The Badminton World Federation has announced a new tournament structure, with increased prize money, as it looks to raise the sport’s profile and ramp up revenues. The new tour series, which features six levels, will kick off next year and run until 2021, with at least US$ one million dollars (Rupees 6.7 crore) in prize money up for grabs in each of its top four events.
India Open, which in the existing structure has a Super Series status, will now be demoted to a level four event alongside Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and China. This is considered a shocking demotion for the Badminton Association of India event. It is mandatory for all the BWF top 10 players to participate in level one, two and three events. India Open will have no such privilege. With the new gradation system, BWF has also done away with the Super Series events.
BWF president Poul-Erik Høyer announced the changes following a BWF council meeting in Kuala Lumpur, saying, “the time is right for badminton to soar even higher. Our key goals are to showcase our sport at a high level of presentation and competitiveness, to increase television coverage for the sport and to increase the star quality and popularity of the top players globally”.
The Level 1 end-of-season finale to be played in China will feature US$1.5 million (Rupees 100 crore approx.) in prize money, while the three Level 2 events — in China, England and Indonesia — will carry million-dollar (Rupees 6.7 crore) prize funds, a BWF statement said.
There will be five Level 3 events with US$ 700,000 (Rupees 4.9 crore approx.) prize money, seven Level 4 tournaments with US$350,000 (Rs 2.30 crore) to be won and 11 in level 5 for US$ 150,000 (Rs 1 crore).
China, Denmark, France, Japan and Malaysia will host level three tournaments. Level four events are planned for Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
Australia, Chinese Taipei, Germany, India, Korea, Macau, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States have all been awarded level five competitions.
“Our tournaments have grown in stature and appeal significantly in recent years and, with each cycle, we evaluate progress and assess how we can improve our events,” said Poul-Erik Høyer Larsen.
“We have determined the time is right for badminton to soar even higher and our key goals are to showcase our sport at a high level of presentation and competitiveness, to increase television coverage for the sport and to increase the star quality and popularity of the top players globally through increased television coverage.”
It is hoped the new structure “will strengthen brand awareness, thus helping to increase exposure and commercial revenues” leading to an increase in quality within the events and more revenue for hosts.
The tour will involve an estimated total of 37 events, including Level 6 which will be an open category where BWF member associations can apply for sanctioning. The sport has struggled to gain visibility in recent years, losing out to more glamorous rivals such as NBA basketball, football and tennis.
An ill-advised push to ‘sex up’ the sport’s image saw the BWF ask women players to wear skirts, a proposal which was finally shelved in 2012 following howls of protest.New scoring, new advertising and even new shuttlecocks and court colours have also been considered as badminton looks to shed its staid image and stand out in the digital age.