Aspiring badminton players from Suffolk and the surrounding area could be involved in the Suffolk Saxons squad in the next three years.
The press launch for the Saxons, who will be competing in the AJ Bell National Badminton League (NBL) next season, took place on Tuesday morning and saw the team’s head coach and the first two signings announced.
Former Olympian and World Championship silver medallist, Anthony Clark, was unveiled as the head coach for the Saxons, while Team Derby’s Andy Ellis and Sarah Walker, of the Birmingham Lions, are the first two players to have joined the new team.
More signings are due to be announced over the summer ahead of their opening game of the 2016-17 NBL season on October 17, but looking further ahead Richard Hunt, chair of the team’s management group, wants homegrown players in the squad by as early as 2019.
“Bringing the Saxons together is all about creating a stronger badminton county,” Hunt said at the press launch.
“We want homegrown players in the Saxons squad within the next three to five years. We think that’s a real strong possibility because of the development programme that we want to put in place.
“We want more young people inspired to play badminton. I think once you see some of the elite athletes in the country and Europe coming to Ipswich and Suffolk over the next few months, it will be a great inspiration for young people to take part.”
The Saxons, who will be managed by Abbeycroft Leisure, will play their first home game at Ipswich’s Corn Exchange on November 7.
However, chief executive of Abbeycroft Leisure, Warren Smyth, is hopeful of using other venues across the county to host Saxons home games.
“If we get the opportunity to move it across the county we will because it is a county wide initiative,” Smyth said.
“It is subject to the availability of the venues though as the fixtures have to be played on a set date.”
New coach Clark is optimistic about his side’s chances of success in their debut season in the NBL. The 38-year-old said: “We’re putting together what we think is a very competitive team.
“This opportunity is a wonderful one and has given me that drive that I wanted in badminton, to run the team and try and get fit and play in the league as well.”