However, the schedule doesn’t guarantee completion of tournaments as everything will depend on how the coronavirus situation is dealt with in the days to come.
BWF secretary general Thomas Lund feels given the situation, this is the best the world body could do to bring things close to being normal. Excerpts:
The BWF has released a new calendar, which is a huge step in bringing things back to normalcy. How big a challenge it will be for the Federation to execute the plan within the time frame?
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 situation has had a negative impact on the normal planning of our calendar. But we are confident that we are well positioned to handle this unprecedented situation the best way that we can. The revamped calendar provides the framework for badminton’s potential return only when it is safe and logistically possible. It is our responsibility to ensure we are ready to present top-class badminton to fans around the world – and thereby also supporting the livelihood of international badminton players and Member Associations. The revamped calendar is a considered move as part of our preparations for badminton’s return at the soonest possible chance at all levels across the world.
Many Indian players, including London Olympics medallist Saina Nehwal, have raised concern due to the hectic nature of the calendar. Do you think scheduling 22 tournaments in 5 months was the only way out for the Federation?
The revamped calendar actually includes many more tournaments than the mentioned 22 because we have also updated all the Grade 3 tournaments as well. The list of 22 is only related to Grade 1 and Grade 2 tournaments. However, it is not expected that each player will play or should play all tournaments. The revamped calendar simply provides an opportunity for players at all levels to resume competitive play and continue their professional lives once we are able to start. It is expected that players will be selective about which tournaments they play. Some will play in more tournaments because they may not reach the final rounds, others will select not to play week after week as they play more matches in each tournament. This is not that different to what players and coaches do anyway under normal circumstances, although they do have more choices in this condensed calendar. As the release indicates, there are ongoing considerations around the mandatory player regulations and we understand that it is not fair to expect athletes to play every tournament. An announcement on this will be made once the regulations are agreed.
The BWF will have a tough task of completing the ranking tournaments considering it will also be the base for Tokyo Olympics cut-offs. Looking at the current situation, do you think it will be challenging to get the Olympics qualifications complete?
An announcement on changes to Olympic and Paralympic qualification is expected to come this week.
India national coach P Gopichand had made a suggestion of hosting multiple international tournaments at one venue. What do you make out of the suggestion?
The suggestion from P Gopichand is an interesting idea, but comes with many complexities, including financial and commercial challenges. We are looking into all options to ensure a safe and fair return to badminton.
The spread of Coronavirus has halted all sporting action around the world. How much has BWF suffered in terms of financial losses?
The BWF, like many organisations, has not escaped the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes putting on hold a range of various activities until the situation improves. However, we have acted swiftly to minimise any adverse impact and hope to come back strong following this difficult period.
What are your views of conducting matches without spectators?
As mentioned, we are looking into all options to ensure a safe and fair return to badminton, which includes conducting tournaments without spectators if that is required of us. This is not the preferred approach, but it may become a necessary step in order for us to resume international badminton activities in compliance with the various international and domestic restrictions globally.
Many sports federations hold Olympic qualifying tournaments and allot Olympic berths to athletes to the winners/merit. Badminton goes by ranking cut-offs. Considering a similar Covid-19 like situation in the future, do you think badminton can also consider distributing quotas through Qualifying meets than wait for rankings, which takes more time than the former?
BWF will review the whole Covid-19 period and the unprecedented nature of the situation, including impacts on regulations as part of our internal evaluations and we will provide feedback to all parties. However, the current rankings approach has been a very successful method of qualifying for the Olympic Games and other Major Championships and is considered the fairest approach for players, which is the key concern here.
Finally, what all measures is the BWF looking to take while conducting international tournaments, as life will not be normal as it was before?
A Covid-19 Guidelines document is being prepared for tournament hosts and Member Associations outlining the procedures for the new norm while this pandemic continues to influence our activities. We are following the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO), local health authorities, and international and domestic movement restrictions put in place by governments, ensuring that any badminton activity 100% complies to these rules and regulations. We will not resume competition unless it is absolutely clear that it is safe to do so.