Badminton chief quits, successor tasked to lift fortunes

SINGAPORE - The search is on for a new Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) chief executive officer to replace Bobby Lee, who will be stepping down next month.

The 43-year-old told The Straits Times on Monday he will be joining a "small medical group" to manage a chain of clinics.

Chew Keet Hou, SBA's national team director, will assume Lee's role on an interim basis until a successor is found.

In an e-mail reply to ST, SBA president Lee Yi Shyan said it will work with the Singapore Sports Council to "advertise, interview and select" candidates.

However, a deadline has not been set on the appointment.

The Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development added: "The CEO's departure will have no impact on the search for new sponsors, as it is not only the CEO's job, but also the management committee's.

"Members of the management committee have always been actively involved in discussions with potential partners and sponsors for the Singapore Open and will continue to do so."

Bobby Lee joined the association in March 2011, and was instrumental in setting up the National Intermediate Squad (NIS) - the national youth set-up - in May that year.

He also oversaw steady progress for the Li-Ning Singapore Open, the Republic's premier badminton event. Despite a string of high-profile pullouts, this year's edition drew a final-day crowd of 8,500 to the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

He said: "Badminton's popularity has been growing over the years as we've seen with the Singapore Open attendances.

"But in terms of high performance, we've dipped after the 2011 SEA Games."

Indeed, the top priority for Lee's successor will be to revive the ailing national squad.

There have been few highlights on the international stage since national women's singles player Gu Juan's surprise progress to the last eight of the All-England Championships in 2011.

Despite fielding a team of 23 at this year's Open, no Singaporean reached the quarter-finals, making it the country's worst showing since the 2006 edition.

The national singles players have also struggled to get past the last-16 in any Superseries-level or Grand Prix Gold tournaments, with Gu's runner-up finish at the Malaysia Open in June the only exception.

Nonetheless, Singapore's top male shuttler Derek Wong said Lee always put players first, adding: "He has made many changes to help the players, like pushing for more double-decker beds to be put in the office for us to rest in between training sessions.

"He was a very good boss - we will miss him."

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