Gopi Chand: Second-tier league for fringe players in the offing

"There are serious plans to start a league on the lines of Premier Badminton League for fringe players as otherwise all of them cannot be accommodated," said Gopi Chand, India’s chief National coach and who was also the advisor for the just-concluded Premier Badminton League (PBL).

V. V. Subrahmanyam

Chief National badminton coach Pullela Gopi Chand with Sportzlive MD M. Prasad at the SAI-Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad on Friday.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

A second-tier badminton league for fringe players is in the pipeline, according to P. Gopi Chand.

“There are serious plans to start a league on the lines of Premier Badminton League for fringe players as otherwise all of them cannot be accommodated,” said Gopi Chand, India’s chief National coach and who was also the advisor for the just-concluded Premier Badminton League (PBL).

“There is an idea to provide a platform for those waiting in the wings, not just from India but from other countries too. Performances in such a league may enhance their chances of being grabbed by PBL teams,” said Gopi Chand at a review of the PBL and future plans at his SAI-Gopi Chand Academy, near here, on Friday.

“We are also looking at the prospect of having eight teams as against the six now in the PBL and spread the league itself for over a month from December 20 every year. That would be just after the year-ending Dubai BWF Super Series Finals,” said Gopi.

“The likes of [Carolina] Marin, P.V. Sindhu and Saina [Nehwal] playing in the PBL has added value and contributed to the huge success of the league itself,” he said.

“What is remarkable is the way all the players adapted to the 11-point format and I don’t see any reason to tinker with this for future editions,” Gopi said even while stressing that serious efforts are on to include women’s doubles in the next edition.

“From the Indian perspective, the young talent like Satwik [16-year-old R. Satwik Sai Raj of Hyderabad Hunters] was really impressive. I think all the men’s singles players from India had a very good league.

“The PBL has helped most of them and they should be much better players in the days to come,” the former All England champion said.

On the Chinese playing in the league, Gopi said that more players would have enhanced it. “But there are quite a few factors involved which saw not many playing in the PBL,” he said without going into the details.

Commenting on Saina’s performance in the PBL, Gopi seemed to be pleased with her comeback. “I knew the match between Saina and Sindhu was going to be exciting. It was a good match. Overall, Saina showed great character. It will take some time for her to reach 100 per cent fitness level but she did remind she is there amongst the best,” he added.

Meanwhile, Prasad Mangipudi, MD of Sportzlive (the official league licencee holder for 10 years under the aegis of BAI), said that television viewership (till the PBL final) reached a new high of 3.2 crore, making it the second most popular sport in India after cricket.

“Yes, it will still take a couple of years more to make some profits. But, the best part is that the PBL got the much desired momentum to get that kick-start. If you look at most of the popular leagues in different sports, they have been there for decades. So we are optimistic of the growing popularity for the league and the sport too,” added Prasad.