Saturday was one of Saina Nehwal’s highest pay-days, as she won US$ 10,000 for her semi-final appearance at the world’s richest badminton tournament—the US$ 5,00,000 World Super Series Masters. When she’ll actually see the money is far from certain though.
Saina went down 21-15, 14-21, 21-16 to Chen Wang of Hong Kong in the semi-final on Saturday. Ironically though, for the 18-year-old, the brightest patch of her booming career this year has not quite been reflecting in her bank statements. Beyond the giant presentation cheques at glitzy functions, accolades and encouraging speeches, are the perplexing delays in receiving the prize money India’s top shuttler has accumulated over this breakthrough season.
Prize money won in international badminton events are always routed through the national association—in this case, the Badminton Association of India. As far as the procedure goes, the treasurer of the association informs the secretary once the money has been received from the organisers, who in turn informs the individual player, before the payments are delivered through DDs via speedpost. The entire procedure could take two months or more. Saina, though, hasn’t received any payments in the last six months.
The pending payments stretch right back to the Singapore Super Series from 10-15 June where Nehwal reached the semi-finals. Other events include one in Indonesia (17-22 Aug), the China Masters Super Series (23-29 Sept), the Japan Super Series and even the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix Gold, where she won the title. The total amount is, approximately, US$ 15,000.
“Her survival may not depend on the prize money, but it’s still important,” says a source close to the player on the condition of anonymity. For Saina, it’s not a case of lack of funds to travel for tournaments or meet basic training needs as she has the backing of sponsors. But the delays still need to be explained.
“In some cases—like Chinese Taipei, there are confirmations by letter that the money has been released by the international tournament officials. But the player is yet to receive any payments,” the source says.
Saina’s father, Harvir Singh, confirms that his daughter hasn’t received prize money due to her from tournaments since the Singapore Super Series, but adds that he doesn’t want to go into details. “We’ve never spoken to any officials about it… her job is to go out there, play and win. How can we talk about money?” he says.
Another player, who made the final of an event nearly seven months ago, confirmed that he too was yet to receive the prize money. “It normally takes one or two months, sometimes a little more. I’ve been too busy travelling to follow up on the issue,” he said.
BAI secretary LC Gupta maintained that the association was prompt in disbursing all prize-money cheques. “We don’t have any money outstanding with the players. We don’t keep anyone’s money even for a minute. It is delivered to the players immediately after we receive it. Why should we keep it? The Chinese Taipei was only in September, so may be it’s taking longer,” he said.
But what about the tournaments before that? “Whatever money we have got, we have handed over to the players. If there has been a delay, players can write to me,” he added.
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