The Historic Journey of Thomas & Uber Cup
The Thomas Cup & the Uber Cup are the oldest trophies in the sport with a long and rich history going back to the 1940s. The Thomas Cup was presented by the first International Badminton Federation President, Sir George Thomas Bart in 1939 and the Uber Cup, was presented by Mrs Betty Uber in 1956.
The two championships have been held together in the one event since 1984.
The Thomas Cup for the Men’s World Team Badminton Championships began as a triennial event that involved teams facing off in ties of five singles and four doubles matches. From 1984, it changed to a biennial event and ties were shortened to three singles and two doubles matches.
The inaugural event began with preliminary qualifying events in late 1948 and an Inter-Zone final round in 1949. In 1984, the two stages were both played in the same calendar year and the event was combined with the Uber Cup competition for Women’s World Badminton Championships.
Despite the competition having attracted all of the top talent of the men’s game over the years, its winners’ circle has always been known as something of an exclusive club, with only two nations claiming the Cup in the first 30 years of its history. In fact, exactly three teams dominated the competition for nearly 65 years before finally a fourth winner was added to the list when Japan won the Cup for the first time in 2014. And in 2016 and new name was added to this exclusive club, Denmark, when it defeated Malaysia in the final.
In 2014, the qualifying events were replaced by a system of selecting teams based on the BWF world team rankings but following the 2014 Thomas Cup Finals, the continental qualifying tournament system was reinstated.
The Uber Cup, for the Women’s World Team Badminton Championship, is the second oldest world championship in badminton. It is, of course, the counterpart to the Thomas Cup but the event is slightly younger and the tournaments for two Cups were not always played together.
The idea for the Uber Cup was conceived in 1950 by a member of the New Zealand delegation to the International Badminton Federation (IBF). At the time, the Thomas Cup had only been played once but there was a lag due to concerns with financing the tournament so the first Uber Cup competition actually began in 1956 and the finals were played in 1957 in Lytham St Annes, in Lancashire, England.
The Cup was designed and presented by Betty Uber. Winner of over 13 All England titles in the previous two decades, Betty Uber also lent the Cup her name and she also made the draw for the first competition, in 1956.
The Uber Cup may have begun the same way the Thomas Cup did, won three times in a row by the same team, but it took much longer to establish true dynasties in the women’s game. By the time China entered the fray in the early 1980s, the Uber Cup had already been won by three different teams and had had five different finalists. In contrast, the older Thomas Cup had had only two winners and four different finalists.
After the 1982 Uber Cup competition in Tokyo, the Uber and Thomas Cups would share both a host and a calendar year. Both events became biennial, after being played once every three years for decades. Putting the Cup competitions in even-numbered years kept them from coinciding with the new IBF World Individual Badminton Championships