Sport in England
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Sport plays a prominent role in English life. Popular team sports in England are association football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league. Major individual sports include badminton, athletics, tennis, golf, motorsport and horseracing. A number of modern sports were codified in England during the nineteenth century, among them cricket, rugby union, rugby league, football, tennis and badminton. The game of baseball was first described in 18th century England
- 1 Structure
- 2 The role of sport in the formation of an English identity
- 3 Elite level team sports
- 4 Elite level individual sports
- 5 Major sports facilities
- 6 Student sport
- 7 School sport
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
England has its own national team in most team sports, but the United Kingdom sends a combined team to the Olympics, which is formally "Great Britain and Northern Ireland" but commonly referred to as "Great Britain". Competition between the home nations was traditionally at the centre of British sporting life, but it has become less important in recent decades. In particular, football's British Home Championship no longer takes place. In some sports there are still national English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish teams.
The club competitions in most team sports are also English affairs rather than British ones. There are various anomalies however, such as the participation of the three largest Welsh football clubs in the English league system and an English club in the Scottish Football League.
The relative prominence of national team and club competition varies from sport to sport. In football, club competition is at the centre of the agenda most of the time because clubs plays more matches each year, but the four national teams are also followed avidly. In cricket the national team is much more widely followed than the county competitions, which have a limited profile, whereas in rugby league club competition generally overshadows international fixtures. Rugby union falls between these two with very high profile international competitions and a strengthening club game.
Sport England is the governing body responsible for distributing funds and providing strategic guidance for sporting activity in England. There are five National Sports Centres: Bisham Abbey, Crystal Palace, Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre, Lilleshall and Plas Y Brenin National Mountain Centre. Everyday Sport is Sport England’s physical activity campaign. There are 49 County Sport Partnerships in England with areas for responsibility separated by Local Authority County boundaries.
The English Institute of Sport is a nationwide network of support services, aimed at improving the standard of English athletes. Services include sports medicine, physiotherapy, sports massage, applied physiology, strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology and Performance Lifestyle support. It is based at 8 regional hubs and other satellite centers.
The role of sport in the formation of an English identity
England, like the other nations of the United Kingdom, competes as a separate nation in some international sporting events. The English association football, cricket (the England Cricket team represents England and Wales) and rugby union teams have contributed to an increasing sense of English identity. Supporters are more likely to carry the St George's Cross whereas twenty years ago the British Union Flag would have been the more prominent.
Elite level team sports
There are four sports in England which operate high profile professional leagues. Association football is by far the most popular sport and is played from August to May. Rugby union is also a winter sport. Cricket is played in the Summer, from April to September. Rugby league is traditionally a winter sport, but since the late 1990s the elite competition has been played in the summer to appeal to the family market, and take advantage of the faster pitches. There is also a professional ice hockey league in Britain called the Elite Ice Hockey League
The most popular sport in the UK, association football was first codified in 1863 in London. It is known in the US and other countries as 'soccer.' The impetus for this was to unify English public school and university football games. There is evidence for refereed, team football games being played in English schools since at least 1581. An account of an exclusively kicking football game from Nottinghamshire in the fifteenth century bears striking similarity to football. The playing of football in England is documented since at least 1314. England is home to the oldest football clubs in the world (dating from at least 1857), the world's oldest competition (the FA Cup founded in 1871) and the first ever football league (1888). The modern passing game of football was developed in London in the early 1870s For these reasons England is considered the cradle of the game of football.
The governing body for football in England is The Football Association which is the oldest football organisation in the world. It is responsible for national teams, the recreational game and the main cup competitions. They have however lost a significant amount of power to the professional leagues in recent times.
English football has a league system which incorporates thousands of clubs, and is topped by four fully professional divisions. The elite Premier League has 20 teams and is the richest football league in the world. The other three fully professional divisions are the run by The Football League, the oldest league in the world, and include another 72 clubs. Annual promotion and relegation operates between these four divisions and also between the lowest of them and lower level or "non-League" football. There are a small number of fully professional clubs outside the top four divisions, and many more semi-professional clubs. Thus England has over a hundred fully professional clubs in total, which is considerably more than any other country in Europe.
The two main cup competitions in England are the FA Cup, which is open to every men's football team in England; and the League Cup (currently known as the Capital One Cup), which is for the 92 professional clubs in the four main professional divisions only.
Each season the most successful clubs from each of the home nations qualify for the two Europe-wide club competitions organised by UEFA, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup). England has both produced winners of each of these competitions.
The England national football team won the World Cup in 1966 when it was hosted in England. Since then, however, they have failed to reach a final of a major international tournament, though they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and the quarter-finals in 1986, 2002 and 2006, as well as the quarter-finals of Euro 2004 and 2012.
The FA hopes that the completion of the National Football Centre will go some way to improving the national team's performance.
Cricket is another popular team sport in England. Although there is some debate about the origins of the game, modern cricket is generally believed to have originated in England with the laws of cricket - adhered to by players at all levels worldwide - established by the London-based Marylebone Cricket Club. Although the origins of cricket in England date back as far as the sixteenth century, formal laws of the game began to be developed in the eighteenth century. Most recently, the globally popular Twenty20 format of cricket was innovated in England at the turn of the 21st century.
The England national cricket team is one of the ten Full Members of the International Cricket Council, enabling England to participate in Test, One Day Internationals and Twenty20 International matches, as well as the ICC Cricket World Cup. Cricket in England is administered by the England and Wales Cricket Board, having been overseen by the Test and County Cricket Board until 1997.
England's professional domestic system consists of eighteen teams from the historic counties of England and Wales. These clubs participate in the County Championship, a two-tiered First Class cricket competition recognised as one of the oldest domestic cricket tournaments in the world, as well as the limited overs ECB 40 tournament (known as the Yorkshire Bank 40 for sponsorship reasons as of 2013) and the Friends Life t20. Twenty more clubs compete in the amateur Minor Counties Cricket Championship.
Cricket is a popular recreational sport in England, with hundreds of clubs playing at various levels; village cricket in particular is regarded as a key aspect of English culture. The Lancashire League was formed in 1892 and is renowned for the extensive list of professional players who have participated in it, particularly during the middle of the twentieth century.
Lord's Cricket Ground, located in the St. John's Wood area of London, is known as "the home of cricket" and in addition to housing the Marylebone Cricket Club, is also the headquarters of the European Cricket Council and was until 2005 the headquarters of the International Cricket Council. England has hosted four ICC Cricket World Cups to date, in 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999, and is scheduled to host the 2019 competition. In addition to these tournaments, England has also hosted the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 and the ICC Champions Trophy in 2004 and 2013.
England enjoys a hotly-contested and storied rivalry with Australia, against whom they compete for the Ashes in a contest that dates back to the nineteenth century. As of 2013, England are holders of the Ashes having retained the trophy on their tour of Australia in the 2010-11 season. The English cricket team also enjoys rivalries against India and the West Indies, although the latter is no longer as fierce as it was during its peak in the 1980s.
England is also a pioneering nation in the sport of Indoor Cricket. The first organised indoor cricket league in the world took place in 1970 in North Shropshire, and the first national tournament was completed in 1976 with over 400 clubs taking part. By 1979 over 1000 clubs were taking part in indoor cricket in the UK, and it remains extremely popular today with many leagues around the country.
Like association football, rugby union and rugby league both developed from traditional British football games in the 19th century. Rugby was codified by the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The Rugby Football League developed after a number of leading clubs, that wished to be allowed to compensate their players for missing work, formed their own governing body in 1895 and subsequently the two organisations developed somewhat different rules. For much of the 20th century there was considerable antagonism between rugby league, which was a mainly working class game based in the industrial regions of northern England, and rugby union, which is a predominantly middle class game in England, and is also popular in the other home nations. This antagonism has abated since 1995 when the International Rugby Board opened rugby union to professional players.
The four home nations compete separately at international level. They take part in the main European international rugby union competition, the Six Nations Championship. England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the first victory in the competition by a British team (or, for that matter, any Northern Hemisphere country).
The main rugby union club competition in England is a 12-team league called the Aviva Premiership, and there is also a cup competition, the LV= Cup, which since 2005 has included teams from Wales. Attendances at club rugby in England have risen strongly since the sport went professional. English club sides also take part in the two European wide club rugby competitions, the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup. English clubs such as Leicester Tigers, Bath Rugby, London Wasps and Northampton Saints have had success in the Heineken Cup.
The governing body of rugby league in the United Kingdom is the Rugby Football League. Rugby league draws most of its support from its heartlands in Yorkshire, North West England, and Cumbria. Although playing numbers have recently topped 60,000 in London and the south east.
The top level league is the 14-team Super League. As of the upcoming 2014 season, twelve of the teams are based in the heartlands, with one team each in London and France. Each September the teams placed 1-8 in the final Super League table contest a play-off series with the two remaining teams not eliminated contesting the annual Super League Grand Final to determine the champion of that year. Below this level are the Championship and Championship 1 (formerly the National Leagues); as of the 2014 season, the Championship consists of 14 teams and Championship 1 has 10 teams. Of the 2014 Championship teams, 13 are from the heartlands, and the other is from Wales. The 2014 Championship 1 will have three heartland teams, six scattered around the rest of England, and one in Wales. There is promotion and relegation between the Championship and Championship 1; since the 2009 season the Super League has consisted of 14 franchises, based on renewable three-year licences, with the next licences to be granted for the 2015–17 period. The main knock-out competition is the Challenge Cup, which also includes clubs from France, Russia, Wales and Scotland and each year culminates in a history-steeped final at Wembley Stadium. There is a secondary knock-out competition called the Championship Cup for teams in the Championships.
Rugby league is also played as an amateur sport, especially in the heartland areas, where the game is administered by BARLA. Since the rugby union authorities ended the discrimination against playing rugby league amateur numbers in the sport have increased, particularly outside the heartland areas. Through competitions such as the Rugby League Conference, consisting of one nationwide league of ten teams and twelve other regional leagues, including one Welsh and one Scottish league, the sport now has a national spread, at amateur level at least .
Internationally, England fields a competitive team in international rugby league. For many tournaments the home nations are combined to compete as Great Britain. The Great Britain team won the Rugby League World Cup in 1954, 1960 and 1972, but England and Wales now compete separately in this tournament and Australia held the title from 1975 until 2008 when they finally lost their grip on the title after being beaten by New Zealand in a thrilling final in Brisbane. England and Wales jointly hosted the most recent World Cup in 2013, with matches also held in France and Ireland; Australia regained the crown.
The England team competes in the annual Four Nations competition.
The England national rugby league team will compete more regularly as a full test nation, in lieu of the Great Britain national rugby league team, which, following the 2007 Centenary Test Series against New Zealand only reforms as an occasional southern hemisphere touring side.
Ice hockey is Britain's largest indoor spectator sport. It has a long history in the UK and it is reasonably well supported, with the larger teams attracting thousands of fans to every game. The main league is the ten-team professional Elite League, which has featured many former NHL players, predominantly during the NHL lockout season. At the moment the Great Britain men's national ice hockey team is in division 1 of the Ice Hockey World Championships. The team is ranked 23rd in the world in the IIHF World Ranking system.
Media support for ice hockey has improved on a national level, although the majority of news is still found on the internet. Sky Sports has been covering the Elite league for a few seasons, and starting in the 2010/2011 season they will be showing 8 live games and a highlight show every week; the reason this deal happened was due to the elite league attracting very large viewing figures and Sky seeing the Elite Ice Hockey League as a potentially big and popular league.
The Elite Ice Hockey League is well recognised around the ice hockey world, so much so that on 2 October 2010 the Boston Bruins of the NHL will be taking on the Belfast Giants at the Giants Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Basketball is a minor sport in England. As of the 2006-07 season the top level league is the ten team British Basketball League and second league is the twelve team English Basketball League. The teams are professional or semi-professional but have modest resources. Great Britain men's national basketball team, which was formed by the national basketball organisations of England, Scotland and Wales on 1 December 2005, have not achieved any major success yet. Despite that, the qualification for the 2009 European basketball championship, after 28 years of absence from any major international basketball event for any of the Great Britain's countries' national teams, has marked Great Britain as one of the uprising basketball nations in Europe.
On 13 March 2011, Fiba voted 17-3 in favour of Great Britain receiving their host nation spot at the 2012 Olympic games with one condition, they have until 30 June 2012 to decide on whether to merge the three nations that make up the team or disband after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. At Eurobasket 2011 Great Britain recorded their first Eurobasket win en route to a 2–3 record, good enough for 13th in the first 24 team Eurobasket tournament.
Other team sports
Lacrosse in England is played in both the men's (field & indoor) and women's (field) versions of the games and governed by English Lacrosse Association. Currently[when?] the England men's team are European champions and are ranked fifth in the world. The women's team are currently second in Europe (however have won the competition three out of the seven times it has been competed for); they are also ranked fourth in the World (having won silver in both the 1987 and 1991 World Championships).
Hockey is a moderately popular recreational sport in England. The Great Britain men's team won the hockey tournament at the 1988 Olympics. However British hockey has gone backwards since then, partly because of conflicts between the need to foster a combined team to compete in the Olympics, and the commitment of the hockey associations of each of the home nations to the retention of separate national teams to compete in other international competitions.
Australian rules football
Australian rules football has a long but obscure history in England but has grown since 1989 to several amateur leagues. England regualry plays international matches against other countries and competes in the Australian Football International Cup as apart of the Great Britain national Australian rules football team. Australian Football League exhibition matches have been held in London every few years since 1972. (see Australian rules football in England).
The Irish sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling are also organised on a similar basis. Dating back to the 1880s London GAA teams compete in top level competitions in Ireland. During the 1970s and 80s there were as many as 85 GAA clubs in the London area and hundreds around Britain, but due to the fall off in Irish immigration in the 1990s the number has fallen considerably.
Elite level individual sports
Badminton is England's most popular racket sport. It is an accessible sport where beginners can experience success early through basic rallying, but at the top level it requires high levels of power, agility and endurance. Badminton is an Olympic sport and Great Britain achieved medal success in both Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. The All-England Championships takes place in Birmingham every year and attracts all the top players from around the world.
Tennis is England's 2nd most popular racket sport, this can be seen through one of the most prestigious tournaments in tennis, Wimbledon, one of the four Grand Slams, being held in England. Tennis originated in England and is played by amateur players and a small number of professionals. Only a few tournaments attract numerous spectators of which Wimbledon is by far the most important: many thousands attend the championships every year and millions watch on television both at home and abroad.
Although originating in Scotland, England has played a major role in the development of golf, including the origins of the Professional Golfers' Association (Great Britain & Ireland). Major golf tournaments held in England include the Open Championship (an English course hosting the event two years in every five) and the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event of the European Tour. The Ryder Cup also originated in England, with the event being held on English courses numerous times.
The majority of the Formula One teams are based in England. English drivers have won seven Formula One World Championship drivers titles. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are the most notable current English drivers, winning the 2008 and 2009 World Drivers Championships respectively. The British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone, most frequently in July. Major motor racing series based in the UK include the British Formula Three Championship and the British Touring Car Championship.
English drivers (most notably Richard Burns) have achieved success in the World Rally Championship. Since 2000 the British Superbike Championship has become increasingly popular, surpassing its four-wheeled rivals in terms of spectator receipts and television coverage. Britain hosts one round of the MotoGP championship at Silverstone, and hosts rounds of the Superbike World Championship - at Silverstone in 2010 but has previously visited Brands Hatch and Donington Park.
England is commonly seen as the widely dominant country for building racing cars. In addition to Formula One successes, historic names such as Lola, March, Reynard and Chevron have supplied numerous teams. Universities offering motorsport courses always back up this claim. Between the mid-1980s to the 1990s cars built in Britain were widely dominant in CART racing and the Indianapolis 500 in the United States.
British professional boxing offers some of the largest purses outside the United States to a few elite professional boxers who become nationally known. British heavyweight contenders are especially popular, but most British world champions have fought in the middling weight brackets. The governing body of professional boxing is the British Boxing Board of Control. It is generally felt that British professional boxing is in decline in the early years of the 21st century. The reasons for this include: the fact that football now offers a relatively large number of sportsmen the chance to make the sort of income traditionally only available to world boxing champions, reducing the incentive for athletic youngsters to accept the greater risks of a boxing career; the acquisition of the rights to most major fights by Sky Sports, which means that fewer boxers become national figures than in the past; and the knock the sport's credibility has taken from the multiplicity of title sanctioning bodies.
Amateur boxing is governed by the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABA) and the equivalent bodies in the other home nations. British amateurs have only enjoyed a very modest amount of success in international competition in recent decades, partly due to the tendency for them to turn professional at an early stage. The amateur sport is in a very poor state, with dramatic declines in boxer numbers. National amateur boxing championships and international team matches, which were once highlights of the British sporting calendar, receive only limited national recognition.
Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed martial arts (MMA) has come a huge way. The sport was on the verge of being sent into oblivion in the early 1990s but has since clawed it’s way back and become one of the most popular sports in the USA.
In Great Britain MMA failed to capitalise on this momentum and has not seen anywhere near the popularity levels MMA has received in USA. However, things slowly started to change when Michael Bisping came onto the scene and won The Ultimate Fighter 3 and earned a six-figure contract to the UFC. Bisping built UK MMA a bit quicker alongside Ross Pearson and James Wilks, the two winners of 'The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom. UK MMA is being pushed further with the likes of Dan Hardy, Brad Pickett, John Hathaway, Jimi Manuwa, Rosi Sexton plus many more.
England does not compete at the Olympic Games instead English athletes compete as part of Great British team, Team GB. London (the Capital of England and the UK) hosted the Summer Olympics in 1908, 1948 and 2012 making it the first city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times.
Other individual sports
Other sports with loyal followings include snooker, which is popular with television companies as it fills swathes of their schedules at a very low cost, and also attracts good audiences. However, its popularity has waned somewhat since 1985, when nearly a third of the British population watched the conclusion of the celebrated Dennis Taylor versus Steve Davis World Championship final even though it ended after midnight. Darts is another British-centred sport with an assured place in the attention of the English sporting public.
Major sports facilities
In the early 20th century England had some of the largest sports facilities in the world, but the level of comfort and amenities they offered would be considered totally unacceptable by modern standards. After a long period of decline relative to other developed countries English facilities have made a relative improvement since the 1980s, and this is ongoing.
- Twickenham (England rugby union team) has a capacity of 82,000 making it the largest stadium in the world devoted solely to the sport of rugby and it is the fifth largest stadium in Europe.
- Wembley Stadium (England football team) The newly reconstructed Wembley has also been used by the Great Britain rugby league team, and for major club matches in that sport. It can seat 90,000 people, second largest capacity in Europe.
- Lord's Cricket Ground (England and Wales Cricket Team). Lord's is considered to be the spiritual 'home of Test Cricket' and is the home of the MCC. It has a seating capacity of 30,000
Club association football grounds
English football grounds are almost always football-only facilities in which the spectators are close to the action. Since the late 1980s there has been a dramatic spurt of reconstruction and replacement of league grounds, which is ongoing, and the Premiership's facilities are among the best of any sports league. As of early 2005 there are approximately 30 all-seater club grounds in England with a capacity of 25,000 or more, and three in Scotland. The largest is Manchester United's Old Trafford, which has a capacity of 76,000.
English cricket grounds are smaller than the largest in some other countries, especially India and Australia, but the best of them have been modernised to a high standard, and two new international grounds have been built in recent years. The largest English cricket ground, Lord's in London, is internationally regarded as the "home of cricket". Other cricket stadiums in England include The Oval, Headingley Carnegie, Old Trafford Cricket Ground and the Trent Bridge Ground.
Club rugby grounds
Rugby union and rugby league clubs are generally poorer than their cricket and football counterparts. Some clubs have good all seater grounds in the 10,000-25,000 capacity range; some have older grounds which are still partly terraced, and others play in council-owned joint-use stadia (e.g. the KC Stadium). Some clubs (mostly rugby union ones) rent stadia from football clubs. After the Rugby Football League stipulated that all Super League club stadia must meet minimum standards rugby league has seen a marked rise in the quality of the sports venues with many clubs re-locating to new purpose-built facilities on renovating their current grounds.
The provision of athletics stadiums in England is very poor compared to most other developed countries. The main reason for this is that it is not considered acceptable to ask football or rugby fans to sit behind an athletics track. This means that athletics stadiums have to be separately financed and this can only be done with public funds, which have not been forthcoming on a large scale. The largest athletics stadium built in the UK since the Second World War, the 38,000-capacity City of Manchester Stadium built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, was reconfigured for football-only use after that event. The largest existing stadium is the 25,000 seat Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield. London's largest athletics venue is Crystal Palace, which has just 15,500 permanent seats. It will be superseded by the Olympic Stadium, which will be built as an 80,000 seater for the 2012 Summer Olympics, but will most likely be reduced to 60,000 seats after the Games with the London organising committee's decision to accept West Ham United's bid to take over the stadium. There are two Athletic stadiums in Birmingham the Alexander Stadium (12,700 capacity) which is home to UK Athletics and there is also the National Indoor Arena (14,150) which is also used for other events.
In England there is no indoor sport capable of attracting five-figure attendances on a regular basis, and this restricts the development of large indoor arenas. Nonetheless a number of 10,000+ seater arenas have been built in recent years and more are planned. These facilities make most of their income from pop concerts, but they occasionally stage boxing matches and other sporting events. The largest is the Manchester Evening News Arena in its eponymous city, with a capacity of over 20,000 for court events. The O2 in London (the former Millennium Dome), reopened in 2007, contains an arena that seats 17,500, but can be reconfigured to seat more than the MEN Arena and the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham which can seat 14,150. There are some specialist ice hockey and basketball arenas, but they only seat a few thousand spectators. Several of the 2012 Olympic arenas will be relocated outside London after the Games.
Apart from a couple of Oxbridge events, student sport has a very low profile in England. While universities have significant sports facilities, there is no system of sports scholarships. However, students who are elite standard competitors are eligible for funding from bodies such as UK Sport on the same basis as anyone else. The university most focused on sports provision is probably Loughborough University. Budding professionals in the traditionally working class team sports of football and rugby league rarely go to university. Talented youngsters in the more middle class sports of cricket and rugby union are far more likely to attend university, but their sports clubs usually play a greater role in developing their talent than their university coaches. Some sports are attempting to adapt to new conditions in which a far higher proportion of English teenagers attend university than in the past, notably cricket, which has established several university centres of excellence.
Sport is compulsory for all students up to the age of sixteen, but the amount of time devoted to it is often small and pupils often find fictitious excuses to avoid doing it.
The leading body for physical education in the United Kingdom is the Association for Physical Education. Sportsmark is Sport England's accreditation scheme for secondary schools. The scheme recognises a school's out of hours sports provision.
There are frequent complaints that state sector schools do too little to encourage sport and a healthy lifestyle. Since the 1980s it has become a cliché to complain about sales of school playing fields for development.
Sports culture is strong in independent schools in the United Kingdom, and these schools contribute disproportionately high numbers of competitors in sports which are traditionally considered 'elitist', such as cricket and rugby union. Participants of other sports, notably association football, rugby league, boxing and athletics, are much more likely to come from state schools.
In addition to the many of the sports already mentioned, popular sports at junior level include netball and rounders, both of which are played almost entirely by girls. However, in recent times schoolgirls have increasingly played sports which are traditionally male, especially football and cricket, but also others such as rugby.
- Sport in Bedfordshire
- Sport in Cornwall
- Sport in Leeds
- Sport in London
- Sport in Birmingham
- Sport in Manchester
- Sport in Nottingham
- Sport in Sheffield
- Sport in the United Kingdom
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- "The evolution of cricket formats | Cricket Features | ICC World Twenty20". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- "Lord's joy for Whitstable" from ECB, accessed 28 January 2013
- "Great Britain's men's and women's basketball teams to play in Olympics". The Guardian (London). 13 March 2011.
- England, Badminton. "Badminton named England’s No.1 racket sport". Retrieved 03/08/2012.
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