BWF Mourns Passing of Ronnie Rowan

It is with deep sadness that Badminton World Federation notes the passing away of Veronica Rowan, IBF’s (now BWF) first Secretary General, on 14 September 2020.

Rowan served in the role for 17 years from 1976 and was a recipient of BWF’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

Affectionately called Ronnie, Rowan was the only daughter of badminton pioneer and IBF Council member Ken Brock; her mother was also a sportswoman who had played at the All England and Wimbledon.

Ronnie was a member of the England badminton squad, before assuming charge as IBF’s first full-time professional General Secretary from Herbert Scheele in 1976.

During her time in office from 1976 to 1993, the federation grew from running its administration from her spare bedroom and a budget of a few hundred dollars to a professional organisation with a new office in Manor Park, Cheltenham, a staff of ten, and a million-dollar budget. Her total commitment to the federation was a major contributor to this success.

Writing of her early years in the job, Rowan wrote: “So there I was, employed on a part-time basis, working from the back bedroom of my house in Cheltenham! And with completely empty files. There was no telex, fax or e-mail in those days, and the telephone was an absolute must. Many were the calls which came – during the entire 24 hours of each day.”

The game became truly global from the 1980s onward. The BWF’s Annual General Meetings started to move around the world with the year’s major competitive event (the Thomas or Uber Cup Finals or the World Championships). The composition of the AGM and the Council started to reflect the worldwide growth of the game.

Rowan was a vital force in directing the development of the game during those critical years. The Cheltenham office grew with the business, particularly after badminton became an Olympic sport in 1985. Among the seminal events during her tenure was the introduction of the World Championships in 1977, the Sudirman Cup in 1989, and the setting up of a Grand Prix circuit. Rowan helped train Member Associations to make tournament draws and seed them correctly, which was important since prize money had become part of the sport.

By the time she left IBF in 1993, Rowan set in place efficiently-trained staff who were capable of handling the increased volume of work.

“Ronnie Rowan’s passing away has left a void in the hearts of the badminton community,” said BWF Secretary General Thomas Lund. “She played an invaluable role in the development of badminton worldwide. On behalf of BWF, I offer our condolences to her bereaved family.”

It Began in the Back Bedroom – Memories OF IBF’S First Professional
by Ronnie Rowan
BWF’s 75th Anniversary Book – 2009

Ronnie Honoured for 17 Years of IBF Service
by Ronnie Rowan
World Badminton Magazine