The West Midlands is becoming a champion of major sporting events
Joel Lavery, strategic lead on major sporting events for the WMGC:
During the Easter Bank Holiday, the second British Kabaddi League (BKL) kicked off in the West Midlands. The tournament, which was launched in Wolverhampton last year following the merging of the English and Scottish leagues, has been predominantly based in the West Midlands since its inception – and this is no coincidence.
Our ambition as a region is to be known across the globe as a world-class host of major sporting events, leaning on our rich history and fantastic venues. Last year’s Commonwealth Games offered a unique moment to promote ourselves on the world stage and highlight the West Midlands to sporting federations and key decision-makers.
This has led to an exciting pipeline of events to help cement our status as a leading international host of sports, and furthermore has created nearly 9,000 jobs in the region, and a sports economy worth £245 million.
Attracting a sport like Kabaddi to the West Midlands was vital to our mission, as the sport matches our region’s values of being welcoming, diverse and inclusive. The West Midlands’ vibrant and prominent Asian community gives us the opportunity to capitalise on sports such as Kabaddi to empower not just the region’s Asian communities, but the UK’s five million people of British Asian heritage.
Kabaddi is fast becoming a global sport, now played across Europe and North America, and remains one of South Asia’s most popular pastimes. I believe we can proudly say that the West Midlands is now the UK’s spiritual home for the sport.
The BKL has taken off in terms of popularity. The Grand Prix in Wolverhampton over the Easter Bank Holiday was top of the listings on BBC iPlayer viewers, and was the second most viewed page on the BBC Sport website. With two more Grand Prix events to come in Walsall and Birmingham before the finals in Glasgow, this clearly shows the appetite there is for Kabaddi in the UK and it is something we in the West Midlands are immensely proud to be championing.
The success of the BKL has also put us in a prime position to make waves globally. Last autumn, we went to the sport’s global spiritual home of India to announce that, in 2025, the Kabaddi World Cup will be hosted in the West Midlands. It will be the first time that the tournament will be held outside of Asia. This is a huge achievement for our Major Sporting Events Delivery Plan and will provide a huge cultural and economic boost to the region.
The BKL and Kabaddi World Cup are two prestigious sporting events that we have added to the region’s wider sporting calendar, with the West Midlands playing host to both the British Open Squash Championships and the All-England Open Badminton Championships earlier this spring.
Looking further into the future, the region will play host to the World Supercross Championships, International Blind Sporting Association Games and World Trampolining Championships later this summer, and the 2026 European Athletics Championships. Villa Park is also set to welcome Europe’s elite footballers, should the UK and Ireland’s bid to host the 2028 European Championships be successful.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games placed Birmingham and the West Midlands in the global spotlight, and kickstarted a golden decade of major sporting events showing the region as a national home for world-class sporting competition. Our infrastructure, connectivity and the amazing welcomes of our volunteers and communities all help to create iconic moments that will last a lifetime.
To learn more about the region’s sporting pedigree, visit the Birmingham and West Midlands Convention Bureau website: https://www.meetbirmingham.com/major-sporting-events