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Pro League to be revived

CHINA is set to re-launch its professional badminton league seven years after shelving it following renewed interest generated by its world-beating national team.

Six to eight clubs, with no less than 10 players each, would compete in the league, slated to start before the end of the year, Liu Fengyan, director of the Chinese Badminton and Table Tennis Administration, said. The league, which was halted seven years ago due to cost pressures, had already secured 20 million yuan (US$2.93 million) in sponsorship.

"In the inauguration year we want to see how it works," said Liu, adding that the league would help China retain top players and coaches who might be tempted by higher salaries overseas. "Once they find there is a top league at home, they are willing to stay to make a living."

China's national badminton team, boasting world and Olympic champion Lin "Super" Dan, clinched three out of five titles on offer at the 2008 Beijing Games, and its players have become celebrities at home.

But cut-throat competition at the top level has seen elite players desert the mainland for foreign leagues.

Former Chinese No.1 Zhou Mi switched allegiance to Chinese Hong Kong after coming out of retirement in 2007 and is rated as a title chance at the world championships in August.


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