In a major blow to Grand Prix Badminton League, a slew of India’s well-known badminton players, including the fast-rising Mithun Manjunath, have pulled out of the second season of the event which is scheduled to begin here from Sunday.
The 25-year-old Bengaluru shuttler, who is one of four men’s singles players in India’s Asian Games roster alongside H.S. Prannoy, K. Srikanth and Lakshya Sen, was bought for a staggering ₹14.5 lakh by Chennai Superstarz in the auction held here on August 5. Also uncertain is the participation of World championship medallist Sai Praneeth, who was procured by Northeast Rhinos for ₹10 lakh.
The second season of the League was launched amidst much fanfare earlier this month, with badminton legend Prakash Padukone gracing the occasion and exuding hope that such competitions would help in the further development of the sport in India.
But the player withdrawals come on the face of relentless pressure exerted by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) on Indian players to not participate in a League which it deems as “unrecognised.” It is understood that while most of the foreign players on the roster arrived in the city on Friday, a majority of the Indian players did not take their designated flights.
The development has come despite the organisers securing legal relief from the Karnataka High Court on Friday where the conduct of this year’s tournament and participation of the players were both allowed. The relief was interim, just enough to hold this year’s edition while the case was posted for final hearing on September 12.
But BAI released a statement late on Friday stating that since the petition was not judged on merits, the Association would be free to take retrospective action against participating players if the case is eventually decided against the promoters of GPBL, Bitsport Private Limited.
There has been frenetic legal activity in the recent past with regards to GPBL at both the Karnataka High Court and the Supreme Court of India. GPBL got the High Court’s go ahead for the first time in July when a single-judge bench restrained the BAI from taking any coercive action against the players.
Four days ago, on an appeal from BAI, the Supreme Court of India quashed the order and sent the matter back to the Karnataka High Court to be heard afresh. A single-judge bench of the High Court provided the interim relief to the organisers of GPBL on Thursday, which was later upheld by the division bench on Friday.
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