Kuala Lumpur: The Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced Thursday that reigning Olympic men’s singles champion and defending champion Chen Long has been given the only wildcard in the 2017 Badminton World Championships that will be held in August.
The wildcard system in badminton is one that often causes much debate among both badminton fans and badminton players. Which players will receive wildcards for the World Championships often prompted a lot of discussions each time the tournament roll around.
BadmintonPlanet.com is going to examine the good, the bad and the confused of the wild card system in badminton.
BWF announced in a statement on May 4th that it has exercised its prerogative to grant a wildcard entry for World No. 8 Chen Long who won the last two editions of the world championships as well as the gold medal at last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. BWF said they have determined that the 28-year-old’s stature and fan appeal would enhance the championships at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Scotland.
While both Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan are aging, BWF is desperate for a star that will capture badminton fans’ imaginations, and Chen Long is clearly on the radar to be promoted as next superstar-in-the-making by BWF.
Looking at the World Championships in the last four years, the only two wildcards that were given out all went to shuttlers from China (to Lin Dan in 2013, and to Chen Long in 2017). On the other hand, Lee Chong Wei was denied the wildcard in the 2016 World Championships, and Lee was forced to replace one of his teammate in order to participate in the 2016 World Championships in Jakarta.
This showed that BWF has strong bias toward players from China. In this year’s edition, players from China will benefit disproportionally by having total of four players in the men’s singles event.
While BWF may argued it’s so hard to be fair in sport or in life. Under such circumstances, perhaps BWF should also get rid of the hawk eye instant review, the umpire, the line judges so that badminton matches could get wild, and could receive more attentions and more views on YouTube?
So, how can the wildcard system be made fairer? In terms of promoting fairness and competition, BadmintonPlanet would suggest the first step is simply to scrap the wildcard system altogether. If your ranking is good enough to qualify for the World Championships, then you qualify for the tournament. Otherwise, you do not qualify.
Instead of granting Chen Long the wild card, his team should have already known which tournaments they needed him to prioritize, if his team decided not to let him play enough tournament to earn necessary qualifying points, then other players should get the opportunity to play at the big stage.
At the end of the day, whether you like it or not, BWF is the highest governing body in badminton that gets to make the final call, this includes to instruct female players to wear short skirts in an attempt to sex up the game in 2011.