Anne Smillie is the longest serving and one of the most successful Chief Executives in British sport. When she joined the Scottish Badminton Union in 1981, it was a small organisation with only two members of staff, virtually no public profile, and no long-term sponsors. Over the past 25 years Anne has turned the organisation into one of the most respected Governing Bodies, not just in Scotland, but around the world.
With the recent Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow and the World Badminton Championships hosted in Scotland in 2017, Anne has her hands full with keeping up the fantastic work she has achieved. She did however find the time to have a quick chat with the FCN…
have always loved sport; I was fortunate to be able to play a number of sports growing up and I was always keen to work in sport. I can remember playing and being involved in sport all my life.
I didn’t have one idol in particular as I enjoyed a range of sports. I am, however, acutely aware that players within my own sport nowadays need to stand up and be role models for future generations. Social media and television increase exposure and we need to promote our sport through our athletes.
The Commonwealth Games were hugely successful for Badmintonscotland. Our target was one medal and we came away with a silver and a bronze. The team fared well, losing out to the eventual gold medallists in the quarter finals. Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair won bronze in the Mixed Doubles and Kirsty Gilmour won silver in the Women’s Singles.
It is also worth noting that over 100 000 spectators filled the Emirates Arena over the course of the 11-day event. Over 170 sport-specific volunteers were involved, along with 118 technical officials. It was a huge opportunity to showcase badminton in Scotland and we were delighted to be part of it.
I have always been passionate about badminton and I progressed from administration of the sport through to Chief Executive. I have been in that position since 1990. Having come through the ranks as an enthusiast, volunteer and administrator I would like to think that I have an empathy with all staff and volunteers in the sport.
I have never experienced discrimination per se. Of course, you meet people who are surprised at a female CEO in a major sport, but I make decisions based on judgement, instinct and experience. I have been in post long enough to ensure that people understand that I’m here on merit, that I’ll do the best that I can for everyone and that I genuinely want the best for badminton. There will always be detractors but it just makes your will stronger to prove them wrong!
Badminton in Scotland is quite well served in terms of female coaches and leaders: both our national senior coach and our national junior coach are female. Badminton is fortunate, in a way, in that we are not a gender-specific sport. We cannot, however, afford to rest on our laurels and we have recently agreed a new partnership with “Girls on the Move” to ensure that the future generation of potential female coaches is catered for.
It is difficult to judge sport as a whole. High-profile sport tends to be male sport in Scotland: football (soccer), rugby and golf. As a result the highest profile coaches tend to be male. Andy Murray has made a bold choice by appointing Amélie Mauresmo as his coach. There will, undoubtedly, be an army of naysayers awaiting this budding partnership to fail. There will, however, be even more just wanting to see success for a player working with the right coach at the right stage of his career. Andy’s on-court success has enabled his mother Judy Murray to have the public forum and profile to promote women’s involvement in sport. This can only be seen as a positive development.
I think that it is important the people are appointed for the right reasons, not tokenism. Coaches should be appointed because they are the best people to deliver appropriate coaching at the appropriate stage of the pathway. I believe that it is important to celebrate the achievements of coaches at every level, ensuring that girls and women see coaching and administration as a viable opportunity. It is, conversely, very important not to undermine achievements of female coaches and leaders by suggesting that their achievements are in any way different to those of their male counterparts. The ultimate goal would be to have the gender of the coach as a non-issue.
I want to lead Badmintonscotland to become bigger stronger and even more robust. We will be building upon our on-court success at the Commonwealth Games by encouraging more people to come back to the sport. I want to see everyone youngster who picks up a racket to have the opportunity to progress to the limits of their ability, whether that be club badminton or the international stage. I want to ensure that the club infrastructure is supported and developed to reflect contemporary society: people’s lifestyles don’t always suit regular club membership and pay-and-play opportunities can be more appropriate. We must not, however, discount people who do this. Badmintonscotland will continue to support everyone on the development continuum.
We will build upon our great track record in hosting major events. Our annual Scottish Open Grand Prix championships are the one of the highlights of the national sporting calendar. We hosted the World Championships in 1997 and 2007, we hope to host this event again and we are bidding for the 2017 event.
We will work with key partner agencies to ensure that under-represented groups can play and coach. We work closely with the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) to deliver a programme for people with mental health issues. We have recently signed a partnership agreement with “Girls on the Move”: this will open up opportunities for girls and young women to play and coach.
For me, my role is to ensure that there is a committed, cohesive workforce – of paid staff, coaches and volunteers – to safeguard the future of badminton in Scotland for the long term.