Newly appointed Badminton Scotland chief executive Keith Russell has targeted becoming the country’s leading participation sport as his principal goal.
Appointed to the post on a permanent basis this month after a short spell as interim chief executive, the highly experienced sports administrator and his family have a long association with badminton, his parents Alastair and Marjory having represented Scotland at international level while, like both his brothers Bruce and Stewart, Russell represented his country at junior level. He is consequently keenly aware of the potential offered by a sport that is among the most popular in the world and already reaches into a broad cross-section of Scottish communities.
“Badminton is hugely accessible, played across Scotland from Shetland to Wigtownshire and pretty much every community in between, by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is easy to get involved with and is inexpensive to take up,” Russell pointed out.
“Our aim is to introduce our sport, which is already extremely popular in schools, to ever more people, while helping those already playing to maximise their enjoyment and have the opportunity to explore their talent as much as they want to.
“While the target of getting more people playing it than any other sport may seem wildly ambitious, particularly given football’s importance in Scottish society, badminton has the advantage of being relatively easy to take up at an early age, can continue to be played late in life, is equally popular with male and female players and, as an indoor sport, can be played all year round. Badminton is already one the most popular sports in the world with over 200 million people participating globally.”
Russell’s emphasis on getting as many people as possible active in sport also reflects his understanding of the importance of delivering on the widely-stated aspirations of using Scottish success in staging and competing in major events as a means of benefiting the health of the nation and society as a whole.
During his 10 years as Glasgow Life’s head of sport, Russell was a leading figure in achieving a successful legacy from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, ensuring that the city’s clubs, coaches and volunteers increased significantly across Glasgow, leading to it being named best city in the world for event legacy. He was previously head of sport and leisure at Stirling Council as it developed its innovative and exemplary sports village concept at the city’s Forthbank.
On taking over at Badminton Scotland after predecessor Anne Smillie spent four decades with the organisation, departing earlier this year as the longest serving chief executive at a sports governing body in the UK, he consequently has the knowhow to build on her successes in bringing major events such as last year’s World Championships and an annual elite international tournament to Scotland, while developing leading players such as Imogen Bankier, Robert Blair and Kirsty Gilmour.
“The World Championship and Commonwealth Games medals won by Scottish players in recent years have raised the profile of our sport, while staging major tournaments has also elevated Scotland’s standing in the global game,” Russell observed.
“That combination of nurturing homegrown talent and providing opportunities to see the world’s best in action has provided a solid foundation on which to promote badminton within Scotland and I look forward to taking that on. The Scottish Open at the Emirates Arena from the 21st – 25th November is an immediate opportunity to showcase the sport with a top international entry and over 2,000 young people participating in our legacy programme.”
“The best way to get and keep people healthy is to make it fun to do so and what we want to do is build an ever more inclusive club structure that will facilitate and support player involvement and development at every level by providing the social and competitive opportunities that best suit everyone who is interested in playing badminton.”
Russell’s appointment was meanwhile welcomed by Badminton Scotland’s President Ian Campbell, who expressed his full backing for the new chief executive’s ambitious vision of the way forward.
“I, on behalf of Badminton Scotland, am absolutely delighted that Keith has agreed to take on the role of chief executive,” he said.
“He brings a wealth of experience in sports administration and management which I have no doubt will be of immense value. He has been steeped in sport from an early age and badminton in particular. I am convinced that his passion and enthusiasm for badminton will grow the game so that it becomes the major participation sport in Scotland.”