In the middle to late 1970’s John Swift, a college sports lecturer and badminton coach, held night school classes at various local venues. These were at Leigh Technical College, Leigh CofE School, Lowton High School and Howe Bridge Sports Centre. These night school classes had the aim of introducing new and young players to the game. As class participants improved they wanted more than just coaching and playing against each other. Due to the small number of clubs, and lack of match opportunities for players in Leigh, friendly matches were arranged through John’s various contacts with local badminton clubs and his other coaching classes. From the success of those matches came the idea of starting the LEIGH BADMINTON LEAGUE with the specific intention of providing competitive opportunities for players new to the game.
The Leigh Badminton League was formed in mid 1978 at the offices of Firth Guthrie Inst Ltd. A committee was formed which consisted of:
President John Swift
Chairman John Firth
Vice Chairman Phil Sharples
Secretary Val Grundy
Treasurer Glynis Nowell
Match Secretaty Carol Ashton
No one on the committee had any experience in the running of a badminton league but John Swift’s knowledge in badminton circles was the guiding hand. John Firth offered to donate a trophy for the 1st Division from his Company, Firth Guthrie. It was also decided that the League would play with Carlton Tournament (blue grade or Carlton Tournament plus) plastic shuttles.
At a committee meeting on 30 January 1979 the following items were discussed and agreed :-
- The League would have a Cup Competition. The trophy was donated by K B Sports.
- The President, John Swift, suggested that a trophy should be presented to a team who played within the spirit of the League – the ‘President Trophy’ was donated by Competitive Sports.
- The League would have an Individual Tournament, entrants had to have played in at least two league matches. John Swift was to supervise the running of the tournament.
- The League would hold a presentation dance at Howe Bridge with tickets costing £1.50. June Bray and Barbara Atherton offered to organise this event.
During the first season, some venues had problems where their caretakers were involved in Industrial Action. In order to fulfil fixtures, venues had to be found where Industrial Action was not taking place.
The presentation dance proved to be a great success with 166 people attending and a profit of £72.22 was made.
At the League’s first AGM the Chairman, John Firth remarked that, despite previous inexperience by anyone concerned in the running of a badminton league and, under the guidance of John Swift, the league had enjoyed a successful first season. Tributes were made to all Committee members, in particular to Dave Brown who stepped in as Match Secretary when difficulties arose.
At the pre-season meeting before the start of the 80/81 season, it was decided the League would be restricted. Players could only play in the League who had not played in leagues any higher than Wigan League 4 th or 5 th division or Bolton F, G or H. It was further decided that the Cup competitions would be handicapped and the handicap would be based on League positions. The meeting was informed that the Presentation Dance would be held at Formby Hall on 7 June 1980. Tickets £2.50.
For season 1981/82 the League was growing with 20 teams entering the League, forming two divisions. Division 1 would be restricted to players who have experience in Wigan 3 and Bolton D. Division 2 would be restricted to players with experience in Wigan 4 & 5 and Bolton F & G. The end of season tournament was held at Howe Bridge and has been held there every year since.
The League produced their first handbook for the season 1981/82.
By season 1982/83, the League had continued to grow and the number of teams had risen to 24. It was then decided to have three divisions with Division 1 being ‘open’. Divisions 2 & 3 remained restricted. The Presentation dance was held at the Masonic Hall on 14 May 1982. Tickets £3.
The AGM held at the end of the 1983/84 season saw John Greenall propose that the League adopt the same format as the Wigan and Bolton Leagues. ie,. 18 games, with play to 11 points optional. This motion was defeated 12 votes to 2.
Over the next 20 years, many proposals changed the way the League was run. These are just a few of them:
At the pre-season meeting before the start of the 1985/86 season it was decided that, in order to play in the end of the season tournament, a player had to have played in at least five league games. It was also decided that a player wearing outdoor shoes (including sports shoes worn outside) would not be allowed to play in matches !! Also, that 3 minutes maximum would be allowed for players warming up for matches.
At the AGM on 9 th May 1984, it was proposed that the type of shuttles the League would use would be Yonex Mavis. After a great deal of discussion it was agreed that the League would continue to play with Carlton, and no other shuttles would acceptable in matchplay. It was also announced that the League had been invited to attend a Lancashire League meeting to discuss the possibility of the League entering a Town Team. John Greenall, Vice Chairman attended this meeting and reported back to the League. John Greenall informed the AGM that the cost of a Home game would be in the region of £100, the cost of shuttles would be shared on Away games. The Treasurer, Gerald Cookson commented on a financial aspect that the venture was not viable as the League had never gone in for making a profit. In fact the only function that had made a (small) profit was the League dance. Mr B Doherty proposed that a team was not entered in the Lancashire League. Carried unanimously.
At the AGM on 10 May 1985, the type of shuttles used was again discussed. Among the discussions, representatives from Hesketh Fletcher pointed out that in matches where Yonex Mavis shuttles were used, these were taking longer to complete. Phil Wain (Wigan College) informed the meeting that if it was agreed to play with Yonex Mavis, they would have to withdraw from the League due to the time factor. It was proposed by June Bray, seconded by John Greenall, that the League continue to play with Carlton blue shuttles. Carried on a vote of 8, with 2 abstentions.
At pre-season meeting on 24 March 1986, PGP proposed that the League change shuttles from Carlton Tournament to a cork based shuttles. Preferably Yonex Mavis. This was seconded by Nomads.
Needless to say at the AGM on 21 May 1986, discussions followed on the need for a cork based shuttle. This would stop the better quality players, who play in other leagues, leaving the Leigh League. This was disputed by the President. The length of games using cork based shuttles was also brought into question. The President pointed out that the League could only recommend the use of Yonex and could not specify a particular make. This was carried 9 – 3 with 1 abstention….YONEX MAVIS FINALLY GOT THEIR WAY!