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BWF in a Fix? Travel Restrictions Due to Covid-19 Make Calendar Planning Difficult

BWF did not seem too keen on going with Pullela Gopichand's

BWF did not seem too keen on going with Pullela Gopichand's "radical" ideas for badminton return. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/Twitter/News18)

BWF told News18.com exclusively on e-mail that even though they were planning a calendar for the rest of the season, predicting everything was difficult with travel restrictions around.

Abreshmina Sayeed Quadri
  • News18.com New Delhi
  • Last Updated: May 14, 2020, 8:52 AM IST
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The sporting world had come to a screeching halt in March as coronavirus was declared a pandemic by World Health Organisation (WHO) and countries across the globe began to put lockdowns in place to curb the spread of the virus.

The world of badminton was in the middle of All England Championships in Birmingham, England when the virus began wreaking havoc.

Two months on, even as authorities have begun to ease down the lockdowns, international travel remains in a fix and so does badminton.

"We are monitoring all updates closely but at this point in time it is difficult to predict when international movement and entry restrictions will be lifted by individual countries and territories in order to guarantee that players, their entourage, officials and staff can participate and work at tournaments safely," BWF told News18.com through e-mail.

BWF has had to postpone 11 major tournaments, including the World Championships and Thomas and Uber Cup Finals; and with that the Olympic qualifiers were suspended as well.

While sports like football, baseball and basketball are busy charting out a viable plan for a return, BWF remains in the dark courtesy the format that requires extensive travelling.

Back in March when BWF decided to go ahead with the All England despite Covid-19 having impacted Italy severely, they received intense criticism from all quarters, including Indian shuttlers like Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap. As they look for options to resume again, BWF will have to be extra careful.

"Much of our planning efforts are directed at our players and ensuring their continued livelihoods within badminton, including supporting all our Member Associations to make sure badminton will be played again at the soonest possible chance at all levels across the world.

"If health, safety and logistical issues linked to coronavirus extends into 2021, we will be sure to align with key stakeholders such as the IOC, IPC and BWF Athletes' Commission to make the right decisions and the right time," BWF further added.

Tennis, which has a format quite similar to badminton, has begun with local tournaments being organised without fans for players to start playing locally. Badminton, so far, has seen none of the same.

"The health, safety and wellbeing of all athletes, their entourage, officials and the greater badminton fraternity remains our No.1 priority. We will continue to adhere to 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 per cent complies to the rules and regulations. We will not resume competition unless it is absolutely clear that is safe to do so."

However, BWF said that preparations are being made to be ready for resumption as soon as possible, including "a revamped BWF Tournament Calendar for 2020", the announcement for which will be made shortly.

BWF TO TAKE PULLELA GOPICHAND'S SUGGESTIONS?

A couple of days ago, India's chief badminton coach Pullela Gopichand came up with "radical" ideas to help badminton get up and running. He expressed concern over whether just shifting of dates will help if travel restrictions remain for a longer period of time.

One of his suggestions was holding a number of tournaments at a single venue in order to lessen the travel for the players, which in turn will reduce the risk on their health.

He also suggested that men's singles, women's singles and doubles could be segregated to different venues or countries and since the sport is only going to be for TV viewing, the tournaments could be held simultaneously.

BWF, however, did not seem so keen on taking Gopichand's ideas and simply said, "We are looking into all options to ensure a safe and fair return to badminton."

BWF admitted that badminton being a non-contact sport essentially is an advantage but maintained "we still have to wait and see when current international movement and entry restrictions will be relaxed."

BWF said they have restructured the 2020 calendar in a way that will allow resumption of competition "as soon as it is safe and logistically possible."

Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, originally scheduled for May 16-24, is now scheduled for October 3 to 11 in Aarhus, Denmark and that is the only tournament announced so far by the BWF.


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