Badminton is set to become a richer sport from next year, with prize money being hiked across the major tournaments. This comes after several players had spoken, in public and private, on the need for more money on the circuit.
The changes were announced on Sunday by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) as part of a new tournament structure; from 2018 the calendar will have around 37 events be divided into six levels; the four tournaments in the two top levels will offer $1 million or more. The Super Series event in India sees its prize money hiked by $25,000 to $350,000.
The season-ender, currently held in Dubai every year, remains the richest; from next year there will be $1.5 million up for grabs but there will be a new venue, to be announced later.
"Our tournaments have grown in stature and appeal significantly in recent years and, with each cycle, we evaluate progress and assess how we can improve our events," said BWF President Poul-Erik Hoyer.
Several players and coaches have been lamenting about the minimal prize money available on the circuit for a long time. The debate resurfaced at the recently concluding All-England Championships, a $600,000 event. The fact that it is the oldest tournament in badminton lures players to come and train and play in the freezing conditions in Birmingham every March. However, the eventual winner takes home about 10% of that overall prize money which comes to just about $50,000. After the announcement, the tournament will be offering a prize money of $1 million from next year.
"BWF should think about it and hike the prize money. Right now, leagues (like the Pro Badminton League) have more money than Superseries. It's not about $50000, it needs to increase a lot more," Saina Nehwal had told ESPN, adding, "Players should be happy financially, so that they are not participating in the league for the money, but the sport itself."
Former players like Prakash Padukone, the 1980 All England champion, and Vimal Kumar, who coaches Saina, have felt that badminton has to go the tennis way and substantially increase the prize money for the growth of the sport.
Like the current divisions between the Superseries Premier, Superseries, Grand Prix Gold and Grand Prix events, all the six new levels are expected to have distinct names, to be announced in a later date.