Herbert Scheele – Serving Badminton Beyond Matches

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If you’re a badminton fan, you’ve probably heard of the Herbert Scheele trophy. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) presents this award to an individual who performed exceptional services to the sport. Read on to learn the amazing story of the man behind this prestigious recognition!

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Life and Death

Born in Bromley, Kent, England in 1905, Herbert Scheele became an avid sportsman at a young age. He fell in love with tennis, cricket, and hockey as a youngster.

When he turned 22, he started playing badminton and quickly developed a passion for the sport. He competed in many local events until the age of 43, when he finally retired from competitive badminton.

Herbert Scheele married another badminton player named Betty. Together, they realized the importance of preserving the heritage of the sport they loved. They protected the game’s history by recording their knowledge and passing it on to future generations.

Hailed as the father of modern badminton, Herbert Scheele passed away on March 23, 1981. On April 13, 2009, 28 years after her husband’s death, Betty Scheele met her end. However, before they departed, they both became badminton superstars in their own right.

Claim to Fame

I often write about legendary players, and Herbert Scheele is definitely one of them. However, his light shone brightest because of his contributions to the game’s administrative functions.

Historians claim that badminton originated in Siam, China over 2,000 years ago. In 1870, the English started playing it somewhat like tennis. Badminton arrived in America in 1929, and the sport started gaining international fame afterward.

According to enthusiasts, Scheele played a crucial role in getting world badminton moving in the 1930s. He adored the sport and knew almost everything there was to learn about it.

From 1938 to 1976, he was the secretary of the International Badminton Federation (IBF). He also served as the secretary of the Badminton Associate of England from 1945 to 1970.

Under his leadership, these governing bodies introduced competitions like the Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup to the public.

Thanks to his efforts and many others, the 1972 Olympic committee in Munich, Germany granted a badminton demonstration. This opportunity piqued the interest of many fans worldwide. From then on, badminton introduced its first World Championships in 1977 and finally made it to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Today, badminton is the second most popular sport worldwide after football. About 220 million people play it every year.

International organizations awarded Scheele a special trophy at the first-ever Badminton World Championships. Since then, these groups have created replicas of the Herbert Scheele trophy to recognize deserving badminton players and officials.

Major Roles in the Badminton Community

Herbert Scheele’s lengthy badminton career began when his peers elected him as the Deputy Secretary of the IBF, now known as the BWF. This role lasted 38 years, from 1938 to 1976.

After World War II, he and his colleagues worked hard to rebuild the organization, independently compiling a 400-page manual to preserve the sport’s heritage. Modern badminton lovers understand his role in growing the sport and popularizing it on a global scale.

The organization promoted him to Vice President in 1976, where he would remain active until his death. Four months before he passed away, England awarded him with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen.

In addition to these titles, he also held these positions:

  • 1945 – 1970: Secretary of the Badminton Association of England
  • 1945 – 1949: Honorary Treasurer of the Badminton Association of England
  • 1947 – 1980: All-England Referee
  • 1973 – 1981: Vice President of the Badminton Association of England

The badminton community recognized his contributions and inducted him into the Badminton Hall of Fame in 1996 as an inaugural member. He may not be a household name today, but badminton enthusiasts from all over the world should thank him for popularizing the sport and keeping its rules intact.

Life Beyond Badminton

Apart from badminton, Herbert Scheele had another favorite activity: writing. He combined his love for both ventures to become a successful sports editor.

From 1946 – 1970, Scheele was the editor of the magazine Badminton Gazette. He then worked the same position for six years from 1972 – 1978 with another publication, World Badminton.

Here are some of his other most notable works as a writer:

  • Editor: Annual Handbook of the International Badminton Federation Yearbook
  • Editor: The Badminton Association of England’s Annual Handbook
  • Editor: Cricket Clubs’ annual handbook, 1946

Enemy of Senayan: Controversy as an Honorary Referee

Like many other well-known figures, Herbert Scheele’s name reminds some people of past controversy. One of his more infamous moments as a public figure happened during his time as IBF’s secretary general for 38 years, from 1938 to 1976. This role granted him decision-making powers that rendered his judgment final and undisputable.

In 1967, the Thomas Cup officials determined Jakarta, Indonesia as the location for one of the most prestigious men’s badminton team competitions worldwide. At that time, Indonesians were already passionate badminton fans and looked forward to hosting an international contest with a local duo representing them.

During the finals, experts predicted the Malaysian doubles team Tan Yee Khan/Ng Boon Hee to win, but their Indonesian challengers Muljadi/Agus Susanto fought hard and eventually took the first game. Naturally, this moment sparked a frenzy in the home crowd, who began jeering and provoking the other squad.

Herbert Scheele, the honorary referee at the time, was also the Indonesian team’s manager. He was unhappy with the crowd’s attitude and called for a match suspension. Eventually, he stopped the match and ignored the Danish referee, Tom Bacher.

Scheele became uncomfortable with the audience’s behavior and wanted them to calm down. He gathered both teams and suggested the game resume the following day without the attendance of the hostile fans.

While the international badminton committee’s chairman was okay with his decision, the Indonesian team refused. The IBF had to make a stand about the deadlock, and they ruled in favor of Scheele. After all, the organization deemed his decisions official.

The Malaysian team nabbed the second game, and the IBF declared a change in venue for the third round. New Zealand agreed to host the rest of the Thomas Cup, but the Indonesian team did not show up. For this reason, Malaysia won the competition by default.

Scheele later apologized for his actions, but the incident left a sour taste in many people’s mouths, especially Indonesians. They blamed Scheele for the loss and called him arrogant.


Herbert Scheele’s wife, Betty, was in attendance during the infamous Thomas Cup game, but she did not comment on her husband’s decision. Six years later, the couple returned to Jakarta as Scheele once again organized the 1973 Thomas Cup.

This time, the Indonesian team won at Istorya Senayan. Betty felt that the crowd had finally forgiven her husband for the 1967 loss.

Scheele retired from the IBF shortly afterward on July 1, 1976. However, despite being retired, he gave his life to the sport. He served as an advisor to the vice president of the IBF long after he quit his post.

Final Thoughts

Despite the 1967 controversy, Herbert Scheele remains one of the biggest contributors to badminton’s global popularity. He spent 38 years of his life as an IBF official and continued serving the international badminton community until his death.

Today, the BWF still presents the Herbert Scheele award to people who have rendered outstanding and exceptional services to the sport. It goes to show that the badminton community thanks him for his devoted service.

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