1973-78: IBF Council member
1981-82: Vice President
1982: IBF delegate to the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane
1985: Deputy Chairman of Council
1996-2010: Honorary Life Vice President
New Zealand Career
1950s: President of Hutt Valley sub-association for six years
1956: Elected to NZ Badminton Federation management committee
Ian Palmer devoted more than 50 years to the development of badminton in New Zealand and Oceania in a sporting career which took him to the top of the international tree when he served four years as IBF President from 1986-90.
He had a typical sporting baptism, playing rugby and cricket in his school days in the Hutt district of Wellington in the North Island despite his parents hailing from Canterbury in the South Island. Palmer’s maternal grandparents had emigrated from Belfast in Northern Ireland in the 1880s while his maternal grandparents emigrated from the English Midlands around the same time.
Palmer also played badminton at school but his progress was interrupted by the Second World War because, as he wrote, “shuttles and equipment were almost unobtainable at that time.
“After the war I became more involved with badminton and spent a lot of time playing and administering the game. In those days we in the Hutt Valley were part of the Wellington Association but we broke away from them to form our own Association.
“That was fine but we had to have somewhere to play as we only had access to Council halls which were used for dances and all manner of community activities. As can be imagined, the floor surfaces were not ideal for badminton! Eventually a purpose-built badminton hall was erected with four courts and, as can be imagined, the game really took off.”
During this time Palmer had gained a degree in accountancy at Victoria University and had ventured forth on a business career which began with estate accounting with the Public Trust Officer followed by a sales job with the National Cash Register Company.
But by 1949 he had joined Mackys Ltd, a ladies outerwear manufacturer and he gradually bought out existing shareholders to own the company. He said: “I finally sold the business and retired from the rag trade in 1984 when it was becoming increasingly difficult to compete with intense competition from the Far East.
Meanwhile, his badminton career prospered. By 1956 Palmer’s involvement as administrator had developed so much that he was elected to the NZ Badminton Federation management committee. Seventeen years later he was chosen as President and that propelled him into the higher echelons of the sport.
Along the way he had been the first President of Wellington BA, chairman of the Wellington Hall Building Committee and assistant manager to the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team at Edinburgh 1970.
He was also a successful coach and even qualified at first as an umpire in 1959, and then a referee of the highest standard, handling the 1981 Uber Cup finals in Japan.
His initial involvement with the IBF came about through his business career, which required him to travel to Europe each year. So it was decided that he should also be New Zealand’s delegate at the IBF annual meeting, which in those days was held in London.
He recalled: “Imagine the confusion when NZ was represented by two men with the same name, England’s Ian Palmer (former All England champion Angela Bairstow’s husband) being the incumbent. I must say we got on very well except for being on opposite sides during some the Laws debates of the time.”
By now Hutt Valley’s Ian Palmer had his foot on the IBF ladder and he served on various committees until in 1981 his name was put forward to be Vice President. By 1986 he was President, a role he occupied when badminton was an Olympic demonstration sport in Korea in 1988 and he was part of the team that helped badminton achieve Olympic status. The first Sudirman Cup was also staged during his term of office.
But global badminton did not distract him from developments in Australasia and on May 21, 1987 President Palmer chaired a meeting in Beijing with Australia’s Roy Ward and Cedric Baxter and New Zealand’s Derek Light and husband and wife Jeff and Heather Robson to ratify the Oceania Badminton Federation. Mrs Robson, with a wealth of experience as a player and official, was named the Federations’ first President.
On the international scene Palmer will be remembered for his quest to bring the sport to a wider global audience and he travelled to Nigeria and East Africa to stimulate development.
He also played a big part in the introduction of world rankings and recognised the important role players could fulfil beyond just playing at major tournaments but in helping promote them.
Torsten Berg, who joined Council in 1984 and became Continental representative for Europe a year later, worked with and under Palmer.
He recalled: “Ian was completely down to earth and very easily approachable. He was straightforward but sometimes also showed a temper but his diplomatic skills were in his charm and open-minded nature.
“He took part in the Council discussions on many items, whereas most presidents I have known kept their own points to themselves, at least until a debate was ending. His leadership was like a team captain. Ian was good at keeping the Council working as a team. He was able to introduce some rejuvenation in a fairly harmonious way.”
Palmer’s IBF career was quite short compared to others and he became President sooner than anticipated simply because his predecessor Poul-Erik Nielsen had been expected to serve for more than two years until his job with the Ministry of Taxes prevented that.
Palmer was a good supporter of the Development Committee work initiated by Nielsen and he travelled to Africa to build IBF’s standing there and to improve relations with ABF president Dapo Tejuoso after they had crossed swords at an annual meeting.
Palmer summed up his career as follows: “My involvement with badminton has been an absolute delight and I am grateful for the opportunities it gave me to meet and make friends with players and administrators all over the world.” Away from badminton Palmer’s other great passion was gliding. “I took up the sport in the early 1970s and had a lot of fun, and a few frights, in the following 12 years.”
He spent some time on the management committee of the New Zealand Gliding Association and, once retired from business activities, was accountant to the NZ Olympic Committee.
On his death in 2010 BWF President Dr Kang wrote: “The badminton fraternity has lost a valuable friend and we will always cherish his contributions to develop and popularise the sport.”
Torsten Berg, Denmark
-- By William Kings