Funding review gives Adcocks a boost with Tokyo 2020 in their sights

When badminton lost its appeal against the UK Sport funding cuts for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Chris and Gabby Adcock’s dream of winning an Olympic medal looked to be over.  

Funding for the governing body was cut from £5.7m for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to nothing at all for Tokyo.

Fast forward almost two years, however, and the dynamic duo have retained their Commonwealth Games title on the Gold Coast, as well as won back-to-back European Championship gold medals.

To top off their triumphs on the court, following a review by UK Sport, the funding decision was reversed earlier this year and will assist up to eight athletes in their bid for Tokyo success.

Those athletes include Chris and Gabby, a pair who are unique in that as well as being mixed doubles partners on the court, they are also married.

What does the funding decision mean for the two of them and how has it impacted Badminton England and the squad as a whole?

Chris said: “It’s been well publicised that we’ve had a pretty tough time as a squad with all the funding issues, but I think it’s made everyone pull together more.

“I don’t know if people wanted to prove others wrong, but we’ve got a really good atmosphere in the squad and we’ve always maintained the belief that we have world-class players capable of winning medals.

“Funding or no funding, we’re still able to do our dream job and you’ve got to go out there and enjoy it.”

The squad emphasised their quality as Team England claimed six badminton medals at the Commonwealth Games in April – their best haul for 16 years.

Although the elite athletes have enjoyed success this year and badminton continues to be taught in schools and played daily in sports halls across the country, the sport rarely generates media coverage outside of its major events.

Is this something that Chris feels the media should be blamed for or is it simply a case that demand for watching badminton is not on a par with other mainstream sports?

“Badminton is actually quite hard to televise. I think sometimes when you see it on television, it doesn’t show how quickly the shuttle is going and how quickly athletes must react.

“A lot of people that watch it during the Commonwealth Games or the Olympic Games say they’d love to watch more, but with Great Britain being such a sporting nation, it’s very tough to compete in the media.

“We’ve had really good support from some of the media in trying to overturn the UK Sport decision, particularly from the BBC who tried to write as much about it as possible.

“Badminton is so much more popular in other countries, particularly in Asia, but I think there is still potential for it to grow in the UK.”

Chris and Gabby understand the importance of the sport maintaining an active media presence, and last year established a blog on their website.

The blog was set up to enhance their connection with fans across the world, allowing their audience to get to know the pair on another level and learn more about the intricacies of life as a professional sportsperson.

“We decided that although social media was good for day-to-day interaction, the blog could allow fans to get a real insight into our lives.

“We’ve had some really positive feedback about the blog and fans have said that they want even more content, so we’re always trying to find the time to fit that in.

“We get such a good response from fans in so many places around the world, including England but a lot in Asia as well, so we feel a responsibility to engage with our fans.”

Blogging provides individuals and organisations with a great opportunity to engage with their audience and owned media channels are becoming increasingly used by companies to increase their share of voice against competitors.

The era of fans seeing their favourite sports stars down the pub after a game has long since disappeared, so athletes and governing bodies must find other ways to ensure fan interaction remains high.

As the year draws to a conclusion, Gabby and Chris can reflect on an incredibly rewarding year, and it is a time, Chris says, for them to reassess their goals and what they want to achieve in 2019.

“When we get to this stage of the year it’s quite strange as we’ve had the Commonwealth Games, European Championships, and World Championships.

“It’s been a fantastic year for us to achieve the success we have given the setback we had to overcome with Gabby’s injury (she suffered significant ligament damage in January) and different things going on off the court.”

With funding secured for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the Adcocks can focus on fulfilling their dreams of winning a medal on the biggest stage of all.

Who is to say they can’t follow in the footsteps of Jason and Laura Kenny, and Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh to become Team GB’s next golden couple?