WHEN former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat first raised the issue in 2007, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) laughed it off and thanked the Indonesian for his views.
Taufik was not amused and early this week, he expressed the same views again — that the World Championships have become boring and too taxing, and he was not enthusiastic about playing in next month’s meet in Hyderabad.
Taufik certainly has a point.
The world championships shouldn’t be held every year. Sure, the BWF can claim that commercial interest and participation in the sport has increased when the world meet is held annually — bar Olympic year — since 2006.
However, the sport could suffer in the long run with the danger of fans losing interest in the world championships in the near future.
I thank the BWF for its good intentions but it should look into the bigger picture.
The World Championships should have their own unique identity, and organising it every year puts the prestigious tournament at risk of becoming a common event and leading to fans losing interest and sponsors staying away.
When a player of Taufik’s repute can criticise the world championships, something must be wrong and BWF should look into it seriously.
The event, which offers no prize money, was introduced in 1977, and the first two editions were held every three years before becoming a biennial affair. It became an annual competition three years ago.
Credit to the BWF, participation in badminton has increased over the years, thanks to its hardwork but the federation has overdone it.
Now there are too many tournaments at all levels, including the Super Series designed for elite players. Besides that, there is the annual Super Series Masters, which acts as an unofficial world meet, and is only for the world’s top ranked players.
But players have become selective over tournaments to play in. This is because the badminton calendar has become too taxing. It was evident when big names withdrew from the Super Series Masters last year. In time to come the stars may even skip the world championships.
Today, only a few sports hold their world championships annually and some have lost their glamour. For instance, the Davis and Fed Cups, held annually for over a century, have lost their prestige and there is a move to organise it every two years.
Sports like football and hockey have their world championship only once every four years. Other major sports like tennis and golf have four grand slam events every year but no world meet.
I think the grand slam concept spread over a year makes more commercial sense for badminton and is better in sustaining fan interest.
Sure, badminton has the Super Series, which is similar to tennis’ grand slam but adding in a yearly world championships defeats the purpose.
Top players are more likely to be enthusiastic about the world championships if they did not have to go through the grind of several major tournaments every year. With tournament schedule becoming increasingly demanding, they want to focus on staying healthy and peaking at the right time.
And there will always be some shuttlers who just don’t care about the world meet because they are not earning big money from it.
BWF should organise the World Championships every two years to ensure that the players remain interested.