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Obituary: Perth’s ‘Mr Badminton’ Ian Brown devoted life to sport and city

Ian Brown was awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to badminton and ensured Perth was at the centre of the sport's growth.

Ian Brown among members of Perth Rotary club
Ian Brown BEM, left, with fellow Rotary Club of Perth Kinnoull member Chris Kirk MBE, after they were honoured by the Queen.

Ian Brown, of Scone, commenced his badminton career in the Perth and District leagues in the 1960s.

He never claimed to be a natural.

And when asked about the highlight of his playing days, he would say it was the day he met his wife Catherine.

Theirs was a mixed double partnership which endured from that day to his death on April 10 2024.

Ian Brown
Tributes have been paid to Perth badminton stalwart Ian Brown. Image: Supplied.

But where he did have talent in abundance was as a sports administrator.

Poised, unflappable, and with a meticulous eye for detail, Ian Brown was a huge asset to any committee, and a calming influence in any crisis.

Beginning with the Perth and District Badminton Association in the 1970s, he very quickly graduated to the national committees of what was then the Scottish Badminton Union.

He was President of the Scottish Badminton Union from 1989 to 1991.

Ian Brown accepting cheque from councillor Alexander Stewart across a badminton net at the Bell's Sports Centre, Perth
Ian Brown with councillor Alexander Stewart as the Scottish National Badminton Championships returned to Perth for a 14th consecutive year in 2017.

Then, when the Union incorporated, he became Company Secretary to Badminton Scotland, from 2000 until 2017.

Pair steered badminton from church social to arena sport

From the beginning of the 1970s Ian worked closely with then Chief Executive Anne Smillie.

Both of them oversaw the development of the game from the single court church social of the 1960s, firstly through the advent of the multisport centres in the 70s and 80s, and then onwards to an arena sport, as in 1999 and 2007 when the World Championships were held in Scotstoun.

This journey culminated more recently in planning the hugely successful Badminton World Championships held in the Emirates, Glasgow in 2017.

Denmark's Viktor Axelsen reaching for shot on badminton court with Glasgow written on edge
Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen during the mens singles final at the 2017 World Championships at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow. Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

The event attracted more than 100,000 paying spectators and a worldwide TV audience of millions – and showed both the sport and the city at their very finest.

Ian also enjoyed a stint as a Commonwealth Games administrator from the 1986 Edinburgh Games to the Commonweath Games international Federation.

He was awarded a Badminton World Federation Order of Merit for services to the sport internationally in 2007.

Ian Brown was dedicated to Perth sport and wider community

Ian loved Perth. He was an elder at Kinnoul Parish Church , a dedicated Rotarian, and Boys Brigade leader.

He loved St Johnstone, and he particularly loved the Bell’s Sports Centre.

Badminton games being played inside Bell's Sports Centre, Perth
Ian Brown was instrumental in putting Perth;s Bell’s Sports Centre on the badminton map. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

It was Ian who instigated the hugely successful Perth Open Championships in the 1970s, conjuring up local sponsorship as if by magic.

Then for a long number of years he oversaw the Scottish National finals taking place at Perth.

This was always with strong local Perth representation, including the particularly impressive Perth Pipe Band.

Ian Brown standing outside Bell's Sports Centre, Perth, with two other men
Ian Brown, left, along with Dave Munro and Ian Innes, campaigned against the loss of coaching space at Bell’s Sports Centre, Perth, in 2022. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

Ian was active to the end of his life in organising a spirited protest against the closing of the Bells Centre as a sports venue.

‘Ian gave whole life to sport of badminton’

All things come to an end. Change is inevitable. And Ian was replaced as Company Secretary of Badminton Scotland in 2017, in somewhat unceremonious circumstances.

However, his contribution to sport at large in Scotland was recognised by a British Empire medal which he received in 2018.

Ian Brown among group of dignitaries
Ian Brown was presented with the British Empire Medal for serviced to badminton by Lord Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross, Melville Jameson CBE.

Unpaid, tireless, and committed, it is volunteers like Ian who are the lifeblood of every sport in Scotland.

Ian gave his whole life to the sport of badminton, which was greatly enriched by his presence.

We at Badminton Scotland were lucky to have him.

He is survived by his wife Catherine.

Ronnie Conway is a Past President of the Scottish Badminton Union and former Chairman of Badminton Scotland.