It is one of those questions: is it OK to lose a match in order to get ahead, or are you always to supposed to put in maximum effort? The Badminton “Code of Conduct” does state that you should always try to win a match:
BWF’s Players’ Code of Conduct – Sections 4.5 and 4.16 respectively – with “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport”.
I can understand why it would be frustrating to pay money to watch such a match, but on the other hand the players really were performing to the best of their abilities in order to win the tournament.
I feel that it is the responsibility of the game designers, the Badminton World Federation and the Olympics, to make sure that the optimal way of playing the game involves winning every match. In this case, the players are really being punished for poor game design.
But part of the issue is also about the scope of “one’s best efforts”. The players’ best efforts were not going toward that particular match, but toward the overall tournament. It follows that we could imagine at least four different type of “best effort” arguments, from strict to lenient:
- As a player you should put in maximum effort in every single moment in a game.
- As a player, you should always put in maximum effort in order to win a match.
- As a player, you should always put in maximum effort in order to win a tournament.
- As a player, you can do whatever you want as long as it is within the general rules of the game. Win, lose, play well, play badly – it’s up to you.
As we can see, the BWF has chosen type 2: they will probably not punish a player for playing below ability when far behind in a set, or for not diving in order to catch every single shot. Conversely, they don’t acknowledge that a match in a tournament may be played for larger goals (type 3). A more lenient type 4 argument would say that players can do whatever they wanted within the rules (the famous spoilsport behavior).
Summing up, I was about to say that I intuitively support a type 3 argument, but do I really? For some reason I feel that losing on purpose is more acceptable in Badminton than in Soccer. Perhaps because Soccer matches are longer and involve more people, and hence feel more like standalone events? But I am certain that we are having this discussion only because the BWF made a poor game design decision.