Badminton Life

Badminton Comes Under Scrutiny at All England Championships

Badminton has generally enjoyed a good reputation for sportsmanship and equity over the years. But as the world's top players gather in Birmingham, England for the sport's most prestigious tournament, there is a cloud hanging over them.

In January's Korean Open final, ugly scenes marred the sport's reputation and has had players and administrators alike facing some of the realities that have been simmering for many years.

Home player Lee Hyun-il beat China's world number one Lin Dan in the Korean Open final but with the match turned into a farce when a dubious line call sparked off amazing scenes.

Lin accused the line judges of favouring the Koreans and, at one point, appeared to push Lee's coach, Li Mao, a former Chinese coach.

It was the climax of a bitter battle during which there were a series of exchanges over close line calls. Officials were forced to restore order but Lin has since refused to apologise for the incident.

Badminton World Federation officials are taking it so seriously that they have created a committee known as the Major Incident Research Team, which will investigate controversies such as the Korean Open one. BWF is also considering the introduction of technology to help in close line calls.

Anne Smillie, BWF sport committee chairwoman was quoted on the world governing body's official website, and by Reuters, as saying: "We all want to see the result determined by the players, not by courtside officials, or by who can argue the loudest."

There could be more fireworks in Birmingham with seeded Lin Dan if were to meet his Korean rival in the semi-finals.

Lin, however, must first overcome a tough first-round hurdle in the form of India's Anup Sridhar. The tall Indian defeated Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat at last year's world championship before giving Lin a fright.

The All England is one of the most sought-after titles in badminton, having a tradition that goes back to 1899. It is the Wimbledon of the sport and is also part of the Super Series circuit which the BWF hopes will raise the profile of the sport.

Many players even regard it more highly than the world championships. The All England and Olympic competition are the main tournaments in 2008.

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