Skirting the issue: the row smashing the world of women's badminton

Badminton's female stars have forced a climbdown over moves to "sex up" the sport, complaining that new rules requiring them to wear skirts infringe their freedom of movement.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has deferred the implementation of a new dress code requiring female players to wear skirts on court in major tournaments after protests.

The federation is seeking to make badminton more "attractive" and "marketable" in response to a report by sports consultants Octagon, which found that the competitors' attire was considered boring and unfashionable by potential television viewers.

Sponsors compared badminton unfavourably with tennis, where glamorous stars such as Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams attract as much attention for their outfits as their ground strokes. However, some Chinese and Indonesian female players have expressed opposition to compulsory skirts. The BWF promised to ensure the dress code "would not discriminate against cultural or religious beliefs".

The issue was not the amount of flesh exposed but the players' ability to move around the court. Li Xuerui, the Asian Championship winner, said: "I did wear a skirt in the All-England tournament last month but it was so big that it affected my performance."

Lilyana Natsir, a mixed doubles world champion, said: "Skirts hamper my movement when I play."

The code, which should have been implemented yesterday, will now not be introduced until the Singapore Open on 14 June. The BWF said this pause for reflection would allow "a dialogue with the players on the guidelines".

The Federation is to discuss the precise definition of "shorts" at its AGM later this month. A source said: "We need to come up with more precise terminology. Players may continue to wear shorts under a skirt. Some Danish women favour thigh-hugging, compression shorts but they are deemed unsightly when worn under a skirt. Baggy men's shorts look ridiculous too."

Vanity was a factor, said the source: "Not everyone looks like Sharapova. There's a lot of lunging, leaping and falling over in badminton and skirts don't flatter some of the podgier players."

Feedback from spectators apparently showed that the women's game was considered "balletic" but slower and less interesting than the more aggressive male game. Turning the female players into personalities was one way to generate interest – and revenues – in the badminton "brand".

Jwala Gutta, the Indian player often called badminton's "glamour girl", said she welcomed attempts to boost badminton's global profile. But she warned that "some of the countries are pretty conservative and have different cultures, so some players might not like the idea". Gutta, 27, urged the BWF to "ask the sponsors to design better clothing. They should make nice dresses like [the ones] Sharapova wears."

Many players will follow the lead of Singapore's Xing Aiying, who said: "I'll just treat it like I'm going to school and I've to wear a skirt because the teacher said so."

The BWF's aim is to "raise the profile of women in badminton", following "relevant examples from tennis where women players enjoy such high profile".

However, Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, was ridiculed when he urged women footballers to wear skimpier kits to increase the popularity of the women's game in 2004.

Under Wimbledon's strict dress code, tennis clothing must be predominately white. Coloured underwear can be worn under tennis dresses, as long as the dress hem covers it.

Paisan Rangsikitpho, the BWF deputy president, said: "BWF have for many years encouraged both badminton clothing manufacturers and players to produce and wear clothing that would enhance the presentation of the game in general. We are, however, willing to listen to the players, which is why we have decided to delay the implementation date slightly."

Suggested Topics
News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband