Suffolk Saxons, a new professional badminton team, are looking to thrill crowds at Corn Exchange

Two-time Olympian and Suffolk Saxons head coach Anthony Clarke is delighted with his team's start to

Two-time Olympian and Suffolk Saxons head coach Anthony Clarke is delighted with his team's start to the season. - Credit: Su Anderson

World class badminton is coming to the Corn Exchange, in Ipswich, and the elite head coach who will lead the new Suffolk Saxons is hoping the county’s residents will really get behind his team.

Anthony Clarke, a 38-year-old seven-times Commonwealth Games medallist who was capped more than 100 times by England, has been enticed out of retirement to play for and coach the new-look outfit by the management team at Abbeycroft Leisure.

He has already signed up experienced English duo Andy Ellis and Sarah Walker – partners on and off the court – as well as being close to adding a couple of top-class Danish internationals to his 10-strong squad.

The Saxons will be Suffolk’s third professional sports team, after Ipswich Town Football Club and the Ipswich Witches speedway team, and will compete in the AJ Bell National Badminton League.

Suffolk will take on the likes of Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Loughborough, Milton Keynes, Surrey and Bristol in the newly-expanded league, with monthly fixtures shown live on Eurosport.

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The evening matches, usually played on a Monday, come with a great deal of razzmatazz – music and cheerleaders creating a great atmosphere – while the format of the competition is designed to create a real spectacle.

“The Corn Exchange is a quite a quirky venue for us to play in, I’m told we could get around 600/700 spectators in there, and I’m really hoping we can pack the place out,” said Clarke.

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“People think of badminton as a genteel sport, but the top players are used to loud, raucous, hostile atmospheres when playing over in Asia. We want the same here.

“A packed Corn Exchange could sound incredible. We want our fans to bring drums and make as much noise as possible and really get behind us.

“The rules mean you get to the key points quicker in rapid fire games, there are powerplays, time-outs and I am sure people will love the 200mph smashes. It really is an explosive sport and we want to put on a show.”

Clarke, who will commute from his home in the East Midlands, added: “I’ve not played for four-and-a-half years, so I’ve got to get myself fit now! I’m really pleased by the players I’ve got on board so far. Andy is a natural leader, a very passionate guy and real crowd entertainer.”

The team’s first game will be on October 17 and their first home game will follow on November 7.

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