“We acknowledge that pushing the back end of the HSBC BWF World Tour 2020 season into the beginning of next year is likely to affect the World Rankings and next season’s BWF Tournament Calendar, but this solution for the Asian leg gives us the best opportunity to resume and complete this year’s HSBC BWF World Tour as part of our return to international badminton.”
The above was part of the “Open Letter” from Badminton World Federation (BWF) president Poul-Erik Hoyer and secretary general Thomas Lund sent to all member associations.
The BWF has now confirmed that Thailand will host the Asia Open I (Super 1000) from 12-17 January 2021, the Asia Open II (Super 1000) from 19-24 January 2021 and the World Tour Finals 2020 from 27-31 January 2021.
The statement also said that the BWF now have a clear roadmap for delivering international badminton once again. But is that the case?
The decision, for starters, puts a question mark on three other tournaments that were scheduled to be held on the same dates – Thailand Masters, Malaysia Masters and the Indonesia Masters.
The All-Indonesia Badminton Association secretary general Achmad Budiharto was reported to have said that they have no idea when the Indonesian Masters would be held.
“I do not know what would be the fate of the Indonesian Masters. BWF has not issued the revised calendar, so we are not in a position to protest yet,” said Budiharto.
The BWF updated calendar on their website still shows the clash of the previously scheduled tournaments with the three World Tour events.
It is surprising that the BWF Council made such a decision without engaging all the stakeholders, especially the national organisations.
The decision gives the impression that the priority for the BWF is the World Tour Finals and the prospect of losing out financially if it does not take place.
Contrast this with how similar situations have been handled by other international sports federations.
The World Karate Federation (WKF) had decided to merge their 2020 and 2021 season. Only three Karate 1-Premier League tournaments have been held to date in 2020 amid the current COVID-19 pandemic. Following the cancellation of the events in Rabat and Madrid, and the postponement of the tournament in Moscow, the WKF decided to hold off the designation of the Grand Winners until next year. The two seasons will now be merged into one in order to proclaim the best of the best of the joint 2020-2021 Karate 1-Premier League.
This could be an approach for BWF to avoid disrupting the 2021 calendar. Postponing the three BWF Masters tournaments would create another undue situation that could be avoided. After all, just like how the BWF is trying to avoid financial loss by cancelling or postponing the World Tour Finals, the affected national bodies would also need to be answerable to their sponsors. They too need to ensure that the top drawcards would be available for their tournaments on any given new dates.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) decided not to go ahead with their remaining qualifying tournaments for their World Cups (men and women) and the ITTF Finals to be held in China in November. Instead they just used the existing rankings to select the players.
Going further, the organization had also come up with a pragmatic approach of grouping events in three separate “Hubs” to be staged in Middle East, China and Europe for the 2021 season – Hub 1: Middle East – 17 March – 3 April, Hub 2: China – 13 April – 16 May and Hub 3: Europe – 27 May – 20 June.
The BWF had earlier insisted that players who did not play in both legs of the European Open and Asian Open would not qualify for the Tour Finals. However, the Denmark Masters was cancelled following the postponement of the Thomas –Uber Cup Finals.
Indonesian and Malaysian players are among those who have decided not to play in the Denmark Open next month. And among them are some of the top players, in the World Tour rankings.
What is the status of these players? Will they still get to play in the Tour Finals if the maintain their positions in the points standings?
The BWF Council had decided that that staging the Asian leg in November as originally planned was no longer a viable option in being able to guarantee the highest standard of tournament including securing all logistical arrangements for players and participants.
There is a strong possibility that quite a number of top players may not qualify for the Tour Finals based on BWF’s previous ruling.
There is also a possibility that some of the top European players themselves may not be able to make the trip to Thailand, especially with the second wave of Covid-19 hitting Europe.
Spain, where top women’s singles player Camilla Martin, comes from is seeing a massive uptick of new cases with more than 10,000 infections on Friday alone.
Whether Spain will allow the player to travel or that the Thai authorities would allow players from Europe to enter their borders if the cases continue to rise remains to be seen.
The BWF has scheduled a Virtual Press Conference on Tuesday and perhaps they will have answers to these and many other questions.