Tribute to Poul-Erik Nielsen

BWF mourns the passing of former IBF President Poul-Erik Nielsen, who passed away on 14 January at the age of 91. BWF pays tribute to the extraordinary contribution he made to world badminton.

Poul-Erik Nielsen was IBF President from 1984 to 1986 and brought to the IBF Presidency both his experience as a top tier badminton player and significant expertise as an administrator. During his tenure, the IBF’s long held goal of becoming an Olympic sport was realised.

On 5 June 1985 in East Berlin, the IOC elected badminton onto the Summer Olympic Programme of sports and a medal sport at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. During the World Championships in 1985 in Calgary Poul-Erik Nielsen received the Olympic Flag as recognition of badminton becoming an Olympic Sport.

Poul-Erik Nielsen was one of the best doubles players of the world in the late 1950’s, and early 1960’s winning three All England doubles titles in three consecutive years with three different partners: 1958 with Erland Kops (men’s doubles), 1959 with Inge Birgit Anker Hansen (mixed doubles) and in 1960 with Finn Kobberø (men’s doubles). Moreover, he reached the finals on five other occasions between 1956 and 1964 – no mean record, considering that he played at the same time as his legendary countryman Finn Kobberø.

After his playing days, Poul-Erik Nielsen used his degree in law as a tax and customs specialist in the Danish Ministry of Taxation, where throughout his professional career represented his country in international fora, in particular the European Union. Here he earned a reputation as a careful and meticulous administrator with a great ability to seek and find compromise.

Poul-Erik Nielsen’s administrative skills were soon called upon by his sport, and in the early 1970’s he first joined the Danish Badminton Association and the European Badminton Union, later to be elected to IBF in 1974.

He was elected Chairman of the Rules and Laws Committee in 1976. In the very first years as chair, he together with Craig Reedie and Tom Bacher, designed the way for international players to “go Open” and thereby make a living out of their sport.

In the days where there was a split in the world body (two bodies – IBF and World Badminton Federation – 1976-1981), Poul-Erik Nielsen’s legal background came into good use to advise the IBF President Stellan Mohlin and Vice-President Craig Reedie to create feasible compromises in the very important reunification process. This was formally resolved with the signing of the Deed of Renunciation on 26 May 1981 in Tokyo between the IBF and the World Badminton Federation. This was an important milestone towards the inclusion of badminton as an Olympic Sport.

In 1981 Poul-Erik Nielsen was elected Vice-President and Deputy Chair of Council, and in the next years he worked closely with President Craig Reedie in a period of fast progress for the reunited Federation.

The very successful World Championships finals in Copenhagen in 1983, attended by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, paved the way for the Olympic Games inclusion for the sport, and the revamped Thomas and Uber Cup concept conceived by a small Working Group including Poul-Erik Nielsen in Tom Bacher’s garden ensured the financial health of the Federation.

Elected president in 1984, one of Poul-Erik Nielsen’s first initiatives was to introduce a Development Committee to assist the game in younger and smaller Member Associations with coach education and equipment support. The IBF became one of the first International Federations to introduce systematic development programmes.

Regrettably, Poul-Erik Nielsen was not able to have as much time off from his professional duties as expected to fulfil the role of President in the way he wanted, so after only two years he retired to focus on his professional career and personal and sporting life.

After retiring from the IBF responsibilities Poul-Erik Nielsen was appointed Chairman of the Badminton Denmark’s Committee of Rights of Appeal, a committee to handle quarrels between the Association and clubs, or between clubs or between players and clubs (1986-1998).

After his period as President of IBF, Poul-Erik Nielsen very successfully pursued his sporting life playing both tennis and badminton and winning 30 National Veteran Badminton Championships and 22 Veteran Tennis Championships, the last at the age of 78, in 2009.