The Malaysia Open is scheduled for March 31 to April 4.
However, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) may be forced to postpone the tournament again with the Movement Control Order (MCO) still in place.
The MCO is supposed to end on Feb 18 but another extension looms with high numbers of Covid-19 cases daily.
The uncertainty will naturally disrupt the preparation and it remains to be seen if Malaysia will open its borders anytime soon, even after the MCO is relaxed.
BAM will need to either postpone the event to much later – perhaps towards the end of the year when, hopefully, things are better with fewer protocols in place.
Or, the national body could just do away with the Malaysia Open this year.
The biggest and perhaps best excuse not to organise the Malaysia Open is cost.
Organisers admit any event requiring strict standard operating procedures will cause the organisational cost to balloon.
With sponsors tightening their belts and broadcasters committing to the same amount of broadcasting fee, it will be amazing if the organiser can break even. The grants by the world body will not be enough to run the show.
The players, coaches, umpires, line judges, service judges and administrators will all need to be tested prior to the tournament. There will be limited or no sharing of accommodation and transportation to minimise interaction. These are additional costs.
There’s also the santisation of courts, training courts, rooms, lobby, hallways and other areas. More money involved.
If fans are not allowed, then there will be zero ticket sales. If they are allowed to the stands, with physical distancing, it would mean limited seats. Ticket prices will certainly go up.
However, pricier tickets will not go down well with the fans, especially with the current economic downturn.
Those who attended the two Thailand Open events recently will agree that the Thais have raised the bar, wondering if Malaysia could pull off the same feat given the current scenario.
It must be noted Thailand recorded 2,666 Covid-19 cases throughout the two tournaments (from Jan 12 to 24). The accumulative figure is way lower than Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 cases (between 3,000 and 4,000) during the same period.
If the rules are relaxed and the government allows BAM to organise the Malaysia Open, observers will naturally compare the Malaysian Open with the Thailand Opens.
Many are reminded of the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games which was a pale shadow of the earlier edition in Singapore. And that was pre-Covid-19 days.
Malaysia’s immunisation plan will be rolled out in three phases starting later this month and will go on until early next year. That would mean Malaysia will only return to some form of normalcy after February 2022.
Any organiser will be in two minds – to ditch the Malaysia Open and save money or host the event to get competitive badminton in the country going.
Perhaps this could help BAM make a decision – imagine if the same money for the Malaysia Open is used for the grassroots.
Children and those at the lower levels have missed out on badminton for a year and the after-effects could result in the shrinking of an already limited pool of talents.
As the uncertainty lingers, perhaps it’s best for BAM to go back to the basics and embrace this new normal – by investing in the grassroots and community first as they will eventually become the nation’s elite shuttlers.