lengths. But the players are professional, and our job is to facilitate their preparation.”

The YONEX All England Open feels like coming home to a family for Jackson. With her team’s player contact, they have built relationships with many individuals involved in the event. “Some of the players are exceedingly polite and remember you, which is always nice,” she adds.

Mel Wyatt, the team leader within the Venue Access (Stewarding) program, also has a close encounter with the players and their entourages. In his 12th year of participation, Wyatt plays a vital role in safeguarding the backstage and players’ areas around the arena.

Wyatt’s initial intention was to be a steward to have an opportunity to see the event as a spectator. Little did he know that it would lead to making lifelong friends. “When July comes around each year, and we start thinking about the organization, my anticipation builds,” says Wyatt. “I reach out to people I haven’t spoken to for a year, and that’s when I know it’s not far away. I really look forward to the event, both to see everybody and to watch the badminton.”

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Over the years, Wyatt has had some memorable interactions with global stars. From Lee Chong Wei playfully calling him and his deputy his bodyguards to celebrating Viktor Axelsen’s victory with his father, Henrik, backstage, these moments highlight the unique experiences that come with being a part of the All England Championship.

The YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships return to Utilita Arena Birmingham from March 16th-20th, 2022. Don’t miss your chance to witness the best players from around the world in action. Get your tickets today and be part of this extraordinary event.