Viktor Axelsen made a compelling post on his official Instagram detailing changes he wishes to see from the Badminton World Federation in the coming year.
Badminton has made huge advancements in many aspects in the last few years. Increase in tournament prize money that came with the adoption of BWF World Tour events, increase in online viewership, introduction of hawkeye and the new service rule, Shuttle Time and Air Badminton are among some of them.
Nonetheless, there are also many obvious areas where improvements can still be made (with little to no effort?).
Axelsen’s Instagram story was reposted by Kashyap Parupalli and the post is liked by players including Olympic Champion Carolina Marin, Hans Kristian S Vittinghus, Ng Ka Long Angus, Srikanth Kidambi and Ashiwini Ponnappa. Axelsen pointed out these valid points.
1. Let’s not push the players to play more tournaments. There is already a lot of tournaments to play. I’m sure the players will participate in plenty of tournaments without having to get fined if they skip a few to take care of their body. And regarding the media obligations, let’s be more clear on what we need the players for. Let’s work with the players and make prepare them ahead of time so it’s not something they will get informed about 1 week beforehand or two days before the tournament starts. To make the players travel across the globe to do a 15min autograph session just because we can, is just bad for everyone. Let’s arrange some bigger, more impactful events with our sponsors (pop-ups the weekend before the tournament starts for example) which will benefit both the players and the sponsors.
BWF rule requires top players to play at least 12 tournaments in a calendar year. They must also play in ALL level 1, 2 & 3 tournaments (World Tour Finals, Super 1000 and Super 750). Failure to comply results in monetary penalty against the players. Many players have argued that this rule makes the athletes more injury prone in a sport which is already very physically demanding.
2. Let’s make the umpires professional and pay them a fair salary so that the best umpires can travel around to the biggest events (WT 500 events and above would be ideal, but at least WT750 and above). There is many good umpires, but there is also many not so good ones, who doesn’t have that much experience yet. Let’s make sure that the best umpires are present to the biggest events.
2019 saw its fair share of misjudgments from umpires – from Anthony Ginting’s unlucky fault in Hong Kong Open to the horrific call against Chou Tien Chen in the Indonesia Open. Maybe it is time to introduce hawkeye at the net (and even VAR). Danish badminton expert Jim Laugesen stated that the technology/cameras are already there and functional for implementation of the same.
3. Give the prize money directly to the players and not the federation. The players appreciate all the help they get from their federation. But it’s the players money. NOT anyones else’s.
Some countries require the players to submit their entries to tournaments through their national federation. The tournament prize money is also shared between the players and the federation in countries like China and Indonesia. This is certainly a very tricky subject with many factors in play.
4. The days are still way too long. Let’s add one more day to our events and start on Monday? Right now we are still having matches which are getting finished close (or after) midnight.
The issue of matches extending till midnight or after is still quite commonly seen in tournaments where there are only 3 courts, Denmark Open for instance. Starting the tournaments from Monday will solve some problems, and in turn bring some issues of its own.
5. Make sure that the schedule for the next day is up before 19-20PM. Right now players are having to stay up past bedtime just to refresh tournamentsoftware and wait for the schedule for the next day before they can go to bed. (I’m aware of television rights and so on, but this has to change. Not only for the players, but also for the fans who want to buy tickets to go see their favourite players play)
The schedule for at least the first half of the next day should be available before 6 pm. This would be a great service to the athletes and will also inherently solve the issue of ‘late match today – early match tomorrow’. The same issue has been raised by some players in the past also.
6. Let’s get Hawk-eye on all courts at WT 750 and above and aim towards having hawk-eye on all courts at all WT500 and above.
If BWF has the resources and funds to implement this, then this would be a move welcomed by fans and players alike. Who gets to play in the coveted hawkeye court is already a debate in itself.