The Badminton World Federation decided Friday to change the Olympic doubles rules but not the much-criticised group format in the wake of the match-throwing scandal at the London Games.
The change, said BWF secretary general Thomas Lund, was “to ensure such a regrettable spectacle is never witnessed in badminton again.”
Four women’s pairs, including the world champions from China, were disqualified in London for trying to deliberately lose their group matches to rig easier paths through the knockout stages.
But at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, all teams finishing second in their groups will go through another draw to determine who they face in the knockout stage. The group winners will have fixed positions to begin the playoffs.
“This will eliminate any player’s thoughts about actively trying to lose a match or matches, irrespective of other match results,” Lund said.
He added it will optimise the format, despite general derision by the players for the group stage which was introduced in London. The BWF changed it from a straight knockout draw to give players more matches, and declared the format a success in terms of exposure.
The BWF also decided, after lobbying by players, that it would not punish any of the disqualified teams’ coaches or entourages because it was “not legally feasible.”
The code of conduct was updated to sanction coaches in future, and the BWF noted some of the national associations meted out penalties. South Korea gave lifetime bans to its two disqualified teams and two coaches, but on appeal reduced the players’ suspensions to six months and the coaches’ to two years.
China coach Li Yongbo initially laid the blame for the scandal on himself and apologised, then later said he was taking advantage of the rules and the BWF over-reacted by disqualifying the players.
Disgraced world champion Yu Yang of China, who said she was retiring after being sent home, returned to action on the world circuit this month.
Indonesia lifted the suspensions on its doubles pair this month.
The BWF also approved a trial for instant replay on line calls to begin early next year.