** This NEW SHUTTLENWS REPORT is presented by badminton world champions YANG YANG (1987 and 1989) and ZHAO JIAN HUA (1991) and by YANG YANG BADMINTON PRODUCTS **

January 4, 1998 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - The International Badminton Federation has announced changes to the groupings and seedings in the qualifying stages for the 1998 world men's and women's badminton team championships, more widely known to badminton fans as the Thomas and Uber Cups competition. These stages are to be held in February in Sandefjord, Norway and in Manila, Philippines with the championship rounds scheduled for May in Hong Kong.

Sixty-four nations had signed up for the qualifying stages, but Botswana has notified the IBF that they were withdrawing. Also, France had filed a protest regarding the seeding of their women's team below the Ukrainians since they had had better results in European Badminton Union events. After reviewing the French complaint and the Botswanian withdrawal, the federation has revised and reissued the draw for the Sandefjord competition.

The qualifying competition in Sandefjord will be in four stages: a first stage which is a round-robin within seven or eight groups of four to five of the teams from the lesser-rated nations, a second stage which is also a round-robin within four groups made up of the seeded nations and the group winners from the first stage, a third stage which is a playdown between the winners of the four groups, and lastly a fourth stage where the winners of the third stage playoff matches battle for first and second place rankings and the losers play for the third and last finals berth.

The qualifying competition in Manila will have the same four stages as in Sandefjord. However, there will only be three groups in the first stage in Manila, and two groups in the second stage. The winners and the runners-up from the second stage group round-robin will move on into the third stage playdowns.

Forty-three nations will be competing in Sandefjord for three positions in the men's team finals (Thomas Cup), while for the women's team finals (Uber Cup), there will be thirty-eight entries vying for three spots in Hong Kong.

Denmark, Sweden, England and the Netherlands are the favourites to qualify for the Thomas Cup out of Sandefjord. The same four nations are also favoured in the Uber Cup qualifying competition in the Norwegian city. Russia, Germany, and Bulgaria have been exempted from the first stage of the Thomas and Uber Cups qualifying. Ukraine has been given a first-stage exemption for the Thomas Cup while France and Scotland have been given similiar standing for the Uber Cup first stage.

Thomas Cup first stage group seeds in Sandefjord are Portugal, France, Poland, the USA, Finland, Norway, Scotland, and Austria, while Belarus, Ukraine, Wales, Switzerland, Poland, Spain, and the USA are the group seeds for the Uber Cup.

Twenty nations will battle for the three finals berths allotted to the Manila Thomas Cup qualifying competition. Seventeen countries are signed up for the Uber Cup qualifying in the Philippine capital city.

Canada which normally plays in the European qualifying venue has chosen to compete in Manila this time around. According to Canadian badminton officials, they have opted to play in the Asian qualifying to prepare their players for the Commonwealth Games scheduled for August in Kuala Lumpur.

China, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan are favoured to qualify for the Thomas Cup finals out of Manila. China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan are the picks for the Uber Cup. Taiwan has been exempted from the first stage of the Thomas Cup qualifying, while Canada has been given a similiar position for the Uber Cup.

Thomas Cup first stage group seeds in Manila are Australia, Thailand, and Canada. Uber Cup group seeds are Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Two nations, Indonesia and Hong Kong, are already guaranteed spots in the finals of the twin championships and do not have to go through the qualifying competition. Indonesia, winner of both Cups in 1996, is guaranteed a berth as the defending champions, while Hong Kong has their spot due to their being the host of the finals.

The groupings for the Thomas and Uber Cups qualifying:

Thomas Cup
First Stage
Group A - Portugal, Italy, Kazakhstan, Zambia, Georgia
Group B - France, Iceland, Slovenia, Hungary, Latvia
Group C - Poland, Israel, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Armenia
Group D - USA, Peru, Belarus, Greece
Group E - Finland, Cyprus, Czechia, Guatemala
Group F - Norway, Ireland, Brazil, Estonia
Group G - Scotland, Lithuania, Wales, Belgium
Group H - Austria, Mexico, Switzerland, Spain
Second Stage
Group W - Denmark, Russia, Group F winner, Group G winner
Group X - England, Germany, Group E winner, Group H winner
Group Y - Netherlands, Ukraine, Group A winner, Group B winner
Group Z - Sweden, Bulgaria, Group C winner, Group D winner

Uber Cup
First Stage
Group A - Belarus, Czechia, Norway, Belgium
Group B - Ukraine, Finland, Hungary, Austria
Group C - Wales, Mexico, Lithuania, Cyprus
Group D - Switzerland, Peru, Armenia, Georgia
Group E - Poland, South Africa, Estonia, Iceland
Group F - Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Azerbaijan
Group G - USA, Latvia, Italy, Slovenia, Kazakhstan
Second Stage
Group W - Denmark, Bulgaria, France, Group A winner
Group X - Netherlands, Russia, Group B winner, Group D winner
Group Y - England, Scotland, Group C winner, Group E winner
Group Z - Sweden, Germany, Group F winner, Group G winner

Thomas Cup
First Stage
Group A - Australia, Argentina, Philippines, Singapore, Nigeria
Group B - Thailand, Mauritius, New Zealand, India, Nepal
Group C - Canada, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Macao, Pakistan
Second Stage
Group X - China, Korea, Taiwan, Group C winner
Group Y - Malaysia, Japan, Group A winner, Group B winner

Uber Cup
First Stage
Group A - Malaysia, Thailand, Mauritius, Macao
Group B - Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines
Group C - New Zealand, India, Singapore, Nigeria
Second Stage
Group X - China, Japan, Group B winner, Group C winner
Group Y - Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Group A winner