13/02/2001 : Chinese players underlined their dominance of the sport of badminton by taking the ‘lion’s share’ of available prize money on the IBF World Grand Prix (WGP) Circuit last year.
Figures just released by the IBF show total WGP earnings of Chinese players as US$ 407,090 for the year 2000. These figures do not include the 2000 WGP Finals, which will be played in Brunei starting at the end of next month.
The overall dominance of the sport by Asian and European players was emphasised by the global prize money distribution between those two continents. Asia took just around 71% of the total and Europe 28% with players from other continents taking home one per cent between them. This situation has remained more or less constant for the last four years.
Other significant data is that a few of the best European players won the big money prizes leaving other Europeans far behind. There are far more Asian money winners than Europeans above the US$ 10,000 WGP annual earnings level. 40 Asian players earned more than US$ 10,000 in 2000 from prize money alone as opposed to only 12 Europeans.
This dominance of the sport by these two continents is, however, being eaten into by fast improving players at the lower levels of performance from the other three continents of Panamerica, Africa and Oceania. But with their players concentrating on the successful continental circuits, few have played in WGP events. This is set to change but there is still a massive standard gap between the Asian/European players and those of the other three continents. IBF are aware of this and must look at ways to help improve performance of players in the less-developed badminton continents by changing its development priorities radically. For the sport to claim that it is global at the highest competitive levels there must be representation from all five continents.
‘Given a playing population of over 10 million in the United States, for example, it is not good for the sport that less than a handful of US players can perform on the world stage,’ said IBF Director of Marketing & Development, Andrew Ryan.
‘The IBF development strategy has focused largely on awareness of, and introduction to, badminton in more countries in the past but this is no longer the priority. With 147 countries now playing organised badminton, IBF is putting emphasis more on raising performance levels.’
Ryan continued: ‘The small quota of only 172 badminton athletes allowed by the IOC in the Olympic Games in Sydney meant IBF had only 28 NOCs represented and with 147 member countries competitive badminton is under threat from further divergence in standards of play. The extensive global TV coverage of the badminton event in Sydney has certainly helped the profile of the sport but there were exceptions such as in the USA where, due to restricted rights issues, no badminton was seen on TV by the 10 million players there except those close to the Canadian border!’
The massive gap between those at the top and those at the next level of competition is illustrated by career WGP prize money earnings of 24-year-old world number one Peter Gade of Denmark which stand at about US$ 250,000, is set to grow. Without intervention in policy and planning by IBF the relative playing levels of the ”haves”, driven up by financial incentives, and the ”have-nots” will continue to diverge.
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