When the Badminton World Federation was looking to raise its profile and glamorize its image last year, it wrote into the official rulebook that women were now required to compete in skirts. BWF announced it has abandoned the new rule, set to go into effect last Friday, amid backlash from critics.
Paisan Rangsikitpho, an American deputy president of the Badminton World Federation, was interviewed by The New York Times before the rule was shelved. He had defended the rule, saying BWF was not using sex to promote the sport. “We just want them to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular.”
The new rule, which was developed by the BWF in collaboration with Octagon, an international marketing firm, said women players had to wear skirts or dresses "to ensure attractive presentation." The rule was quickly slammed for being sexist and outdated.
Imogen Bankier, one of the world’s top 20 badminton players along with her partner, Chris Adcock, had criticized the rule before it was obliterated. She told Telegraph Sport,"You can't make demands like that to make women more glamorous...it is ridiculous; tennis certainly doesn't have this problem so why should we have to put up with it?"
"The point of going into competitions is for us to be champions," said Vita Marissa, Indonesia’s mixed doubles player. "And we have to feel comfortable while playing."
The BWF denied that the skirt rule disrespected women or discriminated against religious beliefs. Pakistan’s government disagreed, saying the rule contradicted the country's religious principles. China, Indonesia and India also criticized the rule, as well as Malaysia's Muslim party.
Paisan Rangsikitpho announced the cancellation of the rule during the Thomas and Uber Cup in Wuhan, China over the weekend, reports the Telegraph. "We have shelved the ban,” he said. "We just want to encourage women and men players to dress properly. We want them to dress nicely, professionally."
He also admitted that the new rule had been abandoned to avoid controversy before the London Olympics, which is less than 60 days away.