Many badminton patrons are trying to raise awareness of the sport, and campaign for financial support. Though hoping for more attention, most badminton promoters are not looking for this type of publicity. Let’s look at 8 of badminton’s controversies from around the globe.
1. Match-Fixing at the 2012 Olympics
Probably the most widely recognized black eye in Badminton’s professional history occurred at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. This badminton scandal occurred when eight women representing multiple nations were disqualified from the women’s doubles tournament. It was the greatest mass disqualification of Olympic athletes in the 21st century. The pairs from China, South Korea, and Indonesia were accused by officials of intentionally playing below their ability to pair more favorably in the next round of play. The display of bad acting landed badminton in headlines globally. The shameful play was covered by dozens of major news outlets including ESPN, ABCNews, and the Wall Street Journal. Sports fans were outraged by the deceitful competition that played out on what is considered the most sacred stage of sports. Fans paid for tickets to watch this competition live and could be heard booing and chanting for competitors to be removed as world champion badminton players continued to serve the shuttlecock into and under the net intentionally.
2. Malaysia’s Badminton Match-Fixing Dishonor
It’s not just women who have underhandedly manipulated contests in the past. Two of Malaysia’s most prominent male competitors were slapped with career-ending bans from BWF after allegations of long-term match-fixing were found to be credible. Zulfadi Zulkiffli was charged with committing 31 violations to the code of conduct from 2013-2016. He was fined $25,000 and handed a ban of 20 years. Tan Chun Seang was found to have committed fewer violations than Zulkiffli but was similarly fined $15,000 and given a ban of 15 years. The pair’s appeals to the BWF Ethics hearing panel were subsequently denied.
3. BWF’s Women’s Uniform Oversight
In May of 2011, the BWF made a concerted, albeit brief effort to increase the aesthetic value of women’s matches by requiring female players to compete in skirts and dresses when playing at the elite level. The backlash was swift and multi-faceted. Women called the rule sexist and accused the federation of attempting to sell badminton with skin. Concerns were raised for the Muslim women in Asian countries who play the sport and would be unable to adhere to both the dress code and their religious tenets. Competitors worried that wearing a skirt OVER pants to meet both the dress code and personal beliefs would hinder their ability to move and play. Janice Forsythe, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario is quoted by the New York Times as stating that “This is a blatant attempt to sexualize women.” The BWF swiftly backtracked and scrapped that attempted dress code modification.
4. New Zealand Badminton Team Name
Although we are all cheering for more worldwide attention and focus on the sport of badminton, New Zealand Badminton had an interesting and slightly controversial approach to their awareness tactics. In 2005, New Zealand was testing the waters to refer to the national team as “The Black Cocks”. Although the name is technically a nod to the shuttlecock used in the sport, the scandalous suggestion raised some eyebrows. With sponsorship from condom companies and impotence pharmaceutical son the horizon, New Zealand eventually reneged on the idea after the BWF (then called IBF) expressed displeasure. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that IBF didn’t want to see the game “lose its composure for want of a gimmicky name”.
5. The First Scandal in Badminton History?
In what might be considered the earliest recorded scandal in Badminton history, Lyle Evans Mahan stirred some controversy in the early 1900s when he decided to participate in play without wearing his tuxedo at the Badminton Club of New York. It wasn’t until after this shocker that the club decided to let players compete wearing tennis clothes.
6. Kenichi Tago’s Gambling Woes
Kenichi Tago was once number 3 in the world and a badminton star for the Japanese national team. In April 2016, just before the Olympic Games in Rio, Tago received an indefinite ban from the BWF after being caught gambling at an illegal casino along with now World Number One Kento Momota. Clearly Momota has crawled his way back up the ladder of success, while Tago lies low in Malaysia. Not only did the casino gambling (which is illegal in Japan) cost Tago his badminton career, it also cost him his day job at a Japanese telegraph and telephone company.
7. Joachim Persson
Danish badminton player was banned by the world federation for 18 months for violations of its match-fixing code of conduct. While Persson didn’t actually participate in any match-fixing, he did violate BWF’s policy that requires any covered person to report any time that they are approached to participate in match-fixing, even if they decline. Additionally, Persson refused to allow BWF access to his bank records during the investigation of these approaches. His violations cost him his ability to play or coach in any BWF sanctioned clubs or tournaments, and the Danish badminton club where he worked and coached cut ties with him completely. He was slapped with a $4500 fine.
8. The Sidek’s S-serve Banishment
The Sidek brothers were skilled and inventive badminton players from a family rich with talent. They were so successful that opposing badminton clubs attempted to have their signature serve outlawed in competition, as it cost opponents so many matches. The serve involved slicing at the shuttlecock, causing it to spin and travel unpredictably over the net. If a player started the game using this serve, there was potential for them to gain one point after another, leaving the opponent no chance to return. In 1981, Denmark and England rallied the IBF to have the serve banned in competition but did not get the majority vote. It wasn’t until the uproar grew to a feverish pitch in 1982 that the IBF finally banned the infamous S-serve. The reasoning for their ban is that the serve was a direct violation of the “double contact” rule, as the racket touches both the cork and the feathers.
Though badminton is supposed to be a “gentlemen’s” sport, the spirit of competition can sometimes drive even the most honorable athletes into poor choices in order to “get an edge”. In an effort to prevent any future doping, match-fixing, or gambling scandals, BWF has instituted a comprehensive integrity education program, also known as I am Badminton. Let’s leave the drama behind!